Some years ago I was invited to speak at a church meeting. My theme was ‘getting involved’, Pauline was with me and she also spoke along similar lines, emphasising the need for people who call themselves Christian to ‘get their hands dirty’ and care for God’s world. James 1:27 (NIV) tells us, ‘religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted by the world.’ I spoke about the shortage of foster carers in England and Wales, another 10,000 are needed. The people in this community responded in a positive way, and quite a few became foster carers and adoptive parents. 10 years on it’s encouraging to see the fine results that those people have achieved.
I got to know one couple very well, and when I went to visit them I was struck by how small their house was compared to how large was their willingness to get involved. I said, ‘you need more room!’ We sat down and looked through their finances, and they said they couldn’t afford a bigger house. I am an eternal optimist when it comes to such things and so I said, ‘I think you can, but that’s just my optimism, let me send you a financial advisor to see if he agrees with me.’ They agreed and my financial advisor went to see them and came to the same conclusion as me, he even arranged a mortgage for them. All that was needed now was to find the right house and sell their small house. Eventually they found a house and when we saw it we were staggered by the size and the extensive land that surrounded it. The price was a stretch for their finances, but after we had prayed together it seemed that this was the right place and would help this couple to achieve all that was in their heart.
Offers were made and accepted, their small home sold quickly and we were just getting ready for celebrations when there was a twist in the tail. I received a tearful phone call from the couple telling me that their house was sold, the contract signed, moving in date arranged, but the large house they wanted to buy was no longer available, the seller had called them to say he was removing it from the market. Instead of celebrations, commiserations; instead a large house, homelessness. No wonder there were tears and prayer requests.
The next few months were very tough, the couple and their permanent lodger moved in with a relative who had a house almost as small as the one they had sold, they were living a nightmare and didn’t know what to do next. Then one day the wife did something very weird and even to this day she has no idea why she did it.
Her husband cycled to work every day, and she strapped a large sack of salt to the back of the bike, her husband assumed that it was to help him to keep fit, as he was having to push those peddles very hard to propel himself and the huge sack of salt. (It was impressed on me how enormous the sack was). At the time she said she had read in the bible somewhere that people who are followers of Jesus should be salt in his world. A rather mumbo-jumbo interpretation of that concept, but because things were so difficult and stressful at the time, the husband decided to humour his wife and kept on cycling every day, with the sack of salt in tow.
The months went by and then I received another phone call, the wife told me she thought she had heard God speak to her, she thought he told her to take the sack of salt that her husband had been towing around on his bike, go to the house that they had wanted to buy and pour the salt all around the house (outside the property boundaries of course!). To avoid people thinking she was a ‘nutter’ she and her husband drove to the house at around 1:00 am and quickly poured the salt out as they thought God had said they should. The next morning they received a phone call from the owner of the house saying he had decided to put the house back on the market and were they still interested, if they were they could have it at the price they originally agreed. With joy in her voice she told me, ‘He wanted it to happen quickly, we signed the same day and we are moving in.”
I told you it was a strange story, how can anyone explain that! I went to the house warming celebrations, and over the years joyfully watched their many adopted children growing up in a warm, loving and nurturing environment. This story remains a mystery to me, I don’t begin to understand the ramifications, I only know that sometimes when we are a ‘follower of the way’ God asks us to do strange things, and we do well to obey his instructions. I don’t think that gives us an excuse to be weird and off-the-wall, I think perhaps there are enough people around who are like that without you and me joining them. But the moral of the story is how good and pleasant it is when a follower of God is obedient to His request.
Adrian L Hawkes
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