Looking back on the past four months I have become highly aware that God is still in the surprise business. Somehow, in God’s mysterious plan for my life, I have gone back to work, leading a wonderful ministry called Awana. As my pastor wrote me, “Well, I didn’t see that coming…”—nor did I or a lot of other people. It’s as if a big holy “Surprise, I’m not done with you yet!” was shouted from heaven at me by God himself.
I am beyond thrilled, enjoying the challenge and surrounded by a great team of people who love the Lord and children. This is my kind of place! Awana Clubs International is a 65-year-old ministry and the Global Leader in Child Discipleship. We serve more than 3.1 million children weekly in 115 countries through more than 42,300 church partners worldwide.
The scope is large, but I have found that God is in the small details (to put a holy twist on an old adage.) Every week amazing stories from across the globe come across my desk. These stories bring me to tears, make me laugh, or humble me…in that God has given me a front row seat to His extraordinary work in the world.
The stories themselves seem to be indwelt by God in amazing ways.
Recently, I was with a Canadian donor in Vancouver. I spoke about Judah Mooney, a man in South America (I couldn’t remember the exact country) who decided to take Awana to a tribe living deep in the jungle. The area was so remote that people didn’t even speak Spanish. They were tribal people cut off from the world. There were no roads going to the villages along this river. You can imagine the setting.
Travelling along in the boat, Judah finally came to a place where a village existed. He landed his boat and walked into the clearing and, to his amazement, in the center of the village there was an Awana game circle! The local pastor explained in broken Spanish that he had attended our recent Seed Planters training in the North. He had walked for days to attend and afterward brought Awana back to the villages along the river for all the children in the area. That training was put on by Jesus Responds as a part of a strategy to start Awana in 400 churches in two years.
The pastor blew a whistle and children began running to the game circle from the forest. It wasn’t Awana time but the kids knew the whistle meant Awana was on nonetheless. Judah watched the kids run around doing Awana games as though their club had been going for a long time. Afterward the pastor said he was so thrilled with Awana that he was planning to plant a church, two hours walk up river, using Awana as the primary vehicle.
Amazing story, right? Well there’s more . . .
When I finished telling the story, our Canadian Executive Director, Jon Imbeau, smiled and asked, “Valerie, didn’t that happen in Paraguay?”
“Oh, that’s right…I remember now, it was Paraguay.”
There was a pregnant pause. Then Jon spoke.
“Well, Valerie, this donor gave the money for the Seed Planters training in Paraguay!”
“No way!!” We all smiled; the donor with sudden awareness of the ROI on the money he didn’t spend on himself; the Executive Director wondering how I knew to tell THAT story; and the newbie CEO aware that a special holy moment had just happened. I opened my mouth and a God-indwelt story precisely fit for the moment came out!
Well, I didn’t see that coming! The God of surprises is ordering my days.
Oh God, what next? Bring it on…I’m ready and waiting! If God can use a Canadian donor to bring Jesus to a remote tribe in Paraguay and then bring that story back to Canada in such a surprising way, what might he have in store for you and me in the coming days?