The Best-Laid Plans

to-do list with cup of coffee and muffin

God has a plan and a purpose for each of His followers. We each have a mission while here on earth. In Acts 20:24, Paul said, “My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” We are to tell others the good news about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. And God puts people in our path every day.

I had a plan for my flight home from Russia after a vision trip to gather information for the International Mission Study 2017 on Central Asian Muslims living in Russia. I was going to get a lot of work done on the longer second leg of my flight. I had speaking engagements to prepare for, cards to write, emails to read and respond to, etc. But God had other plans.

The woman I was traveling with and I got on the plane and each of us was seated in an aisle seat—one in front of the other. I was seated on a row with a young mother and her 4-year-old daughter from Germany. Before we took off, the mother noticed a problem with the little girl’s seat. It wouldn’t lock in the upright position. It kept tilting back as the little girl would move around. The mother knew her little girl would not be still the entire trip. She was concerned that her daughter’s seat would be a problem for the person directly behind her. The mother explained the situation to the flight attendant and asked if they could be moved.

I’ll be honest. I had visions of having the whole row to myself, to stretch out and take a nap, if I got all my work done, of course.

The flight attendant checked around the plane for several minutes, looking for 2 seats together for the mom and the little girl. She could find only 1 seat, so she asked if I would be willing to move. The mother immediately said no for me; she didn’t want to impose on me since I was not the one with the problem. However, I knew that the mother was already stressed and we hadn’t even left the ground, so I said I would move.

I gathered up all my work belongings and the flight attendant and I headed toward the back of the plane—much farther back in the plane where it’s a lot noisier and bumpier. When we finally got to my new seat assignment, the flight attendant politely asked, “Is this OK?” I tried to smile and said yes, it would be OK. What else could I say? At least the seat was on the aisle so I could easily move around, if necessary.

As soon as I sat down to buckle up, I noticed that one side of the seat belt had something black all over it that was now all over my hands and was soon to be all over my clothes. I looked up at the flight attendant. She said she would get a cloth to take care of it. It looked and felt like grease to me, so I knew a dry cloth was not going to be the answer, but I was willing to try. She brought me the cloth and of course, it wouldn’t all come off. She simply said she was sorry.

Not only did the seat belt have grease all over it, but also it wouldn’t even buckle. Again the flight attendant said, “Sorry.” She was just going to let me fly without a seat belt fastened. I tried to explain, as sweetly as I could, that I did not feel comfortable flying without a seat belt, especially for that long. Furthermore, I couldn’t believe the airline would even let me fly unbuckled. I’m sure I had disdain written all over my face, but in the back of my mind, I remembered that I needed to keep my Christian attitude because I no doubt would be talking to my neighbors about the Lord soon. The flight attendant disappeared to see if she could find another belt for me. It wasn’t too long before she returned with another belt. With that problem fixed, I was finally prepared for takeoff.

I looked around me. I was now seated beside a family who looked as if they were from the Middle East. I smiled at them, attempting to communicate with the universal language, for they spoke no English. I was seated right next to one of their children who already had her legs over the arm of my seat. I was thinking, “Isn’t this going to be fun. Ugh!”

At this point, I reminded the Lord that I really needed to get a lot of work done. But He reminded me that He was in charge as I looked around me and saw several of these families. I took a deep breath and knew that God had another plan for me that day. It was not to get the work done that I thought needed to get done. It was to minister to the people around me as best I could.

After helping the little girl seated beside me fasten her seat belt, I began playing with her. It wasn’t long until the 3 children in front of us turned around and were standing up in their seats playing along with us. I helped them all with their dinner. They didn’t know what to order from the choices given.

I played a type of charades with them trying to convey that I was a believer in Jesus Christ, speaking a little louder, over-enunciating, and pointing upward, as if that was going to help them understand what I was saying. I had a pamphlet with me that was written in Basic English that I gave to them after we had become great friends. I told them that when they learned English, they could read it. The only English word they could say was Ohio. I heard that several times as they attempted to communicate with me.

They had no idea what I was saying, but from my facial expressions, they must have known that it was very important to me. The man I gave the pamphlet to clasped it to his chest as if to say that he would treasure it. He then put it safely in his backpack.

Before the trip was over, we were taking selfies and laughing, and we hugged when I left. I continue to pray for my new friends who are probably somewhere in Ohio. They were refugees from Syria coming to America.

New Focus

Refugees from all over the world, speaking hundreds of languages, are coming to our country. We must remember that they are more than refugees. They are people with hopes and dreams just like you and me. They have feelings, will experience victories, and will make some mistakes along the way. We have a calling as Christ followers to love the orphan, the widow, and the sojourner—no matter their language, race, or religion—and use all possible means to minister to them.

Beginning this fall, refugees will be the focus of Project HELP. Ministering to refugees will be a long-term commitment. The first step is understanding the plight of refugees and our responsibility as Christ followers to pray for and serve refugees around the world. If you are planning to attend the WMU Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting in Dallas next month, then you will have the opportunity to participate in a refugee simulation.

Can’t make the trip? Plan to host a simulation in your church or association with Seeking Refuge: A Refugee Simulation. The church and WMU have a unique opportunity to love boldly and serve the sojourners. We must share the hope of Jesus with them, the Jesus Who lives in our hearts, the Jesus Who has brought them to us.

Linda Cooper is president, national WMU.

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