Last weekend my church celebrated our twenty-year anniversary by hosting a free community carnival. We’d planned the event for months and spent thousands of dollars on sending 15,000 mailers inviting our neighbors to attend not only the event, but a new message series beginning at church the following day.
As you know, after Dorian wreaked havoc in the Bahamas, he made his way up the coastline continuing his tirade in multiple states. We prayed for those devastated by the storm and also asked God to escort him out to sea and allow our event to happen.
On Thursday, our local school board made the call to cancel school Friday. Understandable. But what we couldn’t understand, was that they closed the schools for the entire weekend—meaning we couldn’t hold our service there on Sunday. What?! We had just sent 15,000 mailers (that figure was worth repeating) inviting the entire community to church at the school on Sunday.
When my husband received this news on Thursday at 4 p.m., he rushed to City Hall to speak to someone who could change that decision, but to no avail. He asked if we could hold our service outside on the school grounds. No—you must have a permit. Seriously? Work with us here.
Frustration and disappointment set in Thursday evening, along with the rain and wind. When the deluge continued throughout the night and into most of Friday, and then we lost power, we wondered if we’d even be able to have the carnival Saturday.
When the rain ended Friday, my husband headed to the school to check out the condition of the grounds. Some disappointment about the school closure lifted as we reveled in the forecast for Saturday—beautiful sunny skies and temp in the low 80s. Perfect. Here’s the video he posted to Facebook letting everyone know the event was on.
Yet, we still had to deal with what to do about Sunday service. My husband placed a call to our church office landlord about using a venue he’d showed us previously. The space is located in a shopping plaza and sits directly across from the school where our church meets. The room wouldn’t accommodate a large crowd, and we had no idea if we could set up a nursery and preschool area, but we pursued the possibility. Our only other option was to cancel church. The landlord said he’d get back to us.
We had a beautiful day on Saturday and joyfully served our community with multiple inflatables, pony rides, train rides, face painting, popcorn, sno cones, free hot dogs, great giveaways and more. About a hundred volunteers from our church served that day. Just so you know … that’s almost our entire congregation. What a blessing! You can check out the photos from the event HERE.
When guests asked about our church and where we meet, we had to tell them we weren’t able to have service the following day, but please come next week. I couldn’t understand why God had allowed this to happen. In our minds, holding the service on Sunday would bring Him glory and help build His kingdom. Why wouldn’t He want that to happen?
At two-thirty Saturday, thirty minutes before our carnival would wrap up, my husband received a call from the landlord confirming we could use the strip mall location on Sunday. Hershel announced the news to those who were still at the event, and we posted on our church website, shared on our Facebook page, and emailed the church family. We still didn’t know how many people we could fit in the space or if we’d have a classroom for the young ones, but we were having church in some form.
Sunday morning at 8 a.m., about six of us showed up to make a plan at our alternate location. The pictures below give you a visual of what twenty years experience as a portable church can pull off in a pinch. And we even had a small space for our preschoolers.
We had 113 people in church that morning, including five visiting families we connected with easily due to the small space. Had we been in the school, I don’t think those families would have had the same experience of intimacy and welcome because most of our people would have been busy breaking down equipment rather than having the freedom to get to know the guests. Now we’re praying for a smaller meeting space to use every week.
So, what is the moral of this story? Trust God. When things don’t make a lick of sense to us, He’s got a plan. And His plan is always better than ours.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:8
As Christians, our responsibility is to be obedient and leave the results of our ministry in His hands. So many times I try to control the outcome. It’s wasted time and energy, and it’s not my job … and it’s not yours. So relax, give your worries to Jesus, and trust in His loving plan.
Join the conversation. Do you try to control the outcome of situations in your life? How has that worked out for you? Do you have a story to share about a time you were disappointed and God came through with something even better than your plan?