I have talked often in my blog about "random acts of kindness." I never get tired of hearing stories of others getting blessed when they may least expect it. This week, however, I heard of another act of kindness that may at first glance, seem random, but I believe was very well orchestrated. It has started me thinking about how 'random' any of these acts really are and the wonderful connection of 'coincidences.' How is it that we are prompted to give or to share or to do something for others? And just because we don't know the big picture, doesn't mean someone else doesn't! What I may think is random in my life may in fact, be very well planned.
My best friend has been a Tour Director for over 25 years. She and her husband own their own tour business and she has traveled frequently all across the United States. As I write this, she is on tour with a group of 44 people on a 'Carolina Coast' tour. What makes the story that I am going to tell you unique is that in all the years she has directed tours, she has never done this before!
It was Sunday morning, April 19. She had begun the day with a morning devotion, as usual. Then, she said, she had this 'crazy idea!' What if these 45 people took up an offering and found a church to give it to? She presented her idea to all those traveling with her and they were excited to be a part of it! So, at their morning break at a truck stop, my friend asked the woman working there if she knew of any churches nearby. It just so happened that there was a little church just five minutes away. This woman, got in her car and drove to it to see what time their service started! As 'coincidence' would have it, their service started at 10:00 a.m.! Everybody boarded the tour bus and they headed to this little church. My friend encouraged anyone who wanted to, to join her in going into the church and presenting this offering to the Pastor. To her delight, everyone joined her!
This was a small Baptist church in Conover, North Carolina. Can you imagine their surprise when they saw a bus full of people pull up? One of the most memorable moments for many of the people was seeing the usher's face when the bus pulled in. They said he literally started counting how many bulletins he had!
The tour group disembarked and began filing their way into the church. They found the Pastor and began talking to him. As if they didn't know it already, they discovered that this was not just another Sunday. It was the Pastor's 51st birthday! The tour group sang Happy Birthday to him, followed by "This is the Day That the Lord Has Made." On behalf of the entire group, my friend presented the Pastor with an ordinary looking envelope of cash. Though I was not there, I can imagine his surprise. Though I have not spoken to him, I can guess that he knew this to be a divine appointment. This whole situation was anything but ordinary!
I know my friend told me more of the details as she excitedly shared this story with me by phone on Monday. I did not write them all down but did ask if I could share the story on my blog. I also asked if she could get the reactions and thoughts of some of those who did the giving. I am honored that they took the time to write down a few of their thoughts and so I want to pass a few of them on to you. First of all, the email that my friend received from the church…
"We at Covenant Baptist Church would like to say a great big North Carolina THANK YOU. Your visit to our little church with a great big heart, came at a perfect time. Your group blessed us so much and we want you to know that the love offering that you gave to the church went in our building fund. We are currently in the process of building to expand our worship service. I hope that you, as I did when I first walked through the door of the church, felt the love of God all over the place. Again, thank you for listening to God's Lead and may God bless you in all your travels." Rusty Townsend, Minister of Music, Covenant Baptist Church.
Before they left, the Pastor prayed for them. As they left, a member of a quartet gave one of their cds to my friend. After everyone had boarded the bus, someone came running out to the bus, giving them an additional copy of five of their other cds. Here are a few of the other comments from tour members…
"I felt God at work that day and realized he really does work in mysterious, wonderful ways."
"The Sunday stop at Covenant Baptist Church was amazing. This was, for me, a soul lifting experience. A perhaps ONCE IN A LIFETIME happening."
"The pastor was really surprised and very grateful. And we were better for what we did for them."
"What are we going to do for an encore next Sunday?"
"This unplanned church visit was better than hearing a sermon and attending our home church. We will always remember this surprise church visit and be a reminder of how we should never miss a chance to make just a tiny witness for Jesus Christ."
"It was so emotional to see what God can do through us when we follow His guidance. The response of everyone was wonderful."
"Our visit to the church was very touching and a spiritual moment. So far I would say it IS the highlight of our trip. The congregation and our tour group were all blessed and enjoyed our short time together. God is GOOD!"
"I think we were more blessed than they were."
"We all learned a lesson in giving and sharing. Truly it is more blessed to give than to receive. The people at Covenant Baptist were so grateful and gave back to us, sharing their Quartet's cd. Reminds me of the fact that you can't outgive the Lord. It was a beautiful thing to do, and in His graciousness and lovingkindness, He blessed us so much."
"I asked the minister how old he was that day and he said, "51." Since our group is mostly seniors, I said, 'You are just a baby.' His reply was, 'We are all babies in God's eyes.' I really like his reply."
"It was a very moving experience. It is a perfect example of what Jesus would want us to do. Definitely a 'feel good' experience. So impressed with the heartfelt prayer given by the pastor."
"Because of the times we are in, it was such a delightful plan to be a part of the group who surprised a small church in Conover, NC on Sunday morning, April 19. It was exciting to see their stunned faces turn to ones of grateful, thankful people. We never know when someone needs an encouraging word or deed. Let's continue to keep our eyes open to others who need our touch."
It's a wonderful story, isn't it? How many times do we feel impressed to do or say something and disregard the fleeting thought? Or, if we act upon it, how many times do we actually have the privilege to know how people really felt as a result of our actions? This circumstance gives us just a glimpse into the possibilities when we respond to that still, small voice.
Acts of kindness? Absolutely! Random? Not so much!
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