And then this happened: Elijah the Tishbite, from among the settlers of Gilead, confronted Ahab: “As surely as God lives, the God of Israel before whom I stand in obedient service, the next years are going to see a total drought—not a drop of dew or rain unless I say otherwise.” God then told Elijah, “Get out of here, and fast. Head east and hide out at the Kerith Ravine on the other side of the Jordan River. You can drink fresh water from the brook; I’ve ordered the ravens to feed you.”
Elijah obeyed God’s orders. He went and camped in the Kerith canyon on the other side of the Jordan. And sure enough, ravens brought him his meals, both breakfast and supper, and he drank from the brook. Eventually the brook dried up because of the drought. Then God spoke to him: “Get up and go to Zarephath in Sidon and live there. I’ve instructed a woman who lives there, a widow, to feed you.” I Kings: 17 1-9 (The Message)
There’s nothing more powerful than a story! That’s why the Scriptures are full of them. This is a story I have been told in person and by phone during the past few weeks. It is very like many stories in Scripture. That is why I share it now. The story is authentic and powerful . . . and bread for each of our spiritual journeys.
I have a friend named Tadd who is a pastor at a local church. Tadd and I became acquaint- ed because of our passion for the Apprentice of Jesus Series. (That is a story for another time, but it is powerful in its own right.) Tadd and I have been meeting every two weeks for more than a year for “mutual mentoring.” Tad is 40; I am 70. Our friendship could only have been orchestrated by God.
A few months of ago, Tadd and his wife Krista decided that it was time for Tadd to leave his current position as Youth Minister and Spiritual Formation advisor. They felt that he had learned all he could in this position; it was time to find a job that would be a good career move, fit his gifts as a pastor, and perhaps provide more financial stability for his family. Their dream as a couple was to find a position that would allow them to create a church founded on Apprentice principles. Tadd did his research, submitted several resumes around the country, filled out applications for a few jobs, and was interviewed for a position at a church in Georgia. The interview went well and he was told he was on the “short list” and would be contacted soon. He and Krista were excited!
However, just days after the interview, it was time for Tadd’s annual Prayer Retreat with several high school and college students in a remote section of the western United States. He was concerned about missing the call from the Georgia church, but it couldn’t be helped. Early in the week of the retreat, Tadd noticed that ravens were often present around the cabin as he did his early morning devotions. Then one day he noticed ravens flying above the trail as they hiked. He had the odd feeling that God was using the ravens to tell him something.
The group had been in an area where cell phone coverage was very poor. As they came out into a clearing, Tadd noticed that he had a message on his phone. His heart jumped. It must be the Georgia church calling. Instead the message was from a pastor of a church in rural Missouri who wondered if Tadd was still interested in the job he had applied for some months ago. Tadd, immersed in the wilderness Prayer Retreat, couldn’t even remember applying, so he told the pastor that he would have to call him the next week after he returned from the Prayer Retreat. However, he did call his wife to tell her about this odd occurrence and asked her to look on the computer to see what the job was all about.
As the week went on, Tadd tried pushing the ravens out of his mind, thinking with some embarrassment that he had an overactive imagination. Finally, he pulled his daughter (one of the teens on the trip) aside and rather sheepishly told her what he was thinking about the ravens. She was very supportive and encouraged his idea to look for references to ravens in Scripture. So he did. He was led to the story of God directing Elijah to go to a remote place and wait. God assured Elijah that he would provide for his needs; the ravens would feed him. After reading this story, Tadd was bewildered; what in the world did this all mean? Was God telling him that God would provide for him?
He was able to call Krista soon after this and learned that she was absolutely sure that they should be pursuing the job opportunity in Missouri – despite the fact that they were waiting news from the church in Georgia. So he called the pastor back and learned about the job, deep in the heart of rural Missouri, 60 miles away from the nearest supermarket or Wal-Mart, but rich in meth labs. His heart sank. This was not the call he was hoping for. But the Elijah passage would not leave his mind. That night during a prayer time, he asked his daughter and the other students to pray for him, went up to the fire in the center of circle and released to God his dream job, his career move, and his hope for a higher salary and committed himself to going where God wanted him to be.
The next several days were a flurry of events. Tadd came home and prepared for a phone interview with the pastor, which went very well. The pastor reminded him repeatedly that while this church was excited to grow and reach out, it was in the middle of nowhere in a county that numbered 12,000.
Early last week, Tadd called me, excited about the interview, and asked if I had been asked to give a reference yet. I said no, but a few hours later I found a message on my machine from the Missouri pastor. I called back and his big question for me was, “Would Tadd and his family be able to handle the culture shock of moving from West Michigan to rural Missouri.” I said that Tadd was committed to following the call of God and would be willing to tackle any environment. “Besides,” I said, “his family has animals. He can barely take vacation time because of the care the animals need. I’m sure they would fit right in.”
The pastor called Tadd (right after that reference check) and asked him and Krista to come for an in-person interview. They were on the road by Friday, and, Tadd says, were sobered by what they found as they drove into a little town in the middle of nowhere. As they drove around the town, they saw no housing that could fit their needs. When they went to the church for the interview, they were greeted by a friendly older gentleman who, as a recovering alcoholic, was the head of the church’s Celebrate Recovery program. Tadd and Krista and the man hit it off immediately.
Tadd went into the interview which went splendidly. When he came out of the church, the man was waiting for him. He asked how it went and what Tadd thought. He then told them that he had an idea if Tadd was offered the job. His nephew had been living in his mother’s house after she died. Now he had built his own home and that house was going up for sale. It was a five bedroom house. Tadd asked the cost, and the man said “$230,000.” Tadd said, “Thank you, but that’s way out of our price range.” The old man looked disappointed.
The next day at the worship service, the older gentleman met them again and asked to talk to them after the service. (He was beginning to be as omnipresent as the ravens!) When they got together, he said he had spent a sleepless night and felt he had been given direction by God. He said that he would buy the nephew’s house and Tadd and his family could live in the house until their house in West Olive sold. Then they could either rent the house from him or purchase it. He was already negotiating with the church about financial assistance for that purchase. Tadd and Krista couldn’t believe their ears! They went out to look at the property. It was a very large house on several acres with a barn! Perfect for their family and pigmy goats and dogs. They accepted the offer and said they would talk again if Todd got the job.
Tadd was offered the job later that day. When he got home from Missouri, he called me and said, “I have to accept this job. It is so plain that this is a call from God!” He asked if we could meet the next day because he was moving to Missouri the next week! When we met, he told me about the ravens and about the house they had been offered and how he knew without a doubt that God was telling him that he would be provided for if he took this job. I left him marveling at how God was working in this young family’s life!
But neither he nor I had no idea what was to come next. Today, Tadd called while I was on the way to work. “I have something to tell you. Are you sitting down?”
I told him, “‘I’m driving. It better not be too momentous!”
So he started his story. “Last night we were eating supper, and I noticed a woman walking up to the house. We heard a knock, and Krista went to the door. When Krista opened the door, the woman asked her, ‘Do you recognize me? Krista said, ‘No, not really.’
The woman said, “You bought this house from me seven years ago.”
Krista said, “Oh, my goodness! Please come in.”
The woman came in and said, “I know this sounds strange, but I’m wondering if you would be willing to sell the house back to us. We’re coming back to the area, and we love this house.”
In shock, Krista said, “We just called the real estate agent. She is coming on Wednesday to look at the house.”
The woman smiled and said, “Let’s not get the agent involved in this. I’ll come back tomorrow and we’ll look at the house and give you an offer.”
By this point of the conversation, Tadd was close to shouting. “We sold our house!!!!” I nearly dropped the phone and haven’t stopped grinning yet. Cheers to God!
I tell this so story that whenever you wonder if God cares about your everyday needs, whenever you fret over whether you are hearing God or just your own thinking, whenever you are afraid to take a risk to follow Jesus, or whenever you are eager to be in control of your own destiny, think about Tadd and Krista. Look for your ravens. Wait beside your brook. Follow what God is telling you . . . and hang on tight while God takes you on the ride of your life.
Oh, and by the way, the Georgia church never called back.