My phone rings late on Sunday afternoon as I trudge through dense undergrowth somewhere on the Near West Side of Atlanta. Jonathan and Kelly Nolte have invited me to join them in the search for a massive, hidden quarry that they saw in a TV show, but all we've found so far are vines, thorns, and barbed wire fences.
I pull the phone from my pocket just as it stops ringing. The caller ID tells me that I missed a call from Steven Finn. He and his wife, Rebecca, have been giving Susan and Astry rides to and from church for over a year.
I pocket the phone, deciding to focus on escaping the woods alive. A few minutes later, I get a text from Steven asking if I can call him when I get a chance.
We emerge from the forest into a rundown neighborhood and find our way back to the Noltes' car. I sit in the passenger seat, pull a few thorns out of my legs, check for ticks, and then call Steven. He has the beginning of a miracle on his hands here, and he tells me about it as we race North on I-85.
Susan and her family, in the face of poor wages, stood to lose their small apartment, and were planning to go stay with family until they could find more work. They decided to ask Steven if there was any way he could help.
A few days ago someone anonymously gave Steven $600 for youth ministry in the neighborhood around Open Table Community. So now Steven's wondering if God didn't do that to provide for this very situation. I encourage him to call Susan back and find out a) what the long term plan is, and b) exactly how much money Susan's family needs.
After I hang up, I discuss the Situation with Jonathan.
-Yeah, he tells me, we can either use that money to buy cookies and lemonade or to actually help the youth stay in the neighborhood.
That night, Steven calls me and lets me know what he found out. Susan's family needs exactly $600 to finish out their lease, and the money would buy the family time to look for new work, finish out the school year, and prepare for a proper move. And it would give us just a little more time with two of our favorite kids.
-They need exactly $600? That's exactly how much you have, right?
-Well, this sounds like a no-brainer.
We talk about logistics, and we rave a little bit back and forth about how God seems to be showing his hand here. Susan accepts the grace of Jesus one week, then receives the love of his church, then God provides for her family's material needs. We really can't wrap our heads around this series of events.The next day, when Steven goes to the gas station to buy the money order to pay for their rent, he only brings the $600. Because he doesn't have any other money with him, the staff just gives him the order for free, making sure that this kindness just passes through Steven from one place to another.
When he gives the money order to the family, he asks Susan to translate for him, and tells them that God provided the right amount of money just for this situation.
When I hear this, I spend the next couple of hours giving thanks and wondering exactly what the Father is trying to build into our character through this miracle.
He placed us here to show His love, provided the resources, and then opened a door for us to care for a family on every level, from spiritual to economic. Maybe he's trying to show us that it's all one thing, that the Gospel, when accepted and lived, encompasses all of who we are, and the kingdom we have been given passes through our fingers in tangible ways to the world around us.
What this teaches us, and how this truth resonates through God's work in the months ahead, remains to be seen. We wait with eyes open. One miracle opens the door for many more, and we expect to believe in them and be changed.