As I understand it, providence is when God makes provision or gives guidance because of His foreknowledge of how events are going to unfold. Usually, it seems our vision is so narrow we miss it entirely, but sometimes the Holy Spirit gives us insight into what God is doing or helps us to look back and appreciate what God has done. Last month I shared a little in an article about how events in South Korea led to me meeting with a pastor from India, but I do not feel like I gave God due credit for how that worked out.
I had actually been trying to get to visit the Seventh Day Baptist works in India for over a year. My practice is to chart how long it has been since international SDB groups have been visited and try to give priority to regions that have not been visited in a while. India had moved up my list and I tried to coincide seeing them with a visit to the Philippines for a conference with our pastors there. Meanwhile, I was contacted by new SDB leaders in Seoul, Korea, who were impressing upon me that they should be moved up in priority on my visit list. I dismissed their clamoring, until I found my most probable flight plans returning from India would have me laying over in Seoul. It seemed to make sense to me and my Executive Committee that because I was going to be in Seoul anyway, I should turn my two-hour stopover into an overnight.
My plans seemed settled until the Indian embassy did not issue my visa for entry. They held my passport and delayed my visa until it was coming too close to my flight to the Philippines. I had to hurriedly make a flight plan adjustment, skipping India and extending my visit to South Korea since we were already making arrangements to visit with them. Because of my longer stay in South Korea, a pastor from a remote Indian state called Manipur, on the Myanmar border, was able to meet with me and learn about Seventh Day Baptists. This happened because he was visiting Seoul for a Christian leadership conference and met some of our Korean brethren. It seemed that the way for me to meet the pastor I needed to meet from India was to not go to India, but to go to South Korea. Had I gone to India, I would have been in regions quite distant from this Indian pastor’s home and working with leaders to whom he had no connection while he was in South Korea.
Because my visit to India was delayed, not only was I able to devote more time to surveying all the SDB ministry work there and bring a Hindi-speaking SDB as a guide with me, but there was now a whole new group that had sprung out of the South Korean visit. They did not even exist when I had made my original plans. And now they had established four fledgling churches in the region. They were on fire to reach Indians of Myanmar heritage for Christ as well as their kin and connections in places in Myanmar that are virtually unreached with the Gospel.
I had worked hard trying to negotiate entry to India in 2013, traveling to embassies in New York and Washington, DC, in a single day. And I remember my frustration at being stopped at every turn. Now I feel I see how God was correcting my course so that He could be glorified in ways that I could not anticipate. How could I have guessed, you have to go to South Korea to start churches in Manipur? I pray this helps keep me praising God for the unexpected detours, because He knows where I need to be.
- For the September 2015 Sabbath Recorder click HERE
~ Clinton R. Brown, Executive Director