There were numerous other connections at the church that are too many to name here. But one final surprise was to learn on my way to Venice that my cousin, Ron, had also recently moved there, and I was able to have dinner one evening with him and his wife. All of this and more made the trip to Venice a life-changing and extremely encouraging time for me as I saw the hand of the Lord and experienced Jesus in more ways than I can say. The beautiful weather and warmth of the sunshine were an absolute pleasure for me. As I said to the congregation on the final night, “Almost thou persuadest me to move to Florida!” However, I learned that the real warmth was the love of Jesus I experienced there, and that I take with me.
Running together in Christ,
Divine connections and the intersecting of lives. I don’t know if I have ever experienced a time more obviously orchestrated by God. I was at the Church of the Nazarene in Venice, FL for revival services November 15-18, a date that had been scheduled for well over a year. Even over the course of that year, a warm friendship had grown between Pastor Kip Hasselbring and myself as we corresponded, spoke by phone, and prayed for one another. That only increased when we met in person and spent time together. I have such a deep appreciation for Pastor Kip and his sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit seemed to be keen throughout the congregation, and there was a real overflow of Jesus in the services. There were those moments of His sweet and unmistakable presence --- in the way that we pray for and so desire. We had prayed for revival, and God was faithful to answer, with great response and many testimonies of how He had spoken to and transformed hearts. The hand of God was apparent in more than the services, however, and this was further evidence of how He was so at work here. The intersecting of lives and renewal of relationships was so supernatural that it is almost beyond description. I was blessed to stay in the home of Gary and Cindy Bibbee, who were members for a few years at the church where I pastored in Joliet, IL, where Gary had been temporarily transferred for a job. After a couple of other stops, they had since retired to Venice and joined the church there --- months after this meeting was scheduled. What a joy to renew that relationship and have that time together! We were further blessed Monday evening when Sam and Joy Burch drove down from Clearwater to be in the service, and were able to meet Pastor Kip, the Bibbees, and several others. Another surprising blessing was when a man with a familiar face walked up to me on the first day, and I recognized him as Dr. Charles Gailey, a favorite professor of mine from seminary --- who also has retired to Venice!
Carey and I have been privileged to travel to Oklahoma every fall for the past several years. This trip was filled with many interesting obstacles that we came to realize as being part of the spiritual battle on this journey. It seemed to have been some of the most intense spiritual opposition I have felt in some time, experienced physically and spiritually, and so we were grateful to know of the prayers of our friends and family as we went. We began the first Sunday in Caddo, OK at the Church of the Nazarene, our very first time to be there. It was a privilege to get to know Pastor Timothy Traxel, his wife Sarah, and their two young boys, whom we were blessed to join every evening for a dinner so graciously provided by people in the church. The services continued through Wednesday evening, and we were touched by the gracious and warm hospitality of the people, and we were thankful to be able to share the Word with them from 1 Corinthians 11. I am also grateful for the way in which God is working through Pastor Tim and Sarah and others there to reach out to children and young people in this very small town. We prayed that this time would be spiritually strengthening for them and an encouragement going forward. From Caddo, we drove the two and a half hours to Chandler, OK, in the northeastern part of the state. Chandler has been our regular destination for these past several years as we are longtime friends (over 20 years) with Pastor Keith and Nancy Cole and the Chandler Church of the Nazarene congregation. Per the usual schedule there, we began services Friday evening and continued through Sunday morning, having two on Saturday. I was especially encouraged by this visit to Chandler.
Evangelist, Teacher, Writer,
Husband, and Father