Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I can imagine that some who might see the above picture think, "Boy, I'd sure like to be called to that ministry." :) When I see it I see joy--not because of the surroundings, but because God showed each of us we were right where God wanted us to be. It was as though we could feel as David did when he composed Psalm 27:4.

We often wonder how we can know God's will. There are many ways in which He reveals Himself. Sometimes He reveals Himself after we take a step of faith and affirms that step. Here are at least 20 things that happened to us within the first couple of weeks after deciding to quit my job and to head to the University of the Nations in Kona, Hawaii for the month of July. If there are typos it is because I'm scared to take the time to reread because blogger might time out (it happened once before and i lost this entire post).

1. Our first and last Sunday still in Arkansas after we had announced to our parents our plans, I was leading music for the contemporary services at church as I have been doing every other week for the past year. There is a 9:40 and an 11:00 service back to back. Right before we began the 11:00 I looked out at the gym floor where the congregation sits and see my parents (Bill and Caral Riley) walking in. They aren't regular church goers. It was just such a blessing to see them join with us in worship.

2. Shortly after we arrived for our classes at the University of the Nations I shared our story with one of the teachers, Andy Huddleston. As I told him about quitting my job we both learned for the first time that the very day upon which I quit he and other leaders at the U of N had worshipped together for three hours praying that God would send professional corporate workers to the U of N for the harvest. This was very significant for later developments on our trip.

3. Our family has never been adept at family devotions. But, in Hawaii God blessed our family with the desire to do them. We were amazed at hour our children asked us every day when we could do our devotion together.

4. Please go here, http://charisshalom.blogspot.com/2006_07_01_charisshalom_archive.html, to the July 16th entry, "How a Hog Call Led to a Divine Appointment." This amazing story of how God answered by wife's prayer at church on our second Sunday in Hawaii will bless you. Long story short: She prayed that we would meet someone new who would be a lasting relationship. Thank you David and Wendy Price for being obedient to God to the point of going to church on your Hawaiian vacation!!!

5. My wife and kids and I all went to a nearby beach called Queen's Bath about one week into our trip. Of all the dozens of beaches and thousands of people who may be on them, we began talking to this other mom. We eventually discover that she is Judy Cunningham, the daughter-in-law of Loren Cunningham, the founder of YWAM. This divine meeting was part of what led of the start of a relationship with Loren and Darlene Cunningham.

6. Alan Cross, fellow blogger (http://www.downshoredrift.com/downshoredrift/) and pastor. He emailed me one day to let me know that God had moved him to tears to pray for me and my family and offered his support. We had never met in person. We met solely through blogging. We have continued to grow in our relationship and hope to meet in person some day soon.

7. One of my best friends, Mike Roberts, thought I had lost my mind when I told him our plans. Understand this is a person who has been on three mission trips to Japan and who helps his church by planning mission trips for others. Nevertheless, he didn't understand our "drastic" decision. As a result, he began praying earnestly for us as soon as I told him. That night he was so troubled that he could barely sleep. God told him to find a book he had written by Steve Shadrach. He finally got out of bed in the middle of the night to find the book. As he read the foreword he realized that what was written there was identical to what I told him earlier that day about our decision. With that realization God gave him peace about our plans. Then, when he shared that experience with me, well, as you might imagine, God gave me peace, too.

8. Before we had even made our decision I had tried to reach good friends of ours, John and Jane Ray, who work with YWAM because I wanted to find out more. So, I had left them a message at their home. When they didn't return my call in the first couple of days, I became a little discouraged. I tried again, but to no avail. About a week later I was shopping in a grocery store and ran into Keith Lee, a friend I hadn't seen in about year (miraculous in and of itself that two husbands ran into each other in a grocery store--to his credit he even had one of his kids with him if I remember correctly!). We began catching up and I told him about my considering YWAM. He immediately asked if I had talked to John Ray. Well, I didn't even know he knew John, but I told him what I had done. He said, "Oh, they're in Hawaii; let me give you their cell number." As soon as I left the grocery I was on the line with John and within a few days we had tickets to Hawaii.

9. I'll stick with the Rays for a moment. When we arrived they basically hosted us. They picked us up at the Kona International Airport (which just sits off the ocean in the middle of lava fields with open air cabanas for terminals). They drove us, our three kids, and all our luggage for a month's stay to our small studio apartment (about 500 square feet). They had it all decked out for us. Food in the fridge, sheets, towels, etc. And, it had a window a/c unit blowing cool air to greet us as we unloaded heavy bags. Once we pulled the kids off of the walls and ceiling and got us all in bed, we fell asleep.

I, unfortunately, woke up after about one hour due to the jet lag. And, I was freezing. I couldn't turn on any lights since we were all in one room, so I stumbled to the wall where the a/c was and tried to turn the air warmer. Instead, I hit the wrong knob and turned it off. The sudden silence of turning off the fan scared me because I feared waking my kids. So, I quickly turned it back on, all the while hearing my dad's voice saying "don't ever turn on an a/c right after turning it off because you might blow the compressor!!!!"

Sure enough, the knob went to on, but the machine was dead. I turned it back to off and went back to bed, concerned. The next morning i immediately checked it, hoping that it had just been a fluke or that it had been frozen up. Dead. My mind was cluttered with money concerns and the concern of telling Tara, my wife. I told her and told her I would find the breaker box later. We needed to leave.

That evening, when we returned, I checked again. Dead. No a/c. No money to buy new a/c. Not my property. Ugh. I found the breaker box. Flicked the switch. Turned on the a/c. Nothing. Dead. Ugh. What, probably 200 bucks?? My mind flooded with thoughts yet again.

Then, I heard God saying to me, "Pray with your family for the a/c." Satan said, "what if it doesn't do anything? How will that challenge your kids' faith?" And I thought, "man, if i were in Arkansas with my job I'd just go to Sam's and buy a new one."

I told Tara what God had said and we prayed out loud, holding hands for the a/c. I said "amen." I walked to few steps to the a/c (everything in 500 square feet is a few steps), turned it on, and the fan blew out precious faith-filled cool air!!!!

10. When I knew I had to quit my job is when God told me I was like Jonah. He gave me that vision. I had heard his call about 5 years ago away from being a lawyer but decided to board a boat for Spain instead (in the form of staying on my legal boat). He told me, like Jonah, I better get off that boat. The first big group class I went to at the U of N, the teacher had us look closely at one particular book of the bible to practice inductive bible study. That book? Jonah.

11. Another one of the first people I met in Kona was Robert Evans. It took us about 2 minutes to realize that we had much in common with regard to our academic backgrounds. He had made a similar change of careers about ten+ years before and he was a great encouragement to me.

12. The morning after we got our plane tickets to Hawaii I went for a jog to the tunes of Chris Tomlin. As I turned to run this steep hill near our house (on North Street between College and Mission for you Fayetteville folk), God totally laid Proverbs 3:5-6 on my heart. And, as I ran up that hill he reminded me that He would, if I trusted Him completely, make my paths level. I had never run up that hill so easily in all the dozens of times I had run it.

13. Arkansas Razorbaptist (http://arkansasrazorbaptist.blogspot.com/). Another blogger I've never met (but want to do so soon!!!). When I first wrote about our decision to change careers to missions, they heard the story and wrote about it on their blog (which is "slightly" more read and acclaimed than mine). It was such a blessing and many people wrote great words of encouragement. Alan Cross did the same.

14. All the dozens of encouraging notes and calls we have received.

15. All the hours that my wife and I have spent together praying. although we had often counseled young married couples of the importance of praying together (the pithy saying "the couple that prays together stays together!"), we found that Satan did everything he could to prevent it, and we usually succumbed. Since following God's direction, just like with our family devotions, we have a renewed commitment to our marriage, our families, and to God. Praying together is a natural and desirable thing for the first time in a long time.

16. Every where we turned in Hawaii, people were giving us things. A borrowed vehicle for a trip to church or the store. A gallon of milk. A home cooked dinner. A pair of shorts. And, these things were coming from others who had very little themselves!

17. Bill Barley and the Living Stones Church!!! We went there during our entire stay. It is where we met David and Wendy Price. It is where we took tons of great pictures of our kids. But, even more so was the first sermon Bill preached. He hit on Hebrews 11:15-16. There we are reminded of Abraham and Sarah, who could have returned to their homeland but never looked back and realized their longing for a better place. As Bill shared these verses, both Tara and I looked at each other knowing that they were speaking directly to us.

18. Bill Barley number 2. Well, after week two at the Living Stones, I introduced myself to Bill. As it turned out he had been a lawyer for 12 years in Florida before following God's call into pastoring. Needless to say our friendship was borne and I look forward to a few more shared coffees and great teaching when we return.

19. David Spruell. Youth Minister at a large church in Houston, Texas, Champion Forest Baptist Church. He was an accountant a few years ago in Fayetteville and attended the sunday school class I had the blessing of teaching. I called him from Hawaii to tell him our great news and change of calls because I knew he could relate. He had already heard and was ready for my call because he wanted to ask me to come speak to his church! I hadn't thought for one second before calling him about that possibility, but it was such encouragement to hear his excitement about our story.

20. Our nephew, Carter Calico, moved in with us at the beginning of the summer to go to summer school at the University of Arkansas. This was well before we knew I would be quitting my job and leading us all to Hawaii. As a result, though, when we did leave quite suddenly, he was already in our home, able to house sit, mow, and take care of a few things for us.

Well, this is now the (almost) eternal post and I could go on. Remember these were just 20 things that happened in about two weeks time. Each of them, however, spoke volumes to our family as we stepped out in faith. So many more have happened since, and I hope to write a few more in the upcoming week. And, i haven't even mentioned people like David Roth (http://www.workmatters.org), who met with me faithfully during the months prior to my decision, helping me through some angst over my job, career, and Christian walk. As I shared coffee with him this morning, God began showing me ways that we had been iron sharpening iron, even though I had no idea that I was encouraging him, too. That was such a blessing.

Thank you for taking the time to read all of this. I hope it blessed you. If nothing else, it will be a reminder to me that God started this and He will finish it. Philippians 1:6. We love you. Posted by Picasa


kevin said...

It is great to see how God has convfirmed your decision! Blessings!

Watchman said...

Great story! How cool to see all those pieces fall together for you.

IN HIS NAME said...


Praise the Lord and thamks for sharing how God works in our lives.

You just took me down memory lane and how the Lord blesses his good and faithful servants. Print your post out and reflect on it at different stages of your life.
May God continue to bless You and Your. You are in our Prayers.

A Brother in Christ

Bryan Riley said...

Thank you guys. I definitely felt like it would be like Psalm 105 and 106 at times... remember when he parted the red sea; remember when... though i walk through the valley of the shadow of death... Yes, praise God.

rocky said...

as i read your blog i think you and your friends might enjoy reading a new book just out: Brown Like Coffee. i found it at brownlikecoffee.com