“Accidental” encounters are often the work of God’s sovereign hand. How can we pay attention and join in?
Every summer for the first 25 years of my pastorate, I drove a van of teenagers from Cleveland, Ohio, to Rodney, Michigan, for a week of church camp at Cran-Hill Ranch. It was a highlight of the summer for the teens, and also for my two sons, who tagged along with me each year until they were old enough to be campers themselves. In college, both of them served as counselors there.
When our sons were grown, our family decided to return to the place where we had so many good memories. Cathy and I, along with Chris and Kevin, signed up to be volunteer counselors for Friendship Camp, a week for campers with physical and developmental impairments. It was a good week—even though we did it mostly for selfish reasons—that turned into one of the most significant new ministries of my pastoral career.
God used that week to stir something in my heart. When I returned home, I met with a few people who worked with people with disabilities, asking if our church should do more in this area. One woman began weeping, confessing that she had dreamed of such a ministry for years but never had the courage to share her dream with anyone. The result of these conversations was God’s Friends Forever, a ministry that is flourishing years later, and one that has done as much or more for those who volunteer as it has done for our friends and their families. But it began more by accident than by intention.
Those of us who trust in the sovereignty of God learn to see God’s hand at work in “accidental” encounters like this one. But it is often only in hindsight that we see how God is at work. Who in your ministry context has a dream that needs to be encouraged? Who has a passion that could meet a community need? What might God want to do through us, and in us, that seems accidental until hindsight shows us the bigger picture? Where can we join Jesus in mission along the way?
I pray that the RCA will be a place for lots of accidental mission work in the months ahead. In fact, that’s one way of looking at what I’m doing in this interim role.
In his service,
Don Poest is interim general secretary of the Reformed Church in America.