“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21 (ESV)
“So wait…we’re not going to Thailand?”
A silence born out of shock filled the room as the sad announcement was being delivered by our speaker in morning devotions. Due to technical problems which arose in the engine room, we will have to arrive in Penang, Malaysia earlier than scheduled after we leave Vishakhapatnam, India. There is a certain part which can only be obtained from Penang and to journey any farther than necessary without it would be hazardous. This meant that we would have to bypass Phuket, that beautiful resort port in southern Thailand. From a safety standpoint the decision was sound and no one questioned that it was right course of action to guarantee the safety of all onboard.
However, this did not change the fact that it was still a disappointment. Many on the Logos Hope were looking forward to sail into Phuket and experience all its wonderful sights and sounds; myself included. Some had planned short vacations with friends. Others were in the process of co-coordinating ministry opportunities amongst the people there. With our visit to Phuket cancelled, those plans were clearly not happening.
When situations like this arise, the question invariably shifts to why. Why did God allow this to happen? For what reason? For what purpose? But if God has taught me anything from my time in Hambantota, Sri Lanka, it is that He always knows what He is doing.
Our stay in Hambantota was extended for three days because of technical issues. Yet within those three days God worked in such a way that still leaves me amazed at His wisdom and goodness. Those three days were perhaps the busiest anyone has seen in a long time. Each day we would get well over 10,000 visitors wanting to know what the ship was about! At one time the crowds grew to be so massive that the ship had to call everyone who was not working to help with crowd control. We would later find out from the Sri Lankan authorities that half of Hambantota district visited the ship! If it was not for the delay, we would not have been able to minister to the 186 Chinese workers who have come from mainland China to help with the development of Hambantota’s new port. Using the time God gave us we were able to host an event for them onboard the ship. Now where there was only one Christian amongst them, there are now ten others who have dedicated themselves to Christ and seek to be transformed by Him!
Had we left Hambantota on schedule, I would never have met Janaka Jayashanka; a young 25 year-old sales representative. While on an outreach day on the ship and asking God to show me who He wanted me to speak to in the seemingly never ending mass of visitors, Janaka caught my attention and we went to a quieter place to talk. After sharing with each other where we are from and talking about all manner of subjects, Janaka told me that he was worried about the future and whether he will be able to support his parents. I directed him to Jeremiah 29:11, a verse which has always stuck with me ever since I saw it painted on the walls of my middle school: “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.” As Janaka took my Bible and read the verse over again his eyes were filled with assurance and joy.
“You are saying that God has a plan for me? For me?”
“Yes Janaka!” I said “For you! For you! When we hold His hand, He will always lead us towards that wonderful future He has promised and will work everything together for good. ”
As we looked at the clock it was far past closing time. We had talked for nearly an hour! Janaka left smiling, and he thanked me for giving him a glimpse into what the Bible was about. I pray that God would continue to reveal Himself to Janaka and that he would get a hold of a Sinhalese Bible so that he may read for himself about the love of Christ. I pray that Janaka will come to find rest in the eternal hope which comes from abiding in Christ and that he will know how much God cares for him and his family.
We may have our own schedules, but God has His own. Though we may see unforeseen circumstances as an inconvenience and say that nothing good can come of them, they do not surprise God. He is constantly at work fulfilling His perfect will and all He requires of us is to simply trust Him. Seeing our situations through His eyes places it all into perspective and we will be able to find hope and peace in the fact that God’s perfect plan always triumphs above everything else.
I may not be able to see the tropical paradise that is Phuket. But I move forward into Vishakhapatnam and Penang knowing that God is going to do great things and that by His grace He has allowed me to be both spectator and participant as He accomplishes His work.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.