When I flew to Santa Barbara the first weekend in October 2015 to preach at a Prayer and Healing Retreat held at St. Mark UMC, I thought I was just going to preach. Certainly I was going to be back at the church who sponsored and prayed for Karen and I, as I entered ordained ministry, but I thought I was just going to preach. I had no idea what God had planned for me.
The surprise blessings of the trip all began with a simple lunch.
Our good friend Tirzah R. and I met for lunch one day. Before we had sat down at our table her encouragements of me began, and with them I began to catch a glimpse at God’s grand design.
“Brian, I remember standing at Iwo Jima Monument and you saying,
“Tirzah, I have this funny feeling, like God is letting me know that I am not doing what I am supposed to be doing with my life. I don’t know where this is going to lead me.”
“Brian, I can still see where we were standing. I can remember saying, Brian you follow wherever God is leading you.”
“You and Karen had come as chaperones on that tour that year. It was 1983. My fourth year of leading the Historic Study Tour! Next year will be my 37thyear!”
“You were nervous about being with that room full of boys, but I told you, you would do fine. In fact you told me you had planned a bible study for them and asked me if I thought that would be okay. “Certainly!”
“Do you remember John G from your room?”
I didn’t recall anything of this trip. At this point I began to remember that I had forgotten that this historic tour fell right in the middle of the season of my call into ministry. Right prior to Jimmy Gibson’s sermon! We had been gone 10 days. What a thing to be able to do! And how God had woven that into my calling!
“Well, I ran into John about 10 years after the historic study tour and he had had a tough time after 8th grade. High school had been filled with drugs and rebellion. But he had returned to Christ in college. It was after college I ran into him. He was exiting Macy’s and I was just entering. I had looked up, for this man was exiting who was a big guy and I recognized John. “John G? Is that you?” And he had looked back at me and said, “Mrs R_ you still remember me?”
“Oh John, I would never forget you.”
“Then John had told me how he had fallen away from the Lord but had returned. And he said why.”
“’Mrs R – It was that historic tour, my experience there and that man who was in our room. That was what brought me back to Jesus.’”
“You see Brian, there are going to be all sorts of people in heaven who will walk up to you and say, ‘Because of you, I am here.’”
I was astounded. Staggered, really. Tears brimmed my eyes.
“But the story does not stop there. You see I led one of my 4th grade trips to Sacramento years later and was going up the aisle of the bus meeting all the children and came to this young boy who looked really familiar.
“And what is your name, I asked?”
“Caleb G—“ he said as clear as can be.
“Caleb G–? Your daddy is not by any chance named John, is he?”
“Well, my daddy is in heaven,” he replied, “but this is my mom.”
“I greeted the woman sitting next to this boy and said, ‘So John has died?’”
She said, “Yes,” she said, “You see, he had returned to the Lord because of the historic study tour that you led, but one day on the way to work on his motorcycle he was in an accident and killed.”
The impact of a life. We don’t know all the impact we may have, but this was a glimpse, a slice into one place my life had mattered, impacted another. This glimpse blessed my heart. And God began to show me He had plans for this weekend I had not even imagined!
We talked on and on about how God was moving in Karen and my children’s lives, and Tirzah took notes, “so I can pray more clearly,” she said.
Tirzah will be 80 in January and will again be leading the Historic Study Tours beginning then through March in 2016, about 9 groups. Oh to be that vital, that alive, that vibrant serving You one day at a time in a way that is impacting people in profound ways. How many other “Johns” are there on these tours. Not “made disciples” as we typically use the word, but still reached and impacted, brought back to YOU, because of 10 days with Tirzah.
(to be continued…)