I had been working with the mission for approximately three and a half years when I sensed in my heart that God was leading me into full time work with people. Many people who came into the charity shop would sit and chat over a cup of tea or coffee and share their life experiences with us. I have found it a privilege to be trusted by people who I do not know very well and yet they would tell me stories about their life experiences, some amusing and funny others serious and heart breaking.
The Lord had so blessed the work of the mission that we were going to move to bigger new premises. It was at this time that I left the mission feeling a little like Abraham who was told by God to go but did not specify exactly where to go. It was a difficult decision to make because the three and a half years with the mission had been some of the most blessed and fulfilling years of my life but I really believed that God was moving me on to something else. The sense that I was feeling was to open a drop in centre where people could drop in and have a chat and if necessary receive informal counselling without making any appointment.
From the time I left the mission until the drop in centre came into being would take twenty one months, my wife and I had also moved to a different church around this time. During the twenty one month wait for the drop in centre to come into being I continued to volunteer at the Christian counselling centre and I also became mission’s secretary in the new church we were attending. I was praying and seeking God to show me where the drop in centre would be and how things would work when one day I received a phone call from a lady who I had worked with in the charity shop.
She told me that the Lord had spoken to her regarding the drop in centre and directed her to help me when it opened. Her call came at an important time in my life as after waiting for some months and not having any specific direction I was beginning to wonder if I had actually heard from the Lord or if the drop in centre idea was mine and not the Lords. In the following months I spent many hours walking country roads literally crying out to God for direction. It was during this time also that an old friend called me and asked me to go and see a Pastor who had opened a new charity shop in the town and he was looking for someone to run it.
I went to meet the Pastor and explained to him my position and offered to help him for a number of hours on Saturday but could not run the shop full time as I believed that God had moved me on from that type of work. After a number of months I once again stopped working in the charity shop and continued to seek God for direction. By nature I would not describe myself as a naturally patient person but throughout this time of seeking and waiting there was some improvement in this area of my life and there is still room for more improvement.
It was some months since I had spoken to the Pastor who ran the charity shop but someone had called me thinking that I was still involved with the work and they wanted me to collect a dining table and chairs. I called at the shop on a Thursday and gave the Pastor the address of where the items were and was about to leave when he stopped me and asked what was happening with my vision concerning the drop in centre. The Pastor did not know that on the Monday of that week I came to a crisis point concerning the vision.
Twenty one month’s had passed and I had reached the point where I felt that God had not given me the vision and I had moved away from his perfect will for my life. I felt so desperate that I begged God and pleaded with him to end my misery of uncertainty and to do it that week. I remember praying that if I had got things wrong would he open up a door for me to get back into paid work. I had not received a wage for twenty one months and I had been feeling guilty for some time that my wife was keeping me when I should have been providing for her and our family.
On the Wednesday of that week, the day before I met the Pastor I was visiting an elderly lady who I had met in the first charity shop. I got a call from someone the Lord had brought into my life when I was around the age of seventeen. I don’t know how we met but he asked me if I would accompany him from time to time and give my testimony before he would preach. I accepted the invitation and we became good friends. I had contacted my friend at the beginning of the time I moved on from the first charity shop and shared my vision with him and asked him to pray for me.
He had been watching and praying for me and he had called me to offer me a job in a place where he was a director. I was very grateful for his offer but at the same time my heart sank within me because I took it as confirmation that God was opening this door in response to my desperate prayer for direction and my vision for the drop in centre had not come from God. I do not know why I did not immediately accept his offer but I asked him when he needed to know my answer and he said Monday. I was now nearing a state of confusion, I was sure that God had placed the vision for the drop in ministry into my heart but it now seemed that he had not.
The elderly lady that I was visiting at this time had bought me a book as a leaving present when I left the first charity shop, it was called “Connecting” and was written by Larry Crabb. I am not sure if I have mentioned it before but some time ago I became aware that God would often speak to me by showing me pictures of things in my mind. Before moving on from the charity shop the Lord had shown me a vivid picture of a block of three electrical connectors joined together with three wires going into each connector, the colours were red, blue and green.
I did not know what this meant for me and after asking God to show me what it meant he did. The three wires represented the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the block of connectors represented me. God wanted to connect me to his power and in return I was to be a connector for people to come and be connected to him. The elderly lady who bought me the book called Connecting knew absolutely nothing about what God had shown me. At that time I was sure that this was confirmation from God, there was no way that this was a coincidence. This same friend who had offered me a job once told me that, “God’s delay is not denial and often we may not be able to trace God’s hand at work in our lives but we can always trust his heart”.
Back to the Thursday now, the day after the job offer and I am sitting with the pastor who has asked me about the vision and I am telling him that it seems I did not hear from God. More borderline confusion as he tells me that he does not think I got the vision wrong. I was not sure what to think any more. After we talked for a while the Pastor asked me to meet him the next day which was Friday, in a place called Moores Lane just of the main street in the town.
I met him outside a building that had a black door and black metal grills over all of the large windows of the building. My first impression was that it looked like a building where Gothic’s might frequent but it turned out to be where his church met. I was about to learn that lesson about not judging a book by its cover. He removed the black metal grill that protected the black door and we went inside, I did not know what lay before me until he switched the lights on. Immediately God gave me the witness that this was the place where he wanted me to have the drop in ministry.
I cannot describe how I felt, there were so many emotions touched within me at the same time. One of the strongest emotions was one of disappointment in myself for doubting what God had shown me. God’s ways are not our ways, his timing hardly ever lines up with our time frame but his ways and his timing are perfect, always. The Pastor showed me around the premises and asked me what did I think and without hesitation I told him that this was the place God Had chosen. He shared with me how his church had been praying for the premises to be used more for the work of the kingdom and he agreed with me that this was of God.
While he was showing me around I could not help but think how is this going to work out practically concerning rent, heating and lighting costs. I had no money to give him and I had no one on board with me accept the lady who had contacted me months earlier to say that the Lord had told her to come and help me when the centre opened. I sheepishly asked the Pastor what the cost would be to use his premises and this is exactly what he said. “Hold your hand out”, when I did he dropped a set of keys into my hand and then he said, “Do what God has put in your heart. If you can give us anything towards costs fine, if not don’t worry”. That same day I contacted my friend who had offered me the job and thanked him for the offer and told him that God had opened the door and provided premises for the drop in centre. He amazed me by what he told me next. He said that after we had spoken on the Wednesday he knew that I would not be going to work for him. I told him he knew before I did.
This is where I want to give God all the glory I can. I will explain more later but we were in the centre for three years and we were able to give the Pastor £60 a month towards expenses. I doubt if that covered all of the costs, especially during the winter time but the Pastor never once put us under any financial pressure. One of the many lessons that we would learn in the centre over the next three years was that, “What God orders he pays for”.