It was at the end of my Sunday church service last summer. I was walking down the aisle to leave and saw this precious young lady standing in the back of the sanctuary, with her cute denim dress and beautiful brown hair. I had not seen this sweet young lady in a while, but she always brought a smile to my face, even though I hardly knew her! Silly enough, when we initially had met, we connected over 3 very important things: Our love for God, our joy of playing the guitar and that we were both from the south! She moved all the way from Alabama (deep south!) to study at Moody. Coincidence…I think not! It’s not often that I meet people from the Bible Belt in Chicago and it’s DEFINITELY not very often that they come with a thick southern drawl – but dear Sydney came, drawl and all and we soon found that we had even more in common: a love for the outdoors, Patagonia clothing (sigh!) AND a deep deep love for Chick-fil-a!! It’s easy to see why we just “connected” : D!
So, I saw sweet Sydney in the back of the sanctuary, but she looked a little sad. I went up to her and said, “Are you so excited about the new semester starting?!” She just stared at me and then began to share in her sweet, thick southern drawl, “Shelly, I’m not going back to Moody. In fact this is my last day in Chicago. God has told me to go back to Alabama…I don’t know why, but I must listen.” She shared her heart and a bit of the confusion, but she knew she needed to follow even if she did not fully understand why. My heart broke for her. I know what it is to be led somewhere, for an uncertain amount of time and wondering the purposes for it. I had no wisdom because my heart sank…”Syd, can I just pray for you?” And that’s when I saw her beautiful smile again, “YES! Please!”. We approached our God’s throne room with boldness and reassurance, asking for His wisdom, grace, peace – no matter the timing – to guide Sydney in this new season as she went home. After we finished praying I just felt from the Lord to say, “Sydney, God allows divine detours. He did it with Paul and I know, no matter how long you’re in Alabama, God is going to use that time there to prepare you for the next place.” There were hugs, maybe a few tears : ) and she was off.
Fast forward to January sometime and I received a facebook event invitation that read: SYDNEY IS MOVING TO UGANDA – Buy a T-Shirt! I saw those words and my heart lept! I immediately thought back to the last time I saw her and now to read this…WOW! And I must say, it was a lot quicker than most waiting seasons I’ve seen (or have experienced ; ) ) But I was ecstatic and OF COURSE wanted to buy a t-shirt. So Sydney and I reconnected and I couldn’t wait to hear what God had done during that time.
REWIND: Since returning from Africa last year, God made it very real to my heart to start preparing again for missions. I didn’t know what that meant or what it would look like, so I decided to “cast seeds of faith” into areas of my life that would keep me connected with missions and what’s going on around the world. If it was to support more missionaries, I would. Join prayer groups, I did. And then at the new year, I felt that I should ask if God would lead me to a short-term trip again this year. As 2012 rolled in, I had my yearly miracle prayer list ready and on it read #3. Leading of Missions Trip. What’s wild is that there is such a great need all over – how does one know where to start?
I kept praying and then out of the blue, I was asked to help plan/lead a trip to the D.R. for the spring and summer. This was not at all what I had in mind, but if this was the door that was opening, I surrendered, even though I strongly desired to return to Africa and work with orphans. I shared my heart with Him, Lord, this isn’t what I had in mind, but I want your best and this seems to be the door you’re opening. If it isn’t close it. The week that I was supposed to leave for the D.R., the door surprisingly shut.
Next day I get a random text from Sydney, “SHELLY! I’m gonna be in Chicago tomorrow! Will you be at prayer meeting?”
“YEAH I will!” or I said something to that affect and that I’d save her a seat. Well, you all can probably see where this is going…but to be honest I didn’t! It wasn’t until Tuesday morning, I was getting ready for work, remembered Sydney would be arriving and that I should probably save her a seat (since our prayer services are packed out…how AWESOME that the Prayer meeting is running 200 strong, and weekly!) As I made the mental reminder, a thought came to mind – THIS is the trip.
SHOCK then JOY. Wait, was that me? Was that the Lord? All I knew is that now I HAD to talk to Sydney.
And talk we did : ) It was so sweet to see her. One of her close friends came that night and the three of us thanked God for His leading over her life and we prayed for her upcoming move to Uganda! It was awesome to say the least. I found out that Sydney’s friends from Moody happened to fly her up to Chicago, so that they could see her one last time before she moved…
He sovereignly allowed another detour so she and I could talk. When she shared about the work she would be doing in Uganda: taking in the orphans, caring for them and the poor in Kampala…OH, my heart longed to go! But I didn’t know if I should say anything. What if it’s just emotions and it’s just me? Then Sydney shared, “Shelly, one of the other things we would like to start is a music ministry but we need guitar players who can teach the kids.” TEARS welled-up in my eyes, because for the last 2 years I have been playing for our children’s ministry.
“SHELLY! Would you come to Uganda?!?!” … Now it was Sydney’s turn to pray for me, in that same sanctuary, that I would be led by the Lord, in His perfect timing, through another divine detour