“I am the Lord and there is no other.” Isaiah 45:5
I often tell my kids that walking with Jesus is a great adventure. It’s not an easy journey—in fact, Jesus himself guaranteed it would be difficult. Yet in the midst of the hard, God reframes your focus and He rewrites the script of your life. And if you pay attention and seek to walk in submission to God, you just might find yourself part of a beautiful story that ONLY GOD could write. The following story is one of those miraculous God stories—not miraculous in the staff-turning-into-a-snake or sick-person-made-well kinda way—but miraculous in the way God orchestrates our lives and brings His people together. It’s a story that can be explained one way — ONLY GOD.
Before we begin our story, a little background: I am part of an international Bible study ministry. This ministry has local Bible studies in communities across the nation and around the world. The Lord birthed our local ladies Bible study seven years ago and we, through the prayer and support and equipping of our national leadership team, serve our community by discipling ladies, teens, and children through in-depth Bible study. Our local study has a five person servants team who helps lead and shepherd a larger leadership team. We all work as partners in the gospel to bring this Bible study ministry to our area. Though the week to week purpose of our study is to disciple our community through Bible study, the foundation of our ministry is prayer. And we have seen God do some miraculous things, but this year, we got to be a part of a story that spans continents and cultures—something bigger than our minds could ever conceive.
This ONLY GOD story starts in April 2018 with a ministry-wide leadership training meeting in Colorado Springs. At this training were men and women from all over the world. Our local leadership ministry team was at training and through a casual salad bar conversation (because, of course, God works at buffets), one of our team met the National Ministry Director of an East Asian country—a country where to be a dynamic follower of Christ can mean a death sentence. During their brief conversation, his heart was so overwhelmed with love for his people and their spiritual condition, he honestly and tearfully asked my friend, “Is anyone praying for us?” My friend came back to the table with tears streaming down her face and said, “We have to pray for him.” So we did. When we began our local Bible study in Fall of 2019, we adopted his country as our international prayer focus. We prayed for him and his people each week.
Flash forward to January 2019: As the teaching director for my class, I am required to go to a Teaching Director’s conference every few years to recharge and refocus, and 2019 just happened to be a conference year. Also attending this meeting are our international leadership—regional and national country directors from around the world. Since our encounter with our East Asian friend the year before, our team wanted to let him know we were praying for him. So as a leadership we were praying I would see our friend so I could give him an answer to the question he asked almost a year before, “Is anyone praying for me?” I wanted to tell him wholeheartedly, “Yes! We are praying for you!”
All weekend I looked forward to our International Meetings. At these meetings we would break up into regions of the world and hear from brothers and sisters around the world about how God was moving in their country and how we could pray for them. When we got to the East Asia Pacific Regional Meeting, I was so excited that our friend was there! Not only was he there, but he seemed to be the spokesperson. Turns out he had been “promoted” to Regional Director of all East Asia-Pacific Countries. Only God.
After the meeting I noticed there were many people stopping to talk to him. I waited, determined to let our friend know what an impression he made, and that our study was praying for him. I finally got to speak with him, and nervously told him where I was from and relayed the whole story from our training time back in spring of 2018. He smiled and thanked me and said in his thick accent, “Al-ah-bah-ma? You’re from Al-ah-bah-ma? I will be there in two weeks.”
“You will!” I squeaked out excitedly. “What for?”
“My daughter is having (minor corrective) surgery at the children’s hospital in Birmingham. Is that far from your study?” he asked.
At this point, I think I might’ve screamed, “NO! It’s just 15 minutes south of our community. Could I contact you? Would you be able to come visit our class?” He gave me his card and I ran out and texted our team. My first words in the text were “ONLY GOD!”
It was then I realized, I hadn’t asked about his precious daughter having surgery or asked how we could pray for her. How could I be so inconsiderate? So I went back in the room, composed myself, and walked back up to our friend, who now had less of a crowd around him. I apologized for being so thoughtless and asked, “How can I be praying for you? How can I pray for your daughter?” Maybe because the crowd had dwindled, or maybe because of my fumbled apology, the door was opened to a deeper conversation that made him determine in his heart to visit our class. God even uses our mistakes for His good purposes. I’m so thankful He can use a mess like me. Only God.
Two weeks later, our friend was in Birmingham with his daughter. Her surgery went extremely well and our friends spent their recovery time with a lifelong ministry partner who lives in a small Alabama town. Our study was so excited about the possibility of our East Asian friend and his daughter visiting, but try as we might, logistics were not in our favor. The small town was about an hour and a half from our study and he wasn’t sure he could get transportation; his daughter’s follow up appointments were on the same days our study was to meet. So we prayed. Within a couple of days, his daughter’s follow up appointments were changed and his host “happened” to have a free day on our study day and was able to drive him there. Only God.
The big day arrived and our friend and his young daughter and his pastor/host friend came to visit. He was able to update our class on what the Lord is doing in his part of the world through the study of the Word. He talked about how his people do not have a good translation of the Bible in their heart language (the dialect they speak in their particular area of his country), which makes it so difficult for them to study the Bible. His eyes pooled with tears as he recounted his desire to see his people come to know the Word of God and the God of the Word.
Another thing our friend shared is how much he needed to be refreshed in the Word, how much our prayers meant to him, how much this invitation to visit our study overwhelmed his heart, how much he longed to see those who were going to the throne of God on his behalf. He cried tears of joy when he told us in his broken English that his heart was growing hard and he was growing weary in ministry, but seeing us and being with us and knowing we were praying for him was causing his heart to melt and be renewed.
But what he didn’t realize is that his presence was refreshing and renewing our study, giving us new passion and zeal to carry on with our ministry. Our leaders were growing weary in doing good and needed a reminder that God is at work in our community and around the world. He was spurring us on in obeying God’s call, just as we were spurring him on to walk in his calling. Only God.
As I said good-bye to our East Asian friend, who is now a dear brother in Christ, I stood in absolute amazement. From the Far East, to a salad bar in Colorado Springs, to an awkward invitation in Colorado Springs a year later, to a personal visit to our little suburban Alabama community, how God orchestrated every detail. I know the full purposes of this encounter and this visit have not been fully realized, but I do know our East Asian friend lit a Holy Spirit fire in our Bible study and in our leadership. To see the Lord do something only He can do. To pray specifically and watch Him do what seems impossible. To be a part of the work the Lord is doing in our community and around the world. To give our study a “world” vision. To help them see what a great gift we have in being able to read the Bible and study it for ourselves. ONLY GOD!
God sure does write the best stories! Do you have an ONLY GOD story? We’d love to hear it—leave your story in the comment section.