Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Meeting God in a Perkins

On July 1, 2015, my wife Lora and I were driving west on I-94 approaching Bismarck, North Dakota. We decided to stop in Bismarck and have dinner. We planned to drive further west to Dickinson and spend the night there afterward.

As we exited at Bismarck we began to see signs for the various restaurants that were available at that location. Lora’s eyes immediately caught sight of a Chinese place that featured a Mongolian barbecue. We both like Asian food. Lora loves it. She mentioned that option. I replied, “That sounds great to me.” I thought it was decided. As we approached the turning lane, Lora then said, “There’s a Perkins. Let’s try that.” I was mildly surprised, knowing her likes and dislikes. So I took a right in the parking lot which put us in front of the Perkins entrance. Even as I was turning I thought this is surprising. I hesitated briefly as I began to turn in, but she said definitely, “Let’s go to Perkins.”

We entered the restaurant and were seated at a booth at the window. The window was blocked by an exterior advertising banner. We sat down and got our menus. Lora left to the ladies room.

As she did, I sat facing the corner of the dining room. Two empty tables away from us, right in the corner, sat a family. It appeared to be mom, dad, and four kids, starting with a blonde girl aged about 13 on downward. They were in mid-meal. Mom seemed to be talking to them, in a somewhat serious manner, that made me think she was relating a story to them, or making a point to the whole family. I liked how she seemed to be relating to the kids.

Then I felt a surge of compassion for the family. I had a strong urge to pray for them right then and there. I silently prayed, still feeling this intense compassion. I prayed for their marriage, that it would be strong. Then I prayed for their relationship with the four children, that it would be blessed. As I finished these two short, sincere prayers, I had an impression that I was to tell them they were an awesome family. For whatever reason I did not act on that.

Lora returned. I didn’t say anything to her about what I’d felt. We talked about the menu.

The family was getting up as their meal ended, and mom and some of the kids left the table. Since I needed the restroom, I got up, and hoped to speak to the family on the way. I did see the blonde girl near the cash register. I thought of telling her “you guys are an awesome family,” but I didn’t. It seemed better to speak to one of the adults. I returned to our table without seeing either of them.

We decided we should change tables, as the banner totally blocked our view. We couldn’t see the waitress. Lora said, “Let’s do it.” She got up and I followed, and she went to the window table right beside the family. As we sat down, only the dad and an adolescent boy were still seated. Dinner was over and obviously they were just about to leave.

Once we were seated, the dad immediately said to us with a grin, “Do you want some free coffee?” He held up his pitcher. We laughed. As he and his son slid out of their booth and stood to go, he paused and talked about where they were going but included the phrase “We’re missionaries.”

I asked, “You are missionaries?”

“Yes, we serve in Russia, in the far eastern part of Russia.”

Being lifetime missionaries ourselves, I told him, “We are missionaries too. We work with YWAM (Youth With A Mission) We served in India for many years and now work at one of our mission’s training centers in the United States.”

Dad (Whose name was Steve) said, “Oh, my wife’s uncle works with YWAM in Mongolia.” As he finished that sentence, his voice trailed off as if he was trying to remember a name. He mumbled the word, “Simon.”

Surprised at a familiar name, I said, “Do you mean Bryan and Sandra Simon?”

“Yes.”

“We know them. They received training with us in Pennsylvania before they went to Mongolia. We had hoped to recruit them to work with us. But of course, we’re thrilled that they ended up in Mongolia.”

“We have been considering leaving our mission,” Steve said, “we’re looking into YWAM. In fact after we go to Seattle for my dad’s surgery, we plan to go to Colorado Springs to talk to YWAM about possibilities.”

I told Steve about my prayer for him and that feeling of compassion.

After a little more conversation, Steve walked away toward the exit, and seconds later mom (Amanda) appeared. She said, “So I understand you guys know my Uncle Bryan. They are a big reason why I am in missions. They have inspired me a lot.”

“They are wonderful,” Lora said.

Then I told Amanda about how I’d felt deep emotion and had prayed for them. I said, “You guys are truly an awesome family.”

Amanda shyly put her arms around the 13 year old blonde girl’s neck from behind, embraced her, smiled and said, “This really seems like God is doing something.”

Being in amazement, we both replied, “Oh yes!”

We talked a little more. Then they went out into the parking lot, and as we watched, began to organize the mini-van and kids to continue their trip toward Seattle.

I was very excited. “Think of all the bits and pieces that had to come together for us to meet them here today,” I said to Lora.

They had driven from Minnesota to Bismarck that day. We had driven from Green Bay to Bismarck with a lot of tourist stops on the way. We got to the restaurant about the same time. We oddly chose the Perkins. Even though we were sitting two tables away from them, I had this strong impression to pray and to speak to them. Lora chose to move to the table beside them. Steve started a conversation. He mentioned being missionaries. He said the word “Simon.” We work in the mission they are considering being a part of.

I wondered how does God do that? How does he control all these circumstances? He moved two families, total strangers, together for a meeting and some words of encouragement. His power was working and guiding, but we only realized it after the fact.

As we ate our meal and watched them prepare to leave from the parking lot, the young boy ran over to our table and said, “My dad said to give this to you.” It was a $25 Perkins gift card. Our meal ended up being about $20 and with the tip, it was covered. As they drove out, Steve leaned forward and waved, and I returned the wave, feeling a rush of emotion. We were pilgrims on a journey with God spending some meaningful moments together.

“Lora,” I said, “This morning, if I had told you someone would buy our meal tonight at Perkins in Bismarck, North Dakota, what would you have said?”

She replied, “No way, I’d have thought, … impossible!”

 As we paid, the cashier said, “How was everything?” Excited, I wanted to say, “The food was good, BUT I MET GOD IN YOUR RESTAURANT TONIGHT!” But I didn’t. I knew he had no idea. That miracle was for us.

The rest of our two hour drive to Dickinson that evening was spent in talking over the nuances of how God had arranged and orchestrated this remarkable meeting.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

That Little Book

The man with a cardboard box handed me the small New Testament. It was in front of the University of Idaho library. I didn't know it, but he was with an organization called the Gideon's.

That little book wound up in a drawer in my apartment.

Later, on a night when I’d been drinking and was feeling melancholy, I thought about that little book, the New Testament with the Psalms and Proverbs. 

I got it out and laid down on my bed. I remember opening it and noticing a leathery smell. I’d never read it. I thought, “okay, so what are you all about?”

I started at the beginning at Matthew, Chapter 1. The "King James" version I read began with a list of archaic names. “What is this?” I thought.

Somehow I kept going. I read three chapters. Then I went to sleep.

The next night I read three more chapters.

And the next.

What I read about Jesus amazed me. The things he did. Once an angry crowd took him to a cliff to throw him down and “going his way, he walked through the midst of them.” How did he do that?

I began to experience a phenomenon when I read that little book. As I lay there thinking about the words, I would feel a peace, inside my chest. 

It was curious that reading made me feel that way.

Over time my life changed and my path was formed through reading that little book. - Mike

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Oh My Gosh, I Could Have Been Killed!

I was just a little bit crazy in my teenage years and early twenties.  Drugs were a prominent part of my life.

One day while I was high on drugs I was hitchhiking somewhere that I do not remember. O my gosh, I could have been killed. A man had picked me up and shared Jesus with me although I do not remember a word that he said.  He also gave me a copy of “The Living Way Bible.”    

I was drawn to that Bible many times out of curiosity. 

I believe that through this encounter and this man’s prayers, it started a chain of events of different things happening in my life that brought me to the Lord. This included checking into a mental hospital for methadone detox, falling into a nearly fatal coma, the birth of a son and then coming to the end of my rope when he was a few months old, and finally going into a Youth With A Mission ministry called Hope House. 

It was a process.

What stood out to me about God was His unconditional love, acceptance, and forgiveness for all that I have done, a father’s love that I had never known, and a sense of family from living in the YWAM community. 


– Tamara

Quotes of Note ... The Invisible World

“Spiritual warfare is learning to recognize the strategies, refusing to cooperate with them, and aggressively cutting off the schemes of the devil in Jesus’ name.” Dean Sherman

“those who protest that God cannot exist because there is too much evil evident in life… Evil exists; therefore, the Creator does not. That is categorically stated… If evil exists, one must assume that good exists in order to know the difference. If good exists, one must assume that a moral law exists by which to measure good and evil. But if a moral law exists, must not one posit an ultimate source of moral law, or at least an objective basis for a moral law? By an objective basis, I mean something that is transcendingly true at all times, regardless of whether I believed it or not.” Ravi Zacharias

“But the Devil is no big threat to God’s purposes; he is not even remotely comparable in power. He has been given a limited time before his final judgment to try to prove his case, just as all other moral beings who have chosen to live in rebellion against heaven.” W.A. Pratney

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I've served as a life-long missionary in Samoa, the Pacific region, India, and now in Pennsylvania. The Christian faith is reasonable and works in real life. It is true to the facts. Hope you enjoy some of the thoughts. I appreciate feedback.

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