I’m a pretty classic Type A personality. For the most part it serves me well. But typing the words “planning and organizational skills” as strengths on the self-evaluation portion of my annual performance review brought a smile to my face as I recalled when something wonderful happened last fall. Several colleagues and I dutifully prepped, planned, and organized an event; then everything fell apart.
That’s exactly when God showed up, stepped in, and revealed how His plans are always so much better than our plans.
The North American Division scheduled our third fresh produce giveaway the Sunday before Thanksgiving. But around the scheduled delivery time we received a phone call from the truck driver: he’d been detained at a nearby interstate weigh station for being over the weight limit. The driver had to stay there until another vehicle could come and unload some of his cargo. Although the giveaway wasn’t scheduled to begin for another hour, we already had several guests waiting in our parking lot. This was disappointing but manageable.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t a few minutes’ delay. It was a couple hours before we heard from the delivery driver again. This time he called to say, “You know how you told me to hurry once I was able to leave the weigh station? Well, I’ve just been pulled over for speeding.” For the next several hours calls to his mobile phone went unanswered.
The following day we learned that during the traffic stop the patrol officer realized the driver didn’t have the required commercial driver’s license to operate the vehicle, so the truck and our 25,000 pounds of food had been impounded. We didn’t receive an explanation from the driver on Sunday because he’d left his phone in the back of the truck!
The situation was such a series of mishaps it might have been comical, except that by midmorning we had more than 200 families waiting in our building’s parking lot. Our anticipated witness was a disaster. Except that it really wasn’t. Those 200 families, who waited for several hours and ultimately went away without the promised produce or an explanation, remained patient, upbeat, and understanding.
One of our ministries had donated devotional books to be distributed at the event. Many families sat in their cars poring through those. Prayer groups formed on behalf of the missing driver. Children ran, laughed, and played together. Before the end of the day, our volunteers collected the contact information of more than 200 guests, and although we were never able to gain access to the food in the delivery vehicle, on the day before Thanksgiving we instead distributed grocery store gift cards to our new friends.
We had planned to witness in a particular way, on a particular day, to a particular group of people. But God dreams bigger than we do. He took what would have been a few moments’ transaction and shaped it into a bonding experience. He created an opportunity for us to attend to the spiritual needs of our guests one day, and their nutritional needs a few days later. And He used all of us—volunteers and guests alike—to reflect His love to each other.
We’re planning another produce giveaway. My colleagues and I will once again prep, plan, and organize in advance of the event. After all, we are eager to represent Christ and our church effectively in service to our community.
It will be fun to see how things actually turn out. Maybe they will go exactly as we expect. Or maybe God has something else in mind.
What I know for sure is that I will be paying attention, because I know He loves us so very much, and is likely to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).
— Melissa Reid is associate director of the North American Religious Liberty Association.