Divine Appointment (Gift Cards #20-24)

Trip Start Aug 21, 2010
Trip End Dec 31, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Michigan
Sunday, December 26, 2010

Kelsey lost her cell phone on the 23rd. Strange, because her best recollection was this:

We were right outside her parents' house, and she wanted her brother (who we picked up along the way) to use her phone to call the house and ask where in the driveway we should park. As she was getting her phone, her brother just used his phone to call, and we drove in, put the van in its final park, and began our Christmas break!

That night, her phone was missing. The next two days, I searched the van--in coat pockets, under seats, in crevices... nothing.

Then on the 26th (actually very early on the 27th), after midnight, we were stirred from our almost-sleep to my phone ringing. It was our boss Andrew, saying a lady found our phone in a dumpster. We called the number that she provided him, and on the phone, she gave us her address.

From my conversation with her, I gathered that she did indeed find the phone in a dumpster. She was searching through it to find cans for recycling. She pulled it out, and it still worked (quite the miracle in and of itself). So she called the first number in Kelsey's contact list (which actually wasn't Andrew, but she misclicked and fortunately did reach him). And at the moment, she was driving back home from redeeming cans at the grocery store. She was hoping to find the phone's owner and, since it was a "nice new phone", hoped that the owner would provide a reward.

I told her that we'd be over in a bit to pick it up. I called Mike, Kelsey's brother, who was still out with friends, to see if he was available and willing to join us. We thought it would be beneficial to have another man accompany us to the dark location of a who-knows-where address around 1:00 in the morning.
He was up for the adventure.

We also knew this had the makings of a special meeting from God. The circumstances were all too unusual. I don't believe in coincidences, and we wanted to make the most of this unique opportunity. So, I got some of our gift cards as a reward, and a gospel message to accompany them. We got dressed, and soon Mike was home, too.

Kelsey's parents came out and prayed with us, so we could be armed for whatever was going to happen. And with that, we were off.

We arrived at the given address and pulled into their driveway. I was about to call the lady's cell number again, when the door opened and this lady came out with her husband. The three of us, then, emerged from the car. "Oh, you must be the cell phone people!"

"Yes ma'am, I'm Mike. This is my wife Kelsey; it's her phone. What are your names?"
"Suzanne, and this is Steve."

They were older folks, maybe in their sixties.

We exchanged a few words about the phone and its circumstances. We finally put together how this all happened.

You see, right before we got home, we stopped at a gas station convenience store for milk. This was a funny story itself:

Kelsey backed the shady white van up to the store, in the nearest spot to the door. She remained unseen in the driver's seat while Mike got out of the passenger side and entered the store. He walked up to the lady at the counter and asked if they carry any milk. She eyeballed the shady van whose backside was poised for action, then gave a cautious look at Mike. She hesitantly pointed him in the direction of the milk, just as she noticed the side door of the white van slide open. There, I, with a full plastic bag in hand, jumped out and ran toward the trash can outside the door. I deposited the bag quickly, then dashed back into the side door and closed it behind me. Mike then made the milk purchase, and joined the bag-runner and unseen driver in the van. Then we pulled away. I don't think the cashier knew if she should laugh or call the police!

But anyway, that plastic bag contained Kelsey's phone. And it's at that gas station dumpster that Suzanne found it.

So we made the exchange. Kelsey got her phone, and I gave Suzanne five gift cards. "We carry these gift cards with us, and we'd like to give them to you for your honesty and efforts finding us. We appreciate it. Each card is ten dollars. There are four here for Walmart, and then with this one, you can take yourself out to dinner at Applebee's.

"Wow, thank you!"
"Thank you." I'm glad we were able to meet.

The conversation was about to break apart as we would go our separate ways, but we knew it couldn't end with the phone.

"Hey before we call it a night, just one last thing. I don't believe this was a coincidence, and before we go, I just need to know if you know Jesus like I do."
"Oh, yes, yes." They said nearly in unison.
"I'm a Vietnam vet," said Steve.
"And I wear my cross around my neck every day," said Suzanne as she was pulling it out as proof.
"Okay, so you know you'd be going to heaven if you were to die?"
"Oh yes," continued Steve, "I saw many people go to heaven back in the war."

At this point, I was saddened. Here we've seen an all-too-common association with Christianity and American patriotism, and Christianity and religious tradition. Neither of which guarantee salvation. And just seeing people die and perhaps go to heaven does not mean that you will definitely follow them.
Inside, discerning from their answers, I knew that these folks didn't have a personal relationship with Jesus. But they were both very convinced that they were good people. And yes, humanly speaking they were. In fact, the reason we were even there was because they were good people who put in the effort to meet with us. But God was putting in the effort to meet with them, and were a part of it.

In short, I didn't feel like it was the time to go "saving souls" or anything like that. I think forcing that agenda on people who are not prepared to hear it does more harm than good. A lot of Christians with genuine concern are made out to look arrogant or foolish by failing to meet people where they are spiritually.
This night, we were outside, it was cold, and nothing we could have said in this time would have convinced them that they really needed to trust Jesus with their lives.
So, not wanting to insult them, but not wanting either to leave them empty-handed, I gave them the Christmas gospel message I carried. "Well let me hand you this. If you don't feel like reading it, feel free to pass it along to the next people whose phone you find!"

"Alright, thank you."

And with that, we said our goodbyes and parted ways.

I hope we were found to be good stewards of that situation. It's okay that we didn't see these folks become Christians in those few short moments. Evangelism isn't always being involved in that part of God's work in someone's heart. What we accomplished was this:
- making clear that we follow Jesus
- being friendly, generous people
- triggering thoughts of where eternity could be spent
- leaving them with written information of how to take the next steps for when the Spirit is ready to work that way

And I count that as success. Hopefully we'll see Suzanne and Steve again someday. And hopefully we'll lose our phone again.
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