As you read these lines our team of ten is about to or has already embarked on the Cuba Mission Trip (5/26-6/3). I’ll report on the trip upon our return; this column is about a biblical phenomenon that occurred this week and for which we should always be prepared.
You’ve heard preachers talk about the “Macedonian Call,” a narrative about Paul’s missionary journeys in Acts 16.1-13. If you plot on a map the places Paul had preached up till then, he intended to systematically crisscross Asia Minor with the gospel. God had other plans. In Acts 16 it was clear to Paul that he and Timothy were forbidden to enter certain districts (Phrygia, Galatia, Bithynia, and Mysia). We know he eventually wrote Galatians to the believers in that region and strengthened them on his third missionary journey, so we can deduce that many opportunities are perfectly legitimate, it’s just not the right time or circumstances. A person can turn in any of 360 degrees and start walking; it won’t be long before you find a need you can address with the gospel. However, in Experiencing God one reads that ‘the need does not necessarily constitute the call.’ Paul showed sensitivity to the Spirit by going to Troas, thinking he would minister there, but instead was told by God to traverse the Aegean Sea (the same one many refugees currently navigate) over 100 miles to land on the Macedonian peninsula; there he would soon converse with and win Lydia to Christ as the first European convert (Acts 16.14).
We have planned for months for this Cuba trip and submitted our visa requests over two months ago. Ten days before our flight for whatever reason we learned our venue’s building permits were denied. The next 24 hours of calls and prayers produced another venue twenty miles from our original destination. There we will assist in the same ministries we had planned for (VBS, adult discipleship, and construction for which the church already has a building permit) in a smaller town (approx. 15,000). I rejoice that God will use us wherever, whenever, however He deems best; such seeming “detours” just serve to remind me we are on the radar of war rooms in both heaven and hell.
This will mark at least the fifth time this has happened to me in mission settings. 1) In 1996 I took a college group to assist in the Atlanta Olympics. We were assigned to a dead end location with little to do; after much prayer and negotiation we were placed on the busiest location of the Olympics where 80,000 passed us each day on Congress St. 2) In 1997 my college mission team was scheduled to airdrop into remote mountain villages of Albania to show the Jesus film; civil war broke out two months before our departure and we had to switch countries winding up in former East Germany. 3) In 2003 a college group was to go to an East Asian country when the SARS virus exploded across the scene. We had to postpone the trip six months from summer to Christmas semester break. We scrapped our original premise and learned a dramatic reading of Dickens’ Christmas Carol to present in university English classes, which we did ten times and spoke to hundreds of students outside of class, many resulting in gospel conversations. 4) In 2016 we had scheduled a mission trip to Miami that was cancelled due to several factors. I had no way of knowing in God’s timing we would be called upon to minister with multiple Disaster Relief teams during the WV floods.
Please pray for us during this trip to: a) share our love for Christ with many, b) maintain a servant attitude (Mt. 20.28), c) learn from our Cuban brothers and sisters, and d) stay healthy!