|By David Steven
I’ll never forget meeting a boy named Andreas nearly forty-three years ago. We were both only seventeen at the time. He from Sweden and I from the United States, we met at an Operation Mobilization conference near Brussels, Belgium. Young, immature, and struggling with culture shock, we both headed into France for a summer of door-to-door evangelism. After that experience we lost all contact (no Facebook or email back then!).
Fast forward forty years. Andreas “just happens” (French par hasard) to visit Montenegro with a mission team from his Swedish church. He “just happens” to meet a girl, Mary Lynne (Stevens) McCulloch, then ministering with Operation Mobilization in the same country. He then “just happens” to mention in the conversation his memory of a young American that he met on his first missions experience in Belgium and France way back in 1971. And the rest is history. As the conversation developed, it soon became clear that I, that “young American,” was Mary Lynne’s Dad!
Having renewed contact via email, Andreas and his wife, Helène, planned a visit to our home this past July. Have you ever met someone at the airport that you haven’t seen in more than forty years? Having succeeded in recognizing each other, we spent three days together, speaking of old times and recounting God’s faithfulness over the years. We’ve both been along “unfamiliar paths” (Isaiah 42:16) that now intersect once again.
Andreas and Helène have now returned to Sweden and we have recently made a return trip to Belgium and France. Interestingly, we flew into the international airport of Brussels, located in Zaventum, the very community in which Andreas and I met for the first time as wet-behind-the-ears missionaries.
That trip to Belgium will probably not be our last. After serving at Central Bible Church for these last fourteen years, the Lord is directing us back once again into the French speaking world. It all began about three years ago. Par hasard (“it just so happened”) George Verwer, the founder of Operation Mobilization, was speaking at Mission Connexion Northwest. Both my wife and I sensed the Spirit’s tug on our hearts and that night we responded to the call. As we approach our 60s and our last lap of ministry years, we sensed God’s leading to reorient our focus toward cross-cultural missions. Plans are in the making to pastor an international French/English speaking community located just south of Brussels, Belgium with periodic ministry trips to assist in pastoral training in French speaking Africa. It looks like we’ve come full circle. And that is not par hasard!
Personally, I can’t wait to get to heaven! There we’ll have all eternity to recount the divinely directed par hasards of personal encounters that enrich our lives and remind us of God’s faithfulness.