Does God Still Perform Miracles?
Does God still perform miracles? Ask members of the Orchards Church in Vancouver, Washington, that question and their reply will be a resounding, "Yes!"
Retired member Otis Edwards and I met with Bob Robinson, Southern Asia Division administrative assistant for development, during the summer of 2002. Bob extended an invitation for us to conduct evangelistic meetings in India. Financial estimates were realistic but added up to more than $25,000 for one or two people to conduct a single series of evangelistic meetings. The amount seemed overwhelming to us, but Bob urged us to come to India with whatever amount we could raise.
Several weeks later, we invited church members to attend a Sabbath afternoon meeting and discuss the possibility of sending an evangelistic team to India. More than 40 individuals expressed interest in participating in this trip, and about 10 were willing to preach. We had enough people to do more than one series of meetings, but funding, an obstacle from the beginning, looked even more impossible. The meeting closed with various individuals issuing calls to faith and reminders that when God asks us to do something, He always provides a way to do it.
Several people began to plan a fund-raising campaign called “Give a Heart for Jesus.” Church leaders in India had determined that the average cost for each baptism was $10. Brightly colored paper hearts, each representing $10 given for the cost of the project, soon lined the church lobby. The campaign raised $20,000.
Other fund-raising projects included an auction, a dinner with “Indian Cuisine," a benefit vespers concert, and appeals to anyone who came within reach. The India funds began to grow.
We set our goal for four simultaneous meetings with two speakers, a health lecturer and other personnel for each site. Teams of six were organized and began to plan. Church members unable to travel to India organized themselves as “prayer partners” and vowed to pray every day for those of us who went.
The New Beginnings DVD series of evangelistic sermons were selected as the format for our sermons, and the speakers each took one church service in our church to practice preaching a sermon.
The miracles continued when 24 people traveled to Kurnool, India, in late January 2003. Only three months earlier there were virtually no Adventists in the region. Meetings were held in four sites and drew people from 20 villages where Bible workers had been working. During the course of two weeks, we were privileged to observe 2,245 individuals publicly dedicate their lives to Jesus through baptism. We returned home sensing that we had somehow been given the opportunity to live through a replay of the story of Acts, chapter two.
The time for miracles was not over. We had raised enough money to cover our travel expenses, hire the Bible workers, conduct evangelistic meetings, give gift Bibles to each person baptized and build churches in 10 villages. As we traveled home, the need for churches in the other 10 villages became a topic of conversation. It would require another approximately $35,000.
Before long we found ourselves agreeing that it needed to be done. The group returned from India in mid-February determined to see the task completed. Fortunately, our church agreed with us. Another goal device was created and throughout the year, we continued to bring our offerings. On January 17, 2004, we celebrated reaching our goal. It was a wonderful day of worship and thanksgiving.
I’ve learned some lessons through this process. Perhaps the most important is that God is still in the business of saving people and blessing them with His grace. That was most obvious as we watched the baptisms of new believers with a culture and language much different than ours.
Perhaps equally as important and closer to home is what God did for us. Most of our mission team had little international travel experience, and only a couple of us had participated in a mission trip before. We were definitely out of our comfort zone while dealing with airplanes, customs officials, unknown traffic rules, food and foreign customs. The language barrier was very real. A group of Americans used to hopping in their cars and going where they wished became dependent on others to take them everywhere. Most of us couldn’t have found our way or even asked for directions. To preach in these conditions can be truly intimidating. I was amazed at the ease with which group members approached and dealt with these things. We learned that commitment to doing God’s work, an adventurous spirit, and a good dose of God’s grace enabled us to do what would otherwise appear impossible.
Our church budget isn’t any richer than any other. We sometimes struggle to meet our goals. During the past year and a half, our church treasurer receipted offerings for our India project that were roughly the same as our church budget. During the same time giving to our combined church budget account totaled slightly more than we had planned, and tithe is up as well. We’ve learned that God blesses and cares for those who step out of their comfort zones and respond to His call to service.
Will we do it again? It depends on God’s will. But, as I write this, a group of five has returned to India and will begin evangelistic meetings by the end of the week. Another family is preparing for full-time mission service. And our church elders are toying with the idea of preaching evangelistic sermons here.
Would we do it again? Because God gave us the privilege of being involved, there are 20 churches meeting every Sabbath where there were none. Now that’s a miracle! Who would want to miss that?