The character Father Guido Sarducci (a/k/a comedian Don Novello) sometimes offered this piece of advice: “Wherever you go, there you are.”
That pseudo-aphorism always got a laugh, but I’ve found more than an atom of truth in it: many times, I’ve found myself in a location or a situation that’s left me wondering, “Why am I here?”.
When I first moved back to Vancouver, newly called into Ministry, I had a distinctly different idea of where I was supposed to be going. I told my previous boss I wanted to be a Christian talk-show host. Since I got hired next by a Christian TV station, I figured I was on that track.
But that job didn’t pan out, and back in radio, I found myself walking to the radio station along Granville Mall late at night. I would run a gauntlet of panhandlers. Usually, I didn’t have any money for them and I felt guilty, until I heard the Lord say, “These people don’t need money. They don’t need programs. They need Me. They need My Son. And I want you to tell them.”
Soon after, I wandered into Rainbow Mission near Oppenheimer Park, thus beginning ten years of ministering on the Downtown East Side. It was not what I expected. It was certainly not in any “plan” I had for my life. But it was exactly where I was supposed to be.
Recently, we were on a cruise to Sydney, Australia. Two days out of Vancouver, there was a medical emergency. We couldn’t turn back, so we ran full speed to Honolulu, arriving a day early. We bought a transit pass, took a cheap tour of the city and were heading back to the dock in the evening when we passed what appeared to be a homeless man, sitting on the sidewalk. I was moved to go back. I pulled out a five-dollar bill and gave it to him, mumbling, “the One I work for wants me to give you this little picture of Abe Lincoln.”
“He” turned out to be a wizened 50-something Vietnamese woman. In her broken English, she said she had no home, and her family were all dead, including her son. She tried to give back the five-spot. She talked for a while more and let me pray over her.
Did that do her any good? At the least, someone listened to her story. Now, what if there hadn’t been that emergency and we’d arrived in Honolulu as scheduled? We would have had our planned shore tour and sailed away that night. And the night before, that woman would have sat there, all alone, forgotten, hidden in plain sight. As it was, we were where we were supposed to be – when we were supposed to be there.
The Gospels tell us about Jesus, setting out in a boat with His disciples. A storm comes up, and after Jesus calms it, they seem to have been blown off-course. When they land, a demon-possessed man immediately rushes them. Jesus heals the man and dispatches the demons.
Whatever plans the disciples might have had for the boat trip got completely upended; yet they wound up exactly where God meant them to be.
Have you ever found yourself in an unexpected situation? It doesn’t have to be a bad situation – just one that wasn’t in your “plan”. Yet hasn’t it turned out that you were in the right place at the right time?
Wherever you go – there you are. The trick is to remember to say, “OK, Lord – now what?” Soon enough, He’ll tell you.
Drew Snider is a former pastor at Gospel Mission on Vancouver's Downtown East Side, and has been a guest speaker at churches in BC.
You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, HERE
* This article was publsihed in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, March 14th