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Our God Still Speaks

"And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it,'
when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left."
(Isa 30:21)

Back in the late 80's, I worked as a salesman and programmer for a small company in my hometown of Elmira, NY. I was working at my PC in my office one morning when suddenly, clearly, I heard a voice say "You need to sponsor a child!". I was alone in my office and knew immediately it was the Lord. (Not only was I alone, but I had heard the Lord speak to me before. Click here to read of an earlier similar encounter). I had been concentrating on my work, so I was startled by this command. I sat back and said out loud, "I will Lord." As I started to turn my focus back to my work, the voice spoke again, just as urgently as before: "You need to sponsor a child!"

Startled once more by the clarity and urgency of this statement, I replied "I will Lord, I promise." This conversation took place mid-morning - perhaps around 10:00 AM. As I pondered this exchange for a couple of minutes, I realized God had every right to ask this of me, as well as to insist so strongly: I don't know about you, but I can be quite a procrastinator. I was convicted that I needed to do this thing right away. I quickly came up with a plan in my mind of what I would do on my lunch hour and went back to work. The Lord did not speak to me again that morning; He didn't need to.

My office was located in a building on the east side of Elmira, across the street from one of the hospitals in town. At Noon, I started walking towards downtown. My destination - the library - was several blocks away. Once in the library, I proceeded to the magazine section. It only took a few seconds to find what I wanted: Christianity Today. The latest copy of each magazine was in plain view on the front of the racks, while back issues were stored out of sight behind the racks. Lifting up the rack to find a pile of older magazines, I grabbed the bottom copy and started quickly flipping through the pages, looking at the ads.

Soon, I found what I was looking for - a child sponsorship ad. I have seen these type of ads from a couple of different organizations; this ad happened to be placed by World Vision. I carefully tore out the little coupon at the bottom of the page. In addition to providing lines for my name and address, the coupon also listed the address to which I needed to mail my request. My plan was working out as well as I hoped. Next stop: the post office across the street.

There, I bought a pre-stamped envelope. Within a couple of minutes I handed the clerk the fruit of my labor - a letter addressed to World Vision stating my desire to become a child sponsor. The whole exercise had taken up less than half my lunch hour. "I took care of it, Lord," I said as I walked along. The afternoon at work was uneventful, but wait to you hear what happened next!

When I arrived home after work, I found my wife busy in the kitchen preparing dinner. As I came into the room, I noticed some mail sitting on the counter, so I picked up the little stack and starting rifling through it. There, in the middle of the mail that had arrived at my home that day, was a letter from World Vision - it was the direct mail equivalent of what I had sought out at the library. It was already opened. "I can't believe it!" I exclaimed, "We got a letter in today's mail from World Vision." "Yeah," my wife replied, "I already looked it over. I really feel like we should reply to it and sponsor a child". "I already did," I said. My wife stopped what she was doing and looked at me, a little puzzled. "I mailed a letter to them at lunchtime today." I'm sure I had a smile on my face as I said, "Wait until you hear what happened to me today."

It seems to me now that the Lord was trying to impress upon me the need to sponsor a child so that the letter in that day's mail would fully grab my attention. Though I had been so taken by the voice of God that I had already taken care of it by the time I got home to see the mail, that letter was still a powerful confirmation to me of my encounter with God at work. I think of this as an example of the principle of let everything be established by two or three witnesses (2 Cor 13:1) - commanding me twice at work were the first two witnesses, the letter in the mail was the third. Or, the voice of God at work was my first witness, the letter in the mail was my second witness, and my wife's common desire to sponsor a child - independent of my experience - was my third witness.

Of course, we have continuously sponsored at least one child since that day. After all, I have yet to hear God say to me, "You need to stop being a child sponsor!"

© Matthew Schilling March 2006

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