But then, shortly before Christmas, I received a message from Lowell telling me that our conference would have to pay the regular Amazing Facts fee of $13.000 to have them come to do the series. Originally, he had informed us that this fee could be covered by donations. However, the Hargreaves' recent campaign in the Philippines had cost three times more than expected, and thus, there was no money available to cover this.
This would have meant an almost 100% increase of our original budget, and of course this became a big issue. To keep it in a nutshell: The French speaking church finally decided to back out. As we came together to discuss this last week, it became quite clear that the money wasn't the biggest issue, but some concerns which had been there right from the beginning (and had only been put aside for the sake of not opposing) came up again. One thing was the length of the program (they would have rather had it only for 3 or 4 weeks) and also the fact that they thought Belgians wouldn't want to listen to somebody from America.
I was disappointed but relieved at the same time when I realized that it wouldn't happen. It's simply not enough if the leadership is not opposed to something. There was no enthusiasm right from the beginning, so how should they have ever motivated their church members? I think I would have collapsed under this burden. However, my pastor and conference president got to talk to Lowell Hargreaves, and it might be possible to have a tailor-made program for us sometime in the future. They had never thought about creating a special program for Western European countries at Amazing Facts, so something might be considered. But I'm reluctant now when it comes to working together with the French speaking church. Apparently not the whole leadership was so sceptical, but I would want to be really sure that this is actively supported.
Anway, I couldn't help feeling a certain emptiness. I had thought that this would be my big opportunity to serve the Lord this year, and now this has been taken away from me. However, God never makes a mistake and I would like to see it in the light of His providence. I've thought about a passage in the Ministry of Healing that I find quite fitting in this situation:
"Our plans are not always God's plans. He may see that it is best for us and for His cause to refuse our very best intentions, as He did in the case of David. But of one thing we may be assured, He will bless and use in the advancement of His cause those who sincerely devote themselves and all they have to His glory. If He sees it best not to grant their desires He will counterbalance the refusal by giving them tokens of His love and entrusting to them another service.
In His loving care and interest for us, often He who understands us better than we understand ourselves refuses to permit us selfishly to seek the gratification of our own ambition. He does not permit us to pass by the homely but sacred duties that lie next us. Often these duties afford the very training essential to prepare us for a higher work. Often our plans fail that God's plans for us may succeed.
We are never called upon to make a real sacrifice for God. Many things He asks us to yield to Him, but in doing this we are but giving up that which hinders us in the heavenward way. Even when called upon to surrender those things which in themselves are good, we may be sure that God is thus working out for us some higher good.
In the future life the mysteries that here have annoyed and disappointed us will be made plain. We shall see that our seemingly unanswered prayers and disappointed hopes have been among our greatest blessings.
We are to look upon every duty, however humble, as sacred because it is a part of God's service. Our daily prayer should be, "Lord, help me to do my best. Teach me how to do better work. Give me energy and cheerfulness. Help me to bring into my service the loving ministry of the Saviour." (Ministry of Healing, pp. 473, 474)
So I've been asking the Lord to show me how He wants to use me this year, and I'm convinced that it's not the big things that count anyway.
It has been raining today in Brussels and it's very dreary. I like the lessons given by God through nature. Just as the sun is not revealing itself right now, there might be things in our lives that are shrouded. But as surely as the sun will show it's face again, there will be clarity over the issues we are now struggling with. Indeed, our plans are not always God's plans - but His are always best!