I know the Providence of God is more easily seen in hindsight than as it occurs, but the past few weeks brought Providence to an obvious center-stage in the life of my friend Terry Matter. Catholic, in religious background, Terry lived with her husband, Ray, and daughter, Elizabeth on Long Island, New York. Stressed by the fast-paced lifestyle, but mostly by the widespread “politically correct” environment—the rejection of absolute truth, the rejection of “author’s intent” of the constitution of the United States, the resultant pervasion of sexual immorality and the threatening invasion on parental rights—Terry and Ray began looking to move to a place where they would be able to raise Elizabeth in a more conservative (and frankly more sane) community. Terry, having been a leader in a homeschool group on Long Island and a teacher in their church, was excited to exit New York. The Black Lives Matter movement raged violently in nearby New York City and it had extended its protests to the neighborhood where Terry and Ray lived on Long Island. By the day in which the Matters’ activities were actually interrupted by the shouts of protest at the end of their street…when Ray left the girls at home to go and try to talk the protesters down before property on their street was destroyed, it became apparent that it was exit time for their little family.
So Ray, an engineer, found work in Huntsville, AL. (Isn’t God’s Providence sweet?) They came down and put their stuff in storage and themselves in an airbnb. On their very first day to venture out, Terry and Elizabeth went to Indian Creek Park for a nature walk with their Rottweiler, Rosie. Terry clearly recalls the prayer she prayed that morning. “Lord…just two things…Help us to find a good church here and, Lord, help us to find a good homeschool group.” And they were off to the creek.
Get this: Gathered at the creek that morning was a group of moms and kids from the homeschool group that functions under the eldership of the West Huntsville church. The rest is history.
Keep in mind that, if it were not for a wicked virus, our homeschoolers would have been meeting in our building rather than playing in the park. Sometimes out of the most evil eventualities comes a hope that springs eternal. That’s just what happened that day in the life of Terry Matter.
A few days later, at a fall picnic at West Huntsville, I asked Terry to study with me. After several in-depth visits, Terry was eager to put on the Lord in baptism. Sometimes when you study with someone, you have some hounding doubts about their propensity to keep the faith. Terry’s determined. I know all of us can be distracted and deterred, but Terry is already doing hard things for the cause and she encourages me with her response of meekness to every lesson she hears. “I’m a blank canvas,” she says. “Teach me.” Terry is a great musician, a music teacher, a former realtor, politically astute and active, but, most of all, she has a humble heart before God. She wants to do right. There are lots of reasonable procrastination “lines” she could have given on the day she became thoroughly convicted of her need for submission in baptism, but she offered none. There were folks she wished could have been there to witness her baptism. But she said, “How can I wait? What would happen to me if I died?…I have to do this. I’m ready.”
Cindy Colley is learning lots from Terry, too; not the least of which is to just walk through doors He provides. I praise Him for a seemingly regular day at the park that made a difference eternally in the lives of the Matter family and blessed the West Huntsville family in a big way, too. The Matter family is in a good kind of culture shock and they definitely bring to us a renewed appreciation for the family of God that we sometimes take for granted.
A Christian mom (from an extremely northern state) contacted me yesterday and told me that her college-aged daughter is seriously thinking of moving to Huntsville, Alabama —just because she wants to find a strong place where Christians can grow together and opportunities for service are greater. They are coming to visit us and make the plans this spring. I can’t wait to see what God’s Providence has in store for this faithful family. (They are under the Romans 8:28 umbrella. It’s a promise.) I do not think I have met them, but I can’t wait to know them. Sometimes, one place, one job, one friendship, one contact is a stepping stone in His Providence toward heaven.
Somehow, these encouraging stories are reminiscent of Cornelius in Acts 10. He was unsaved. He was praying…and a God, who could not yet call Cornelius His child, was hearing and being sure there was a way for Him to know truth. The gathering at the creek makes me think of Lydia in Acts 16 who was gathered with women for a good reason at the river where “prayer was frequently made.” I’d say our women prayed that day at the creek. They just didn’t know exactly how much their gathering and prayer that day would mean in one particular life. But God is good that way.
We know that Romans 8:28 applies in the lives of God’s children. That’s huge to so many, right now. It is huge to me today. But God can also bless those who are searching, but who have not yet named His name. There are those in your circle of influence who may be praying the very prayer of Cornelius even now. It takes just a few seconds to say “Would you study the Bible with me?” Asking that question is certainly nothing worthy of accolades. But the answers God often gives through his natural Providence are worthy of all the glory we can give Him!