In 1981, I left the religion of my youth (Jehovah’s Witnesses). My faith was shaken to the core. I didn’t know where to turn. Jesus was not in my life.
In time, I began attending University Presbyterian Church. In 1986, they sponsored a short term mission to an orphanage near the town of Vicente Guerrero, about 100 miles south of Ensenada. If you look up the expression “middle of nowhere” in the dictionary, it will have a picture of Vicente Guerrero. One intersection. One telephone. The orphanage was a mission run by Pentecostal missionaries from Canada with about 100 kids. There were about a dozen of us in the group, and we rented vans in San Diego and drove down. We slept on the floor in the gym: the women on one side, the men on the other with a partition in between. Upon arrival, we were given work assignments from digging ditches to helping in the hazel nut orchard. I had my tools, so I was assigned to fix things.
The work coordinator, Paul, escorted me to a shack that had two washing machines that were used by the staff. Neither worked. I started one and smoke came out of the back. We pulled it outside so I could look at it more carefully. Yes, the motor was burnt out. I explained that washing machine motors are very specific. This one had pulleys and was reversible. “I can’t fix it. There is no replacement,” I said. Paul got a thoughtful look, and said, “What about over there?” About 100 feet away in sort of a bone yard, there was an old skeleton of a washing machine, laying on its side. The outside and tub were gone. BUT, the motor was still there. AND it was the same type. AND after pulling it off and testing it, it WORKED! What a wonderful coincidence! In an hour or so, I got it working.
The next day, one in our group was stung in the eye by a mud wasp. His eye was swollen shut and about the size of a golf ball. I saw Paul praying over him. I really didn’t give it much thought, other than that’s the kinda stuff Pentecostals do. The next day, the swelling was gone and he could see without issue. Hmm. Another happy coincidence?
Taking care of 100 kids plus staff and visitors requires a laundry and kitchen. One of the big industrial washers was down. I tested it. A bad 5 horsepower motor. And yes, there was an abandoned machine in the boneyard with a motor that would fit. Hmm. I’m seeing a lot of wonderful coincidences.
The kitchen had a large walk-in refrigerator. The defrost heater failed. Without defrost the cooling coils iced up, preventing the fan from distributing the cold air to the rest of the compartment. Even if I were in Seattle, I'd have no idea where to get a replacement, let alone in Baja California. Paul showed me their bone yard again. There was an old ceiling heater with open elements. It was the right wattage and voltage. And while it was definitely Rube Goldberg, I was able to fabricate a defrost heater and get their refrigerator going again. Hmm. Too many coincidences!
“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to the mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” Luke 17:6 NIV.
“if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matt. 17:20 NIV.
In Vicente Guerrero, Jesus was showing up over and over again, and it took me a while to figure it out. That trip was a turning point in my faith. It was not quite a “road to Damascus” experience. But I did experience the power of prayer, miracles and the power of Jesus. My faith walk was strengthened by experiences that I could not deny; experiences that I would revisit again and again over the years reminding me of the powerful yet loving God that I try to serve.