2016 was a wonderful year. I could not quite sum it up until we were right down to the end.
December 30th we were in Sullivan, Missouri with Pastor Ryan Martin and all the great folks in the church there. Every time I am there I can not help but think about our first visit to their church. It gave me some perspective to the things we witnessed in 2016.
In the fall of 2004 we took a few days off to rest and recharge. I think it was October. Odie stayed in Waynesville and Kelly Jo and I spent a few days in the mountains around Gatlinburg.
When it was time to get back to work, we drove 300 miles from Tennessee to Ohio, hooked up the truck and trailer, loaded Odie in the back seat and left for Missouri. It was Saturday afternoon when we left Ohio and we were on our way to preach for Pastor Kurt McCrorey near Reeds Spring, Missouri. He was Pastor of the Allen Pentecostal Church at the time and we were supposed to begin revival there on Tuesday.
We wanted to be in church on Sunday but I do not remember where. We were not scheduled any where and we wanted to take advantage of a free Sunday by dropping in some where new or a church we had not been in for a long time.
We had pulled the trailer nearly 450 miles when we came to a rest area a few miles east of Sullivan, Missouri on I-44. The exit is on a steep down hill section of the road and it is on the left side of the interstate. We had the hammer down in the left lane when a semi truck and trailer came over from the right lane at the very last moment before the exit and locked up his brakes trying to slow down enough to get in the rest area.
The only thing I could do was lock up my brakes, both the truck and the trailer, and pray. I did both, hard! I had over 15,000 pounds of trailer pushing me forward and I can not explain how I missed that truck. I also can not explain why our trailer did not come around and slap our truck into the next county.
All four wheels on the truck were smoking. All four wheels on the trailer were smoking and the whole rig stayed straight in the lane. Some how the semi truck and trailer behind me avoided hitting us too. In our minds then and in our minds now, it was an absolute miracle of God's divine help.
As we passed the rest area, I realized we were all still alive but I also realized my heart had not received the news yet. I was shook up. We were all three shook up.
I exited at Sullivan, determined to spend the night at the Flying J because I was literally shaking too much to drive. All the spots at Flying J were full so I went across the interstate and parked at WalMart. I did not feel like I could drive another mile that night.
While the girls were getting settled, I walked to Taco Bell to fetch us something to eat. Inside Taco Bell I met Bro. Brian Graham and Bro. Steve Graham. They remembered us from a camp meeting in Weir, Kansas and told me their Dad would be there in a few minutes. They were having special services that weekend and had just finished their Saturday night service.
I met Pastor Dale Graham that night and we instantly hit it off. He invited us to stay over and sing during the Pastor Appreciation service the next morning and since I was in no shape mentally to travel, I agreed.
After the Sunday morning service, he asked me to sing and preach Sunday night. We did. That night we had a tremendous move of God with five or six lost people coming to the altar while we were singing.
Pastor Graham asked me to stay over for Monday night and that service was just as good. The meeting was so real and the power of God was so strong, I called Pastor McCrorey and asked him if we could reschedule revival and he graciously consented. That week we had one of the best revivals of our year.
Not only did we have a great revival but we made life long friends. The Graham family has been a huge encouragement to us for over 12 years. I believe that God brought us together.
Now, did God nearly kill us on the interstate to get us to stop at Sullivan? I highly doubt it, but I believe He used for good in our lives what the enemy meant for evil. I needed stop in Sullivan that night. I needed to walk into Taco Bell. I needed to meet Bro. Graham and his wonderful family.
We have spent a lot of nights in the Flying J parking lot through the years. We have never stayed at that WalMart except for that one time. I needed to be there. We needed to be there. God put it all together.
Pastor Dale Graham is gone but the God given relationship with his church and family remains. Bro. Graham passed away while preaching in 2010 on a Sunday morning. He was preaching from Hebrews 11 about Abraham looking for that heavenly city. In mid sentence Bro. Graham stepped out of time and into eternity. While preaching about Heaven he left Missouri and went to Heaven! His son in law, Bro. Ryan Martin is now the Pastor.
The whole year of 2016 was a lot like that first visit to Sullivan, Missouri. God brought Bro. Jimmie Radcliffe into our lives. God took us to the right places and hooked us up with the right people.
God spoke to individuals and churches that sustained us all the way through City Reach. He opened up doors all over America in the right cities, at the right time. He gave us the right words, the right Spirit, for the right people, on the right nights.
God closed doors that I was sure should be open. I questioned what He was doing and wondered what was going on several times. He used those closed doors to put me in the places He wanted me. We ended up in cities and parks and churches and meetings that I had no clue we belonged in last year. There are people saved and on their way to Heaven today because God orchestrated it all. God put it all together.
Yes, it was an amazing year! It was not amazing because of my plan or because I did this or I did that or I preached this or I sang that. It was amazing because God did what He intended to do when I did not have a clue!
In other words, we stumbled smack dab into the will of God and we loved every minute of it. I stumbled into God's perfect will in 2016 just as sure I stumbled into His will that night in Taco Bell in 2004. There is no way I have witnessed all the results of that yet, but I sure am looking forward to seeing some of it.
If we end up doing God's will in 2017, I imagine it will happen pretty much the same way. The places will be different. The churches will be different. The scenery will be different. But it will be God doing all the planning, God doing all the work and us standing back in awe that He allows us to go along for the ride!
Thank you for joining us in 2016 and you are welcome to
ride read along in 2017. Thank you for praying for us too. May God bless you every one.