Amazing when God “connects the dots” 40 years apart! ⇔
©Michael Krigline, Feb 2023 ~ krigline.com ⇔
Jesus looked straight at them and answered, “This is impossible for human beings but not for God; everything is possible for God.” Mark 10:27 (Good News Translation)
Have you ever wondered if God is at work in the details of your life, moving things around and making connections that you have no control over to achieve something in His sovereign plan? Well, He is, and when you get a glimpse of this, it is exhilarating!
In 1981 (over 40 years ago), a brochure changed my life. When I think about all the trouble God went through to accomplish that, it staggers my imagination. People on two continents took photos, wrote and edited text, printed it, advertised it, ordered it, shipped it… just so that on one particular day a fresh stack of these brochures would be on the table I would be studying at in Rev Chuck Cooley’s office, in Columbus, Ohio, near the campus of the Ohio State University. As I sat there, working on college homework, the pile of brochures seemed to be calling out: “Read me! Read me!” I did, and when I spoke to Pastor Chuck about it, he said, “You should apply; I think you would be a great candidate.” I did apply, causing God to move dozens more people to evaluate my application, search for a suitable placement, and much more. But the result was an eight-month ministry for me in the UK the following year.
The brochure advertised the World Methodist Council Youth and Community Volunteer Exchange Program (WMC-Exchange for short). I was the only person participating from OSU (to my knowledge), so it seems like that stack of brochures was just for me. In England, Rev Kenneth Finch (a former professional Rugby player, with an infectious smile) had enjoyed two “pulpit exchanges” in the US, and asked the WMC-Exchange to send a college-aged American to join him. I could have been assigned to any church in England, but God paired me with Rev Ken at Coundon and Lime Tree Park Methodist Churches. It was a remarkable year, and I’ve kept in touch with friends to this day in the city of in Coventry—near the heart of England.
By 2000, my wife and I had joined a Chinese congregation in Columbia, SC, and headed off to teach English in China (which I did for 15 years). To add another piece to this puzzle, notice the drummer who also provided tremendous support while we recorded some of my songs in 2001 (in Shanghai, of all places; see Michaels-Music). After he left China, this Canadian became an Anglican Priest, and eventually God placed Rev Dwayne in Coventry, England—not far from my old churches.
By 2016, I was the Director of a Charity in Hong Kong, with partners in many countries, including England. So, we arranged a professional visit to Europe in 2016 (think of all the people and variables that added to my story). Rev Dwayne kindly invited me to speak in his church, after I spoke at another Coventry church that morning. The night before, I visited “my old church” and found that Lime Tree Park’s building had now become a Chinese congregation. There, I met the pastor’s wife, who came to hear me speak that night across town, and we later exchanged a few emails. Bear in mind that if I had not served at Lime Tree Park in 1981, this 2016 “chance meeting” could have never happened, but it did!
Fast forward seven more years. God has moved me back to Columbia, SC, and back to the Chinese church my family joined in 1998. In February 2023, I was in a church committee meeting as we talked about resuming short-term missions outreach. We talked about central America, but a main difficulty is the need to “double translate” from Chinese to English to Spanish. We considered India or other places where people speak English well, but travel costs would be extremely high. Then someone mentioned the needs in the UK.
I had recently heard about England from a friend in Hong Kong. While the number of Chinese students in the US has been “down” since COVID hit, there are currently over 220,000 Chinese students in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, MigrationWatchUK.org says that 114,000 HK people have immigrated to the UK since 2021 (with more than double that expected soon).
The result is an overwhelming number of Chinese people in the UK. My friend shared the encouraging news that the Chinese Church in the UK is healthy and growing, but these churches do not have the staff or resources to effectively reach out to the influx of Chinese people. He also shared a great story about his recent trip to England; he met a man in a Chinese church who said: “I never went to church in Hong Kong, but I’m here now because I want to be around Hong Kong people.” In addition to new adults and college students, the UK Chinese Church has many children to serve, and they have started reaching out to US Chinese Churches to help. As a result of all this, Elder Chuck Kwok (of my Columbia SC church) organized a Zoom meeting so a few of us could chat about all these things with one of his British contacts.
Now, keep in mind that while Chuck knows lots of people in England, and my Hong Kong organization also has several UK Chinese contacts, I personally know the name of only one Chinese Pastor in the UK—this man whose wife I met in Coventry, and who is serving in the building I also once served. Well, imagine my surprise when that man was the Pastor whom Elder Kwok connected us to via Zoom! I conveyed my greetings to his wife, then shared a photo of me outside his church in 2016, and of his snow-covered building in 1982, and we were all amazed at this super-natural re-connection.
Over the next few months we’ll work out the details, but the bottom line is that my pastor and I will spend a few weeks in England this summer, to minister to college students and to see how our church can serve our British brothers and sisters in the years ahead. We’ll talk about short-term missions trips, as well as ministry over Zoom. I’m excited about the possibilities!
Connecting the dots
From my experience in a marching band and various dramas, I know how difficult it can be to get two people to the same spot at the same time. Just think about how much more complicated our lives are! A British pastor requested a helper, an American campus pastor distributed brochures, God sent me to the UK—and eventually to Shanghai and Hong Kong, and back to the UK to meet someone at a church (I had served 35 years before), whose husband was invited into a trans-Atlantic Zoom call seven years later! The complexities stagger my imagination! In his excellent video, The Star of Bethlehem, Rick Larson convincingly demonstrates that God pre-planned how the heavens would look on the day His Son Jesus was born; so, if God can pre-plan the movements of the Cosmos, it shouldn’t surprise me that he can accomplish this remarkable meeting that spans 41 years. But I was blown away.
If you ever wonder if God knows where you are, where you have been, or where you are going, I hope He brings this story to mind. Nothing is impossible with God, and although it often does not appear so to us, God is constantly at work in unseen ways to bring about His eternal will. Of course, it helps a lot when we cooperate with His program (history is His Story, not ours), for we will all reap what we have sown. But never doubt that God knows you and loves you. As Jesus put it: “Not one sparrow is forgotten by God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth much more than many sparrows!” (Luke 12:5-6 GNT)
- Think back about some of the “amazing moments” of your life. If you look, where can you see God’s hand?
- Discuss the author’s comment about history being “His Story” not ours. Do you agree? Why or why not? Support your answer with Scripture.
Postscript: The summer trip went very well, and I even had the great honor of getting to provide a concert and to share an encouraging message in “my old church”! Another miracle happened a short time after I posted the above, when the daughter of good friends in the UK (now in Heaven) sent me an email because her search engine “just happened” to pick my website in response to her inquiry! (That NEVER happens!) She was only 4 years old when I first lived in England, and I’d had no contact with her for 40 years! But we managed to get together in July 2023 at a Starbucks, for a very encouraging conversation. God is good!
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