This summer I received an email from the associate pastor of the Baldwinsville Baptist Church located on Syracuse Street in town. After proper introductions, Pastor Chris shared a little about himself and how he first learned of my sister's kidnapping. As he shared, I listened in awe as another aspect of how God was working to locate and help Heidi in 1994...one I was unaware of until over nineteen years later.
Pastor Chris attended Onondaga Community College (OCC) during the same time period as my sister, Heidi M Allen. Although they didn't "know" each other per say, they did have a few classes together. He shared how he remembered Heidi's smile and how nice she was to everyone. A memory many of us share when we think of Heidi don't you agree? I wasn't surprised by the fact I didn't know each person had class with but it was Pastor Chris' next tidbit that left me so thankful.
If you attended OCC in April of 1994, you may remember this also but for those of us that didn't, let me enlighten you on how God was at work in at least one of our neighboring counties. Pastor Chris said that upon arrival back to classes after the Spring/Easter break, each professor started class by explaining Heidi's kidnapping while holding up one of the missing person flyers. The professors said there were additional flyers for people to hang around campus, in their neighborhoods and anywhere they might think of, and encouraged "anyone with information to contact law enforcement" -- even giving out the tip line's phone number.
This is so cool! I knew OCC did some amazing things and were an encouragement when they told my parents "We will make sure everyone knows." They not only were true to their word, they went above and beyond. Pastor Chris said classes started like this for at least a week and possibly into the next week to make sure every student on campus was aware. As if this isn't enough, they also offered counselors for anyone who might need to talk. Thank you OCC, and thank you Christ for sharing this with me. I passed it along to my family and now to those reading the blog.
This wasn't the reason Pastor Chris contacted me yet it our initial conversation that brought such a peace and humility, that at the very time I was cranky with God ~ He was working through the administration at OCC.
The purpose of the initial email and then phone conversations was to talk about the possibility of speaking at the Baldwinsville Baptist Church sometime in the near future. I won't bore you with all the details of arranging a speaking engagement but I will say, it was a great time of planning and preparation. In addition to Pastor Chris, I had the privilege of talking with the head pastor, Pastor James. Both men are true men of God seeking to serve Him and their community.
Pastor James offered the idea to do an "interview" as part of the morning worship service. A little Q & A, if you will. I was hesitant in the beginning but Pastor James was patient and compassionate with me. To ease my nerves of "What might you ask me on the fly?" I could almost hear his smile as he said something like, "I wouldn't just ask you then without going over the questions with you before hand." Phew, I wiped the sweat from my brow and we did a run through, right then and there, over the phone. I felt so much better. Thank you Pastor James.
My husband Ed, and daughter, Mags, joined me for the day and we enjoyed it a lot. In addition to the morning worship service, we were able to see the array of Bible Studies going on before church, the bread give-away, coffee hour, and of course the preparation of the "Thanksgiving Feast" downstairs. It is a busy church with a big heart to serve.
The worship service was uplifting and caused me to reflect on the reason for Thanksgiving and the many reasons to be thankful. I shared the video Pastor James played last week after I found it on YouTube.
After the service, there was a delicious feast of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and all the traditional fixings. Boy were we full but the amount of desserts awaiting everyone was even greater and I spied cheesecake while I set up. I commented a couple times and one of the church members asked if he could "sneak me a piece" to the side so I could enjoy it after I spoke. I told him "If there is some left, then I meant to eat it. If not, then God's watching out for me.", we both laughed.
As everyone found their seats with dessert and a cup of coffee, Pastor James introduced me so I could "continue" my message and story from the interview portion of the worship service. This was the first time I introduced a presentation prior to speaking and then had to pick up, kind of in the middle, yet at the beginning. I'm up for a challenge and I prayed God would give me the words and keep it interesting for the parts important to revisit, while still moving forward.
I shared my presentation titled, "Tragedy to Triumph". This has become one of my favorites to share and one Ed and Mary tease me about because they haven't seen it presented the same way yet.
My family teases me about this yet when Elaine W. Miller (http://splashesofserenity.com/) mentored me with the speaking aspect, she suggested I develop at least one message that is versatile enough to change with my audience and interesting enough to kind of be a staple in my speaker's toolbox.
After I finished I asked if there were any questions. When I started to speak I didn't accept questions in an open forum style but slowly transitioned to opening it up at select engagements. I don't know about you but sometimes when we say, "I'm not doing that." you can almost picture God up there smiling and shaking His head saying, "Oh yeah, you just wait." Or am I alone in this thought?
Anyway, now I am more comfortable with answering questions about my books, testimony, faith, and life in general. An aspect of this process I wasn't prepared for was how inspiring, encouraging, and reflective the audiences questions would be to me as I traveled home. Some questions have ignited riveting conversations with my family, while others leave me silent and in my own thought process the entire trip, if not for a few days. I've learned it is during this process that I am challenged and learn to stretch and grow a little bit more...for Him and in sharing hope and Heidi with others.
It was a wonderful day and I'm thankful for the opportunity to meet Pastor Chris and Pastor James, and their families. We were thankful to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast with the Baldwinsville Baptist Church family and their community. I was thankful to hear someone knew she had hope because of something God used me to share. What would have happened if I said no?
Has God ever forced you out of your comfort zone? How?
Lisa M Buske
P.O. Box 323