After a high school youth retreat I dropped off an only child on my way home. Mom came out of their home with a smile on her face and her arms open wide! Her daughter bounced out of the car and gave her mother a great big hug…and then surprised us both. “Guess what Mom; I believe God wants me to be a missionary!” Her mom stood there, stunned. With a stern face, she said “I do not care what God wants, I won’t have it! You are staying here with me.” Even as that moment burned its way into my memory, I am sure it did into her daughter’s. Year’s later, we received a call from her – she had not stayed with her mother or with the Lord. She was living in a commune on the west coast. She wistfully said, “I remember the good times we had in our youth group.”
Michael Woodham, Woody, was also on the trip, was also an only child. During the week following the retreat I ran into Woody’s parents. They had huge smiles on their faces as they excitedly told me Woody believed God wanted him to be a missionary.
When Woody graduated from college, he married Debbie, a girl from our youth group. Debbie worked as a draftsman while Woody went to Seminary for his Master’s of Divinity Degree. Woody’s parents remained excited – we know this because for many years his parents kept in touch with us, often sending us pecans and lovingly made gifts.
A few years ago Woody looked me up on the internet, and we continue to communicate through e-mails. WHILE WRITING THIS I WENT TO CHECK MY E-MAIL FILE to see what I had on Woody, from several months back. THE FIRST E-MAIL I SAW WAS A NEW E-MAIL FROM WOODY with pictures of Woody and Deb. I called for an update.
I told Woody that after I wrote last Monday’s IPWG and told about the impact of Norton Mullens “Let me tell you of the goodness of the Lord”, I wrote this week’s IPWG: “God’s Assignments Are Tough!” which is the story of how we ended up in Bakerville, CT. I felt good about what I had written…but it began to bother me that I had only written one IPWG on our Dothan experiences. At this point Woody interrupted with “how could you do that – those were the most important years in your ministry!” Then I read to Woody what I had just written about him…which was up to where I put the capital letter sentence above. God’s timing is all that can account for my experience. I asked Woody to briefly review his life in Christian ministry.
While in college, Woody was almost killed in a head on car accident. His friend died and Woody lay in bed, severely injured, totally blind. During the previous semester he had taken a course on Hebrews. While lying in bed, he had one chapter of Hebrews read to him each day. On day 14, he realized he could see through one eye. The Zondervan Study Bible introduction to Hebrews writes “the theme of Hebrews is the absolute supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ as a revealer and mediator of God’s grace”. Woody told me that suddenly the Scriptures became alive to him.
After serving in pastoral ministry in South Carolina and Georgia, Woody and Deb went to plant the first two Presbyterian Churches in Quito, Ecuador. While in Quito he learned that the Ecuadorian government had contracted with U. of Alabama to provide a continuing education program for Ecuador’s teachers. Woody had come to realize how much of a pastor’s time went into administration, and began his EdD in Administration and Planning with the U. of AL. In 1984 Woody, Debbie, and their children moved to Jamaica where he started IONA Centres for Theological Study for lay pastors. In 1988 they moved to Miami from where he continued to develop theological training centers for lay pastors in the Caribbean & Latin America. In 2006 Woody became the Executive Pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Coral Gables, FL.
I did not know much of this until this afternoon. It was a wonderful reminder of how the Lord has used Sally Jo and me to impact the lives of others. Woody and Deb were two kids in the youth group we led for two years. God had brought us together. God’s timing was perfect – as was the arrival of Woody’s e-mail this afternoon. Question: How many lives have Woody and Debbie encouraged and equipped to live as God’s servants? Promise: If you are living In Partnership With God, you have no clue of all of the ways God is using the partnership.