“God, we will do anything. Anything.”
If this is your first time reading our blog, welcome! We are so glad you’re here! This post is a continuation of a prayer that began over a year ago after reading the book Anything by Jennie Allen. You may have found this through the photo I shared on Instagram, or maybe you followed the link from one of the other “Prayers for Anything” posts. If you haven’t read Part 1 or Part 2 yet, I would encourage you to start there before reading below.
Prayers for Anything – Part 3
Still amazed at God’s powerful presence among us at our impromptu driveway-dinner two nights before, we eagerly anticipated a prayer gathering that Wednesday night.
Every fall, our Children’s Ministry Team hosts a night of prayer and worship. The room is filled with interactive prayer stations that help kids, and distracted adults like me, stay focused in prayer. I couldn’t wait to visit each station and experience praying in a new way. As always, God’s plans are better than my plans. While most kids would thrive in this interactive environment of hands-on prayer, our son wanted to retreat. The sights, sounds, and a constant sea of moving people was an assault on his over-stimulated nervous system damaged by his early years of neglect and trauma.
He needed closeness and safety.
So, instead of making our way through every prayer station in the room, we planted ourselves in one spot and stayed there. I wish I could tell you I was okay with this, but my anger burned below the surface. I’m not sure if I was more upset with Gabe or with God at that point. I wanted to be up and moving, praying through the room, not stuck in one place. Taking a deep breath, I looked up at the instructions for this prayer station: “Place a sticker anywhere on this map of Wichita, and pray for the people in that neighborhood.”
I peeled off a red, heart-shaped sticker, placed it on the map over our house, and began to pray. I prayed for our neighbors who had gathered together two nights before, I prayed for the people on our street who were not able to join us, I prayed for God to move in the hearts of all those near us – all those underneath this red, heart-shaped sticker – which covered about a square mile around our house on the map.
Still wrestling with my grumpy attitude over not being able to visit the other prayer stations, I stood up, with tears in my eyes. A friend pulled me aside and prayed with me. She prayed for my heart, for Gabe’s heart, and that God would redeem this evening. She thanked God for always being faithful, always being trustworthy and reminding us that even when things don’t go as we plan, we know His plan is better.
The prayer night was Wednesday. That Saturday, our church hosted a community food packaging event where people gathered to assemble meals to be sent to other communities around the world. I honestly forgot that our family had signed up to help, and really didn’t want to go. But with Gabe’s encouragement, we were soon seated in the sanctuary wearing plastic, shower-cap-hair-nets, awaiting our instructions.
Out of the few hundred people gathered, I only recognized a handful of faces from our church among many others from the Wichita community. We made our way to the gym and waited in line to be counted off into teams of twelve. Four girls stood across the table from us, and for the next hour, we worked together scooping beans and vegetables, weighing rice, sealing bags and talking.
We learned that the girls were here learning English as high school exchange students and had just arrived in Wichita the week before. Except for the people at their school, they knew no one in this city. We asked about their host families and were surprised to learn that instead of living with a family for the school year, they were staying in dorms, like college students, with nearly 100 other high schoolers. My protective mama brain silently began asking all the questions:
Why are high school students in a dorm instead of with families?
Where are the school and the dorm?
How does it feel to be away from family in a new city, a new country, learning a new language, and not know anyone?
Jesus, what can I do to share your love?
I couldn’t ignore God’s whisper to lean in. To ask questions. To learn more. And to be open to saying, “Yes, God, we will do anything.”
But I almost missed it.
We finished packing food and walked outside. I smiled and said, “Nice to meet you, and good luck with school,” and walked away. But God whispered something else. I heard His gentle questions against my heart asking,
“What if you never see these girls again? What if you miss the opportunity to get to know them?”
My heart was beating fast like it does when I hear the Holy Spirit. I tried pushing back the fear as we walked to the parking lot, softly telling Mike we needed to stay connected to them, hoping he would be the one to reach out. I watched a couple of the girls climb into a big school van with other students who had been packing food at other tables, and found myself walking faster and faster towards them not exactly sure what to say. I gave my phone number to one of the girls, who immediately texted me as we were driving home, saying how she wanted to get together again and spend more time with Gabe. Some days I wonder if God placed this bold 10-year-old in our family just to pull me out of my comfort zone at times.
Returning home, I quickly searched the internet to learn more about their school. After reading for a while and discovering the location of the dorms, I opened a new map window and typed in the address. I almost fell out of my chair staring at the computer screen. Not only was the dorm, where our new friends and 100 other students lived, very close to our house, but it was also exactly under the red heart-shaped sticker I had placed on the map on the church wall three nights before.
“God, we will do anything.”
A week passed before the feeling of shock faded just enough for courage to break through and call the school. God revealed another surprise when the person who answered the phone happened to be a friend of my sister, and of course, our three families had just had dinner together a couple of weeks earlier. Coincidence? Or answered prayer!?
I told her the story of meeting the girls, how close we lived to the dorms, and how we wanted to be available if they needed help with transportation or a family to share a meal with or anything else that could help them feel welcome in a new city. She explained how incredible the timing was. The school needed a host family for a student coming from another school since there was no room in the dorms. She asked me to talk and pray with Mike and to let her know.
Of course, our family was open to hosting an exchange student, but we assumed this would happen later when Gabe was in high school, not a third-grader. Were we even old enough to parent an 18-year-old?
Two weeks later, we stood at the airport hugging our new daughter.
Celebrating Thanksgiving with one of the sweet girls we met that day at the food packing event!!
She’s back home with her actual family this year, thriving as a college freshman. But she will always be part of our family too. We are so thankful God placed her in our life as he called us to say yes to Anything!!!