Have you ever been in just the right place at just the right time for a chance meeting? I know I have. In fact they happen quite often. One such encounter happened in the airport in Doha, Qatar as we waited for the next leg of our long, 30 hour journey to Cambodia to work with our beloved ministry partners. This will be my sixth trip to Cambodia and my eighth overseas mission trip and one thing I know when I leave the United States is to get ready to see God work in ways that I often don’t take time to see in the States. Part of what I ask God each day, whether in a foreign country or Katy, TX, is to have eyes to see what is really happening around me and to see people as He sees them. Although I know the Lord is faithful to answer my request, often the busyness of life keeps me from slowing down enough to have such encounters. But once in a while, in God’s providence, I get to see Him work and I watch in amazement and I again know that He is a living and active God who in constantly interceding on our behalf.
So, back to the story in the Doha airport. My teammates, Leslie, Patricia, and I were enjoying catching up with our new friends, Tesha and Sherri who live in Jacksonville, FL but traveled with us last year to Cambodia to do medical mission work and returned this year to do the same. It has been a year since we were face to face so we had so much to talk about! During our conversation, we noticed a woman sitting close by us who was listening to us quite intently.
It was time to head to the flight to Bangkok, so we stood to leave and the woman who had been listening to our conversation walked over to us with tears in her eyes. Her name is Funmi Oguntoye and she told us that she is from Nigeria and was flying home from Houston after visiting her sister who just lost her husband and her brand new baby. With tears running down her face, she told us that she could hear us talking about going overseas to help others and she told us over and over again how wonderful that was. She said that when she got home she was going to talk to her pastor about ways that she could get more involved in missions. In that moment, no words were needed. We knew just by looking in her eyes that she is a believer, that she was deeply hurting for her sister and that she was encouraged by hearing us talk about serving others.
The conversation was over in minutes and we hugged tightly and prayed with her. We prayed for comfort and peace for her sister, and encouragement for Funmi. One thing I love about women is that we can know each other for three seconds and we can hug, pray together, and totally understand each other!
My good friend Pastor Omar recently wrote a blog about chance encounters with strangers that really are not chance encounters at all. Hebrews 13:1-2 reminds us “not to neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unaware. ”
Now, I don’t know if I have ever entertained an angel, but I do know that I have had many divine encounters that I could have missed if I had not been watching. The challenging part about serving others though is it is rarely convenient or easy. It always comes with some personal cost.
Scripture reminds us in Ephesians 5 to live wisely and make the most of every opportunity and that should propel us daily to watch for those “chance encounters” that God has laid before us that are ours to engage in or not. It is our choice.
As for me, I will continue to live with the advice of Pastor Omar; walk slowly among people. Look in their eyes. Listen to their stories. It is then that God can choose to use me or use you to bless, encourage, pray over, and love those that He puts “by chance” in our paths.
People are worth our time. Next time you are in the airport, sitting at work, picking up your dry cleaning, or waiting in carpool, take a minute to look around you. Ask God to give you eyes to see people the way He sees them and the courage to act on His behalf.