We had the opportunity this week to visit with a wonderful brother in Christ who is also a Deacon at Allen Baptist Church in Oakland, Deacon Michael Johnson. There was much wonderful guidance, counsel, and gospel in our conversation.
As we were driving to lunch, Deacon Johnson asked us how things have been going so far. We shared with him our realization that every time we finish one conversation with someone interested in Braid, it usually inspires us and raises new questions for us. But, lo and behold, we seem to walk into our next meeting with someone else (usually totally unrelated to the last) and that person picks up the conversation right where we left off, speaking to our latest dilemma or inspiration and helping it evolve even further.
We named it “coincidence.”
After we shared this sense of unfolding that was occurring Deacon Johnson looked at us both and announced, “Not a coincidence, but a Godcidence.”
He reminded us that there are no coincidences in God’s unfolding of Braid. Rather, God’s Holy Spirit was at work in bringing together the persons and players needed to build the ministry God has designed. We could only nod and give thanks for all of the “Godcidences” that have occurred in the last three months.
Take last Monday, for example. We had the opportunity to meet with two directors at the San Francisco County and City Human Services Agency (HSA), Danika Jenkins and Arlene Hylton, both of whom deal with placement of children in foster care. We had scheduled the meeting weeks in advance, and in order to get to the office of these great women we had to enter a rather imposing public building, walk through a metal detector, be screened with a wand, sign in at a desk, be given a visitors tag and let onto the elevator by a guard.
This entrance fed our assumption that the meeting would be somewhat clinical, somewhat bureaucratic, and not at all “spiritual” (although we did wear our clerical collars).
We gave Arlene and Danika the basic introduction to Braid that is well rehearsed by now. We outlined who we are, explained our call to plant a church around mission to youth in foster care, and expressed our eagerness to partner with HSA in developing our mentoring program.
We expected a response addressing the limitations of how a religious organization could partner with a secular one, what obstacles we would face, what guidelines and procedures we would need to observe.
Instead, Arlene rocked back in her chair, threw her arms into the air and with a loud Jamaican laugh shouted, “I have been praying to God for you to show up! And here you are!”
HSA is secular organization, as it should be, and its staff directory reveals just how many good folks are working to serve families and children in our city. But out of all those dozens of employees, we happened to end up in a meeting with two women of faith who not only responded to our vision but saw it as an answer to prayer.
Coincidence? Happenstance? No. Godcidence!
The pastor emeritus at Deacon Johnson’s church, The Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr., has preached for forty years to the community at Allen Temple that if the followers of Jesus muster the courage, muster the faithfulness, muster the will to take the first step, God will be there to take the next two with them. If we begin the work we are called to, God will work with us to bring it to fruition.
We have taken a number of first steps in this journey so far. Every time, God has met us in the form of just the right person at just the right time with just the right information or inspiration we have needed. But for some reason we continue to be surprised.
Scripture is full of stories of everyday people who have experienced the same thing because their hearts were open to the Spirit. So whether you’re a church planter or an elementary school teacher or a grandparent or a construction worker, God is waiting to take those next two steps with you.