God made a way out of no way
1. I had to go the National Black Methodists for Church Renewal Meeting, Wednesday, February 29- March 2, 2012. It was held in Henderson, Nevada adjacent to Las Vegas, Nevada. To make sure that I arrived for the Opening Worship, my Administrative Assistant booked a flight to Vegas scheduled to arrive at 11 am. The day before my flight, everything changed. Delta cancelled its flight and booked me on United. It would get to Vegas around 11:45 am (PST). That set the stage for God to make a way out of no way.
2. The United Flight out of Lansing was delayed for 45 minutes. We arrived at O’Hare’s F Terminal 10 minutes before UA 547 departed to Las Vegas. By the time we took the shuttle from the F to the C terminal, 547 boarded and closed its doors. I was very disappointed. Another Vegas flight was due out at 11:15 am. But it was full. Consequently, we were directed to Customer Service in the B terminal. A brisk walk took me there. To my dismay and amazement, about 200 people were in line ahead of me. There, I stood for two hours. Deana, my Administrative Assistant, worked the phone from Lansing. It was fruitless; she had no success. My concern grew exponentially. I had to get to Vegas for the 7:30 worship service led by the Ebony Bishops. Bishop Warner Brown had me tentatively scheduled to issue The Invitation to Christian Discipleship. That role and responsibility were jeopardized.
3. When my turn finally came, more disappointment awaited me. To get me to Vegas, United offered to send me there via Newark or Los Angeles. Neither one of them would have arrived on time. So I refused. I pleaded my case for an earlier flight. My plea fell on deaf ears. United Airlines countered with a final offer. They had me confirmed on a Continental Flight 1139 departing O’ Hare at 5:05 pm and arriving in Vegas at 10:41 pm. I accepted.
4. Resigned and dejected, I made my way to a Sky Club Lounge with five hours to kill. I drank an O.J. slowly, munched on cheese and crackers and lamented missing the evening Service of Holy Communion. After I sat for thirty minutes or so, a ‘God switch’ turned on inside of me. I started praying and begging the Lord to get me to Vegas for the 7:30 worship service. I told God that I knew He could make a way out of no way even though United told me there was no way, I could make it there on time. Not only that, I made a promise to God. If the Lord would get me to Vegas, I promised to tell everybody in the worship service how God had made a way.
5. With renewed hope, I left the Lounge and camped out near Gate C 15. No agent was there. So, I called United on my cell phone. They put me on hold. Over fifteen minutes passed before the agent got to me. I explained my situation stressing that my flight was delayed out of Lansing. Then, I requested to be put on the stand by list for the 3:15 pm flight to Vegas. “You're confirmed on Continental Flight 1139 at 5:05 pm,” she said. “I know,” I said. “But I need to get there for the Communion Service at 7:30. The 5:05 flight won’t get me there on time.” The agent reminded me that I was booked on a flight to Vegas-that she would not put me on the stand by list on the 3:15 flight. I hung up, disappointed but not dissuaded. Again, I asked the Lord to do what only He could do - make a way out of no way. Once more, I promised to tell the worshiping community about it if God delivered me.
6. As I did reconnaissance on Gate C 15, two agents began assisting customers. I got in line. I retold my story. Plus, I gave the agent my Lansing ticket with the number of the delayed flight. Then, I requested to be put on the stand by list. "UA 275 to Las Vegas has checked in full," she said. “To get on the stand by list, you'll have to pay $75.” “I'll pay it; whatever it takes to get there," I said. She looked down at the monitor without saying a word. The seconds ticked by. It seemed like an hour. Then, the agent started typing information into the system. Seconds later, she handed me a stand by confirmation without asking me for money. I shouted inside and quickly sat down. God had moved me one step closer to Las Vegas, but I wasn't guaranteed a seat. Yet, I thanked God anyhow and held on to my ticket like it was gold.
7. I sat. I waited. I prayed with expectancy. UA 275 was called. Confirmed passengers started boarding. Finally, stand-bys were called. More names were called, not mine. Tension mounted inside me. Suddenly, my name was called. “Jonathan Keaton, come to the desk.’ I dashed to the counter. But it took five more minutes for me to get on. The agent needed a certain code to remove me from the Continental Flight and put me on United. Politely, I asked if my baggage would make this flight. “If not this one, it'll be on the next flight,” he said. My robe for the Communion Service was in my suitcase, rolled in a ball. I took my seat on the plane with great rejoicing in my inner most being. Unable to contain my joy, I texted Deana Nelson these words, "I am sitting on the plane. I may not have luggage but God made a way out of no way."
8. En route to Las Vegas, I reconfirmed my promise made to God. God had made a way out of no way and I was going testify. At the airport, I made my way to Carousel #13. Bishop Trimble and my ride were waiting there. Instead of waiting for the bags, Bishop Trimble urged me to check with the baggage office. Reluctantly, I complied. The agent asked for my ticket and my name. Without checking the computer, the agent told me my bag was outside the door. She had seen it earlier. Stunned, I realized that United had sent my luggage ahead of me. Most of the time, they won’t send your bag unless you are on the flight. Wow!! I was in Vegas. I had my luggage. I had my robe and was en route to the hotel. All I had to do now was keep my promise to God.
9. As the Ebony Bishops prepared to lead the worship service, another challenge presented itself. I looked at the bulletin. Bishop Gregory Palmer was scheduled to do The Invitation to Christian Discipleship. Things had changed. Bishop Warner Brown asked me if I wanted to do The Great Thanksgiving or the Offering, I chose the offering. Before the offering, I asked God to guide me. God did. After explaining the purpose of the offering, I shared my testimony of God making a way out of no way. Then, I challenged the audience to raise an offering of $2000. Had I not stayed true to my promise of telling the church of how God made a way out of no way, perhaps, I would not have challenged the audience to raise $2000. The next day we learned that over $4000.00 had been raised in the offering. God is good.
10. Looking back, I became more aware that my desire to get to National BMCR was an act of faith. Had I accepted the word of United, my participation in the Service of Holy Communion would not have happened. In no way does this ONE event circumscribe God’s power or delineate a method for a positive response to a petition from God. Pure and simple, it is a testimony of what God did for me February 29, 2012 en route to National BMCR. Yet, my witness does suggest that sometimes we give up too easily when things go wrong. One never knows what God might do if one simply accepts the notion, it can't be done, or God won’t listen to my plea.
11. BEST OF ALL, MY STORY CANNOT HOLD A CANDLE TO THE EASTER STORY. THROUGH HIS LIFE, DEATH, RESURRECTION, GOD IN JESUS CHRIST MADE A WAY OUT OF NO WAY “FOR A WORLD OF LOST SINNERS.” To that, I say thank you Jesus, Amen.
A few PS’s
1. A sermon on the Second Word, my Good Friday sermon preached in Chicago, is on the web.
2. Attendance numbers for the Bishop’s Day with the exception of Crossroads District are as follows:
Albion/Kalamazoo – 191; Grand Rapids – 244; Grand Traverse/Heartland – 280; Lansing – 206; WMC TOTAL = 921. Ann Arbor – 166; Detroit Renaissance – 450; Marquette – 118; Blue Water – 450; Saginaw Bay – 225; DAC TOTAL = 1409. The Crossroads District Event will be held April 21, 2012. A million thanks for your work on Bishop’s Day this Quadrennium!!!!