I’m still processing our trip to Turkey to visit some long time friends and be a help to them and take them some treats from home. See, we arrived in Turkey just in time to witness the coup and work on getting out of the coup.
Myself, my oldest son Gabriel, Kristen Colston and Anna Lauren Cone were the Three Rivers team going to be a blessing to our friends. Why let us get there and not complete what we went there to do? Why not shut the trip down before getting into Istanbul? Did we miss God’s intention? I have unanswered questions. But I also acknowledge that God does not owe me answers. “God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform. He plants his footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm”. “Judge not the Lord by feeble sense but trust him for his grace. Behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face”. “Blind unbelief is sure to err and scan his work in vain. God is his own interpreter and he will make it plain”. Those lyrics by William Cowper are a great help.
What I do know is that God providentially uses prayer. This truth is firmly planted in my theological framework as a theologically reformed pastor. This truth has been experienced many times in my life and ministry. I’m not sure it’s as profoundly evident to me as it was this past week and a half.
Before any team leaves our church for domain engagement, we gather around them as a church at the end of a service, lay hands on them and pray for them. This trip was no different. This trip was significant because it was the first where one of our former children’s ministry alumni, my son Gabriel, got to use his invested resources in paying for his first global engagement opportunity. It was to serve TRC members who have gone from our church to serve for the sake of the Kingdom. It was to scout the possibility of a long-term place for our students (middle school and up) to engage yearly to serve the Great Commission, our people and grow their “glocal” abilities.
After we prayed, Gayla Darville gave me a laminated card with some instructions on engaging the spiritual battle. Gayla prays for me often and is perhaps the most encouraging member of TRC. But Gayla did not say much. In fact, she simply stated that she was supposed to give me that card and hesitated, a little tearful, and walked away. That card was some instruction on praying for and engaging in the spiritual conflict we are in daily and particularly would be engaging while gone.
Little did we know we would sit on a plane in Paris for an hour before taking off for no reason explained to us. Sitting at the gate. Not waiting to take off. So, by the time we took off it was well over an hour delay. When arriving in Istanbul, we wait in a line for passport control close to 2 hours. There were like 2 officers for 7,000 people (hyperbole).
We missed out flight for our destination city by roughly 20 minutes. So, we try to book later flights of 10:55 PM and 12:05 AM and all are full. So, we get a hotel just down the highway from the airport, take a cab (the cab driver did not speak a lick of English and I didn’t speak a lick of Turkish yet somehow he figured out what I was saying and took us right to our hotel), grab dinner, get a shower and proceed to watch a coup unfold from my window.
Of course, we begin communicating with our team back home, listening to State Department briefs and working on changing plans.
During all of this, I was receiving messages from people praying and offering help from literally all over the world. God’s people were praying and we were being led by God’s staying hand.
A dear brother, Mike Lewis, told me Sunday he was praying Psalm 34:7 “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.” over us while we were gone.
That is just a sample of the way people were moved to pray for us and how God’s hand stayed us.
Grudem defines God’s providence like this: “God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he (1) keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them; (2) cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and (3) directs them to fulfill his purposes.” (Grudem, p. 315)
It’s a complete mystery how God cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do, but it’s clear that God put it into the heart of people to pray specific things for us that were powerful and effective at moving God’s hand and fulfilling his purpose. I can’t explain it beyond that other than inviting people to read their bible and just enjoy that God works that way. It’s on just about every page.
Here is what we can conclude:
- God uses prayer to move things. So, pray. Prayer is perhaps the most tangible and effective Great Commission strategy.
- God moves in mysterious ways to perform his wonders for our good and his glory. Often ends are hidden from our eyes, but we know he works for good and the good of those who are called according to his purposes. If we don’t see the end we still know there are ends and they are good.
- Don’t spend so much time trying to figure out the metaphysics of “how” God does this, just enjoy that he does, wonder at him, marvel at him, delight in him, engage him by leaning on such wonders by doing hard things, believe Scripture and just enjoy!
Those are a few of my takeaways from our providentially successful trip to Turkey wrought in the prayers of God’s people.