God sometimes answers our prayers, even before we ask...
Piercing the Darkness
by Jeff Goodman
As my family and I drove across the country toward our new home in Marana, Arizona, my mind whirled with excitement. I imagined the wonderful things to come and all the new people we would meet. The next moment, a wave of darkness and doubt swept in, and questions began to fill my mind.
What was I doing moving my family to the desert? Who would want to hear us tell about the gospel? Where would the money come from? Were we going to the right place? On and on, my thoughts sank deeper into doubt. What ifs continue to pour into my mind until I felt as though I would drown in uncertainty.
As my wife and child slept, I struggled not to turn the car around and speed back to the safety of my parents’ house, our temporary home during the preceding months. Suddenly, my cell phone chimed. It was a miraculous sound, although I did not know it yet. I pulled into a rest area and pulled out my phone. It was an email from a mother I had pastored in Homerville, Georgia, 10 years earlier, asking me to call her children. I had not seen or heard from the family in years, but the mother indicated that she had moved to Las Vegas. Her children, who were just kids when I knew them in Homerville, were ages 20 and 17.
When I called them, I couldn’t believe my ears. They lived only a couple of miles from the apartment complex where we would make our new home. My doubts suddenly melted away in response to the faithfulness of our God. Curtis and Kerri helped us move into our apartment and have been to every Bible study since our church began. At our third Bible study, they asked Jesus to come into their hearts. They were far from God and still have a long way to go, but that’s why we came to Marana, Arizona—to pierce the darkness with the light of God’s love.
The Marana team—Josh and Ashley Bennett, my wife Ashley, and me—did everything humanly possible to prepare for our first meeting, held in the common area of the apartment complex. We were thrilled when some children arrived early until their father walked in the door, gathered them, and told us his kids would have nothing to do with a Bible study. Our hearts were crushed and our spirits fell.
We joined hands, and Josh began to pray. One by one we cried out to God. It was in that moment we all realized our deep dependence on God to do the work. When the final amen was said, we sat staring at one another, waiting to see if anyone would come. Two minutes before the 6:00 p.m. meeting time, still no one had come. My heart began to break for myself and my team. I could feel their disappointment and mine. Then the door opened, and a lady we had never met walked in to join our Bible study. Relief washed over us as more and more people came, including 12 we had never met. They brought the total to twenty-four. I stood in amazement as I witnessed the might and faithfulness of God. Afterward, the team thanked God and praised Him for hearing and answering our prayers.
Encounters Designed by God
Three meetings later, seven young people asked Jesus to be their Savior. Among them was Jessica, one of the managers of the apartment complex. We had become friends with her and enjoyed getting to know her. She is a very curious young lady and always asks a lot of questions. My wife watches her beautiful daughter Lily three days each week. Jessica was the first person we baptized in Marana, Arizona. I will never forget that day. God is working in her life, and we pray daily for her to draw closer to him.
The apartment complex sponsored a Trunk-or-Treat at Halloween, and we joined in. We decorated our cars and bought tons of candy to hand out to all the kids in our little neighborhood. We met a young couple named Adrian and Amber at the event, and they invited us to their little girl’s birthday party the next day. They were some of the nicest people I had ever met. They treated us like family, and we had a great time. They came to our next Bible study. After the service, they approached us, and Adrian, who has a Catholic background, told us that Amber didn’t understand anything we said.
I could see the embarrassment on her face at her lack of biblical knowledge, and I quickly assured her that we would help her learn, that our friendship did not depend on their knowledge of the Scriptures. I saw relief flood over Amber’s face as Adrian said, “I am so glad you told her that. She leaned over to me during the service and said, “I am so sad they will not want to hang out with me because I do not understand what they are talking about.”
Her words broke my heart. I can’t help but wonder if that is the way most unsaved people see Christians. We gave Amber a Bible and shared some passages to read, but she quickly became discouraged with her lack of understanding. She went out on her own and bought a children’s Bible. She is reading it every day and asking us questions continually. This is why we came—to bring light into the darkness, to bring hope to the hopeless.
We planned a Christmas party to close out the year, and 50 people came. Thirty of them were new contacts, and we are excited about the potential to get to know them. One gentleman is in the Singapore military. He had just moved here to train for two years alongside American troops. As we began to talk, he became very excited. He told us, “My wife is a Christian, and she will be moving here in a few months. You have a church right here at the apartments. She was very worried about where she would be able to worship.” Then he said, “I am not a convert…yet.”
You have to love that word yet. It made me light up like a star. I pray that soon Desmin will come to know Christ. The really cool thing is that he is my next door neighbor! It is awesome to see God work in our lives to place us right where He needs us. Between 30-40 people who live in our complex belong to the Singapore military. I am praying my friendship with Desmin will open a door to reach each one of these young people. I have never seen a non-Christian so excited about the opportunity to study the Word of God.
The Road Ahead
It has been an amazing beginning for The Marana Project, and we look forward to what God is going to do in this area. Each precious soul is far better than any treasure you could find of gold or diamonds. They are a treasure that lasts for all eternity.
No matter where you are in life, start asking God to help you pierce the darkness. He knows where you are needed, and the relationships He brings your way will bring true joy, both to you and to the one who hears of His grace, love and mercy. Please continue to pray for The Marana Project, that God will continue to open doors and lead the way.
About the Writer: Jeff Goodman is a church planter with the Marana Team in Marana, Arizona. Learn more about The Marana Project at www.themaranaproject.com or find them on Facebook: The Marana Project.