Saturday, August 21, 2021


"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye." (Psalm 32:8 New King James Version)

This year, 2021, on the first week of August, I attended General Council (in Orlando, Florida) for only the second time in my life.  (General Council is the biennial meeting of the Assemblies of God USA.)  I've been an Assemblies of God minister since 1981 and I pastored for over twenty years, but I never attended General Council until 2019, nine years after I left full-time pastoring.  The biggest reason I attended the past two is I went with my daughter Amy and son-in law David who are Assemblies of God Missionaries.  (They've served as Missionaries in various capacities over the past few years.  They're about to go as first-time Missionaries to Papua New Guinea.)  Two years ago, my wife and my other daughter as well as many of David's family members all got together in Orlando.  This year, my wife Mary Ann stayed home with the grandsons and it was just Amy and David and me at General Council.

On Tuesday evening, August 3, we had supper at a burger and shakes place with several folks including a couple Amy and David will be serving with in Papua New Guinea.  We rode in that couple's SUV to the restaurant.  (We did not have a rental car for the week.  We stayed at a Best Western hotel and walked back and forth to the activities at Orange County Convention Center.)  After the meal we drove back to the Convention Center.  Amy and David wanted to spend some time with their friends.  At the beginning of a road which leads from the Convention Center down to where the hotel is they pointed to the direction I'd need to walk in to arrive at the Best Western.  In fact one of them pointed to the roof of a building of several stories and said, "I think that's the Best Western!"

It was a warm, humid August evening in Orlando.  It was a little before eight o'clock.  The three quarters of a mile walk was pleasant.  I liked that there was a literal sidewalk area on this roadway.  I say "literal" because there was a concrete barrier between the walkway and the roadway so no cars could veer into pedestrians!  At the end of this roadway, I saw that the building whose rooftop had been pointed out to me was a short distance to the right.  I turned right and began walking along.  The street I'd turned onto was more like a simple highway or maybe a parkway.  There was a good-sized median strip in the middle of this highway.  I noticed there was a bulldozer in the median strip which had dug up a huge portion of it.  I was surprised I didn't remember seeing that earlier in the day.

The building I was approaching was not the Best Western.  There were a couple of large signs attached to the building which read "TRU".  I had no idea what "TRU" was.  It was O.K.  I had to be very close to the Best Western and the Cheddar's restaurant which was very near it.  I would just keep walking and there they would be!  I walked, and I walked, and I walked, and I walked.  Nothing looked familiar.  In fact the surroundings were beginning to look more "woodsy".  Part of me felt nervous and apprehensive and like I was lost.  This may sound very strange, but part of me also felt peaceful and that everything would be fine.  In front of me I saw a small, simple directional sign which read "WESTWOOD CENTER" and included an arrow pointing to the right.

"There!" I thought.  "I know I saw a small shopping center called WESTWOOD CENTER this morning.  I remember it included a restaurant and shops.  I'm close to that!  I'm not lost!  I'll be fine!"

I followed the direction of the sign and found myself walking through the exterior of a large office park.  It didn't look like WESTWOOD CENTER at all, but I reasoned I must be going in the right direction.  Asking the Lord in my heart, "Should I head in this direction?" I felt that I should do so.  It was now probably 8:15 and it was starting to get darker.  This office park seemed pretty empty, but in front of me I could see a ground-level office suite with lights on and several cars parked in front of it.  I reasoned it would not do any harm to see if anyone was inside and if they could direct me to the Best Western.  As I walked to the door I could see maybe four or five people inside seated and talking.  I did suddenly have a thought:  "The door's gotta be locked."  To my shock, I grabbed the door handle and it opened!  I walked right in.

In true Lt. Columbo style I announced, "Sorry to bother you, but I wonder if anyone could direct me to the Best Western hotel?"

Immediately one man stood up.  He was obviously annoyed.  "We're closed!"  he angrily announced.  He repeated, "We're closed!"  

The man walked toward me and proceeded to walk me out the door.  I asked again about the Best Western.  He said he did not know of any Best Western in the area.  I asked if he knew where Cheddar's restaurant is.  He said he did know where Cheddar's restaurant is.  He pointed to a far away STOP sign located at the opposite end of where I'd entered the office park.  He told me "Go to that STOP sign.  Turn left.  Walk about a mile, and you'll come to Cheddar's restaurant."  He quickly dashed back into the office suite.

I admit that I was stunned.  I didn't see how that road at the opposite end of the office park could possibly be where I should go.  I didn't know what to do.  I know many of you will be wondering if I have a smart phone with GPS.  I do.  But frankly I've only used it once or twice in my life.  I never thought of the GPS!  I admit I was starting to feel very fearful and very embarrassed.  Yet I also experienced the Peace of the Lord.  This is all paradoxical and very difficult to describe!  I did walk to the STOP sign and I did turn left.

Once again, I walked, and I walked, and I walked, and I walked.  I was walking on the left side of the roadway, facing oncoming traffic as I walked; although there really wasn't much oncoming traffic.  I suddenly noticed an old pickup truck heading in my direction.  It seemed to be slowing down.  Then it seemed to be moving to the side of the road.  The old pickup truck stopped right aside of where I was walking.

This was scary.

Was I about to be robbed?  Was I about to be shot?  Or, was some weird person about to ask me for directions.  Would such a person be angry if I told him I was lost, too?

The truck's passenger window rolled down.  

"I will take you to Cheddar's restaurant," the driver proclaimed.

I was dumbfounded.  All I could manage was a, "Huh?"

"I will take you to Cheddar's restaurant," the driver repeated.

It was the annoyed guy from the office suite!  He added, "I thought about it.  I wouldn't want my grandfather out wandering around not knowing where he's going, so I decided to take you there.  Get in."

I did.

He told me bluntly the door to their business is never open after hours.  He said a woman was supposed to lock the door and she obviously didn't.  (I wouldn't have wanted to be that woman when he confronted her at some point!)  He explained he initially thought I was some homeless person who'd gone in there to start trouble.  But after I'd left he realized I was wearing a lanyard to which a convention name tag was clipped.  He'd felt guilty and come to rescue me.  He made a U-turn and we headed in the direction in which I'd been walking.  In a short distance he pointed to a roadway and walkway on the left.

"You walked down there from the Convention Center, didn't you?"  he asked.

I did!  That was indeed the roadway I'd walked down earlier!

He explained that if I'd have turned left it would have been only a short distance to the Best Western.  (I could have said, "I thought you didn't know of any Best Western in this area!"  But I didn't!)

He said, "You see that building just ahead on the left?  That's the Best Western!"

We pulled into the parking lot, and he let me out at the door.  "Thank you!  God bless you!" I said, rather emotionally.

I've given that Tuesday night's events a lot of thought since then.  It was a great General Council!  There were wonderful meetings, events, exhibits, and services.  I had a great time.  But my most important takeaway from the 2021 General Council was my experience of being "lost and found" that evening.  I don't preach often these days, but on the Sunday before General Council I preached at Bread of Life Church in Westminster, Massachusetts (where my wife and I attend) about hearing the Lord's voice and doing what He says to do.  I vividly lived that on the next Tuesday night!  How did I know to enter the office park?  Why was the door that's always locked after hours open?  Why did the guy who initially greeted me in a negative manner end up rescuing me?  Is there a lot of symbolism in what happened to me on the night of August 3, 2021 in Orlando?  

I'll answer that:  Yes.  Although it really happened, it's also a parable.  It's something the Lord was wanting to teach me.  And I wanted to share it with you!