Did you know Silly Bandz can help make miracles happen?
I was unaware of their supernatural potential until one summer during college when I purchased a package of “Gospel Bands” at a Christian conference out West. The colorful set included shapes like a cross and an empty tomb, and was designed to provide a fun and easy way to share the Gospel.
I was soon to head back home, and thought they might instigate some good “plane” conversation on the return trip.
(Since obviously all mature adults wear silly bands and compare them with their seatmates on cross country flights.)
That night I carefully laid out each piece on my cheesy, hotel bedspread, and prayed specifically for the people who would sit by me on the plane the next day.
Sure enough, the following afternoon, we had barely poked our head through the clouds and leveled out when the young man sitting to my left asked to see what sort of silly bands I had on. I was all too happy to oblige, and enthusiastically laid out my practiced presentation.
Unfortunately, he seemed about as interested in our conversation as I was in repeating 8th grade algebra. Discouraged, I settled back in to my seat and contemplated whether or not to plug in and watch the movie playing across tiny screens throughout the cabin. The passenger seated to my right, a man in his early forties, had shown no interest in seeing my silly bands, and I was beginning to think the whole thing had been a bad idea.
I had plugged and unplugged my headphones several times when he reached over and introduced himself. His name was Steve and he informed me that I reminded him of his teenage daughter, Emily. Emily was passionate about sharing Christ, and very active in her church. Apparently Steve was a Christian, and had noticed my little presentation after all.
Though his eyes were alight with pride as he shared about his daughter, there was an underlying sadness that laced his countenance, like a invisible weight tugging at his soul.
I discovered the source of this heaviness as he began to talk about his wife, Paula. Over the past few months, the normally bright and vibrant woman had disappeared under the ravages of an undiagnosed illness. At first, she began losing control of her extremities. What started as a twitch in her feet quickly escalated into an inability to walk or consistently control any part of her body. Eventually her thinking had become muddled, coupled by a dive into erratic behavior. Most recently she had begun losing her ability to speak.
Tears filled his eyes as he described his daily struggle to care for her, and the frustration of 17 different neurological specialists who had no answer for her sudden demise.
I felt sick to my stomach as I imagined the horror of watching a loved one fade away before my eyes with no ability to stop it and no idea as to why it was happening. I could sense the toll that the isolation of such a battle was taking on his spirit.
With no answers from the doctors, prayers that seemed to bounce off of the ceiling, and friends who had reached their limit in assisting with the ever growing task of caring for his wife, Steve had begun to feel increasingly and utterly alone.
He seemed, in a word, empty.
As I sat wishing desperately there was something I could do to help him, he announced that the purpose for his trip was a required training course for his job that would be held in Shepherdstown, WV.
I did a double take. “Did you say, Shepherdstown, West Virginia!?”
For those of you who are familiar with the geography of West Virginia, you will note that the distance between my hometown of Inwood, WV and the tiny town of Shepherdstown, WV is minimal. You will also note that the chances of a man from Houston catching a flight to visit the mostly unknown village of Shepherdstown, hours away from the closest airport, are probably somewhere close to one in a million.
As he recounted stories from his line of work, involving harrowing escapes from forest fires and dangerous encounters with wild hogs, I anxiously wondered what God meant to do with this strange connection. Surely, this couldn’t be a coincidence.
Our conversation continued all the way through baggage claim, where after saying a reluctant goodbye, I climbed into the car with my mom and immediately told her everything about my new friend.
Her eyes instantly lit up with recognition. “I know exactly where he’s going!” she explained that the National Training Center for the US Wildlife Service was located in Shepherdstown. Even better, she knew the man who used to run the center. My mother, in her ferocious determination to share Christ’s love, resolved that we were going to find Steve, and we were going to have him over for dinner.
A minute later, her eyes widened further. EVEN BETTER, she knew the wife of the man who used to run the center–and this was no an ordinary woman. Plagued by recurrent and serious illness throughout her adult life, my mom’s friend had developed a sort of ministry giving medical advice and referring people to top physicians in the appropriate field. Throughout her health struggles, she had developed a network of connections with some of the nation’s top specialists.
A final game plan materialized. A) Have Steve over for dinner. B) Get his wife referred to a specialist who could crack the code of this mysterious illness.
As soon as we got home, my mom began making phone calls. Before long there was an all points bulletin released at the training center for a “Steve from Houston” to call my cell phone. My mom’s friend informed us that she was personal friends with the one of the nation’s most prominent neurologists, as well as his secretary, and would gladly help him get his wife an appointment.
A few hours later, we were again piled into the car, following our GPS up a windy road to pick up our somewhat amazed dinner guest. Steve seemed more than thrilled to accept our unusual taxi service and trundle off to a near stranger’s house. That evening as we huddled around our family’s table, partaking of my mom’s sweet tea, and my brother’s ridiculous jokes, it seemed that some life was reinfused into Steve’s weather worn soul. He smiled. He laughed. He gratefully accepted the new’s doctor information, and maybe for a couple of hours, was able to forget the dark cloud that had been choking out his life for the past few months.
As we waved goodbye for the final time, there were again tears in his eyes. This time, however, they were tears of joy and not of sorrow.
My mom wisely reflected later that evening, “I think he just needed to be reminded that there was still good in the world.”
Not that the world itself is good, but that the God who holds the world in His hands never runs out of goodness, even in our darkest hours.
I think God placed Steve in my life that day to let him know that his God was still real, that God’s love for him was still alive, and that no matter how alone he felt, Steve had not been forgotten.
As Christians, we are often too hesitant to share God’s love because we fear rejection, or that our means of showing love will be too small, or not enough.
My encounter with Steve helped me to understand in greater measure that
NO attempt to share God’s love is ever wasted.
What if that kid hadn’t brought Jesus his lunch because he thought it would be too small? 5,000 people would have gone hungry. What if Jesus hadn’t stopped to talk to that one woman at the well? I mean, her problems were huge right? What could one conversation do to help a serial sinner like that?
What if I had decided that my silly bands idea, was just well, too silly?
It is impossible to fail when we take even the smallest step to show Jesus to someone. The only way to fail in showing God’s love, is to never give it a try.
Unfortunately, I never found out if Steve was able to get Paula in to see the neurologist, or if things got any better. We had our third grade Bible class send them a huge box of “Get Well” cards, but never heard anything in reply.
Even though I have been tempted to feel like our investment was a failure, I know that Steve saw Jesus that day, and that is always a miracle.
P.S. If any of you know a Steve Foster from Houston, who works for the US Wildlife Association, with a wife named Paula, and a daughter named Emily, I would really appreciate it if you could tell him hi for me, and give me an update on how they’re doing.
P.P.S. If you were wondering why I have a laptop named Steve…now you know.
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