This past Wednesday evening, I presented the report of my trip to Can Tho, Vietnam and my work with the church there. Actually, it was the third time I've given it with tweaks each time. (The other presentations were to our WCS staff at inservice and our Westbury Chinese congregation last Sunday.) It was a pretty typical report for me: lots of pictures of cute kids and food along with observations of my missions as a whole and how the work there is progressing. If I could boil it all down, the whole effort in Can Tho would never have come about without two individuals. The first is Tom Tune, a long term missionary in Asia, who put together the foundation of the church and the school there. I had known Tom for years as his son, Mike, was my minister in Tennessee. The other indispensable was Ket, who I only knew as Grandma. She passed away shortly after my first trip to Vietnam in the summer of 2011. But what a lady! She and her husband had eleven kids and in spite of many heartaches she endured, the church in Can Tho is made up almost entirely of her descendants and relatives: kids, grand kids, great grand kids, cousins, great nieces and nephews. (Ngan, shown on the screen in the picture above, is a granddaughter of Ket.) Hers was a remarkable story; baptized late in life in the same river where her husband was brutally murdered. Through this woman and her offspring, the Lord has done marvelous things.
After the lesson on Wednesday and after shaking hands, I was packing up my laptop when one of our elderly sisters in Christ came up to me. She took my right hand and very covertly put some money in it. She apologized that it wasn't more but she had been so touched by the stories and pictures of the little children. Then, she proceeded to tell me the story of her life, condensed version. When she was a girl, she dreamed of marrying a church of Christ preacher and going to Africa to minister to the people there. But, instead, she married an Air Force man who was killed........ in the fighting in Vietnam. The two of them had a daughter, a child with disabilities, who is now grown up. The daughter requires constant care and her nurses........ are from Africa. And the sister in Christ ministers to the African nurses every chance she gets. We laughed at the odd symmetry of her story and how her prayers were and were not answered but what she asked God to let her do, she is doing. I made the promise that I will make sure her money is used in the best way possible.
You know, I don't remember Jeremiah 29:11 being quoted in sermons or devotionals much as a child but the past several years, you see it everywhere."I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
We have plans for lives and God has plans for lives and it seems the details rarely, if ever, match up. I can't tell you I have ever heard any Christian tell me their lives turned just like they planned it. That's the beauty of our Father's design. He can take our weaknesses and failures and, yes, even our dreams, and weave them into the tapestry that is the Kingdom of Heaven. Both of these women lost their husbands in the same country in the same time frame and have suffered grief upon grief and their paths never crossed except sort of through me. And yet, their influence will continue to be felt for eternity. In Christ, the ending of the story often is so much better than the beginning. And the best thing about how this story ends? IT NEVER ENDS!
Applicable quote of the day:
God will not permit any troubles to come upon us, unless He has a specific plan by which great blessing can come out of the difficulty.
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