I like surprises.  I know some hate them, but deep down do they really?  Jane Austen wrote, “Surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable.”  I disagree.

I remember one surprise in particular that was especially shocking.  The last summer before Erin and I were to marry I interned at a small church near Atlanta, GA.  After weeks of kids camp, southern summer heat, and an extra dose of grunt work I was ready to wrap up my time in the glorious south.  Unfortunately the pastor had one more job for me to do.  His “friend” Aaron was flying to Atlanta on the weekend and he needed me to pick him up…at 6 AM on a Saturday morning!  Although I didn’t show it, I was rolling my eyes.  How rude!  Fine.  Pick on the intern.  More grunt work.  (So much for my servant’s heart!)

I begrudgingly drove across town that Saturday morning anticipating traffic on the way and awkward small-talk on the way back.  I anxiously stood at the gate dutifully holding my “Aaron” welcome sign peering down the boarding bridge in hopes of spying anyone who might match his description.

Was that him?  I wondered.  He looks like the description.  No, not him, he’s too short.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw a familiar face.  A beautiful face.  An unexpected face.  Why was Erin at the Atlanta airport?  I thought.  Wait!…WHY WAS ERIN AT THE ATLANTA AIRPORT?  You may have already caught onto the surprise.  If you have, to your credit, you are much faster than me.  For even after staring into her eyes I still did not catch the significance of her presence.  “What are you doing here?”  I asked.  “Surprising you.” she said.  I responded in disbelief and ignorance, “But I’m supposed to pick up some guy named Aaron…wait…E-r-i-n.  Oh!  now I get it!”

Surprises are great even if I was to be played the fool.  Erin and I spent that day in Atlanta visiting the sights, eating the finest foods an intern could afford, and falling in love all over again.

I think about that day often.  I remember how the joy of the moment was enhanced by the possibility of the alternative.  What if that morning trip to the Atlanta airport had only yielded a plump, balding middle aged man who had come to visit his old college friend?  If so, so be it.  But, when the reality was a day to remember with my future bride – glorious.

I think God enjoys surprises.  Or more accurately, He enjoys surprising us.  Jesus certainly astonished the crowds by feeding and healing them, or raising their dead.  One miraculous surprise after another.

We received several surprises this past Sunday as we took a day trip, as a family, to the bush.

Surprise #1 – The church, who had been meeting next to one of our national partners’ house, had finally finished their church building.  Some may not consider their building much to look at, but to them it represented progress.

Surprise #2 – We actually found decent, edible food to eat.  After months of countless trips to the bush I had accepted the fact that my stomach was going to be empty or sick after each trip.  Our one dining establishment boasted a long list of food options on their menu, but in reality there was only ever one pathetic item.  Chicken sauce.  Small remnants of anorexic chicken meat hugging tightly to bone immersed in a pool of yellowish cooking oil provided the only sustenance for most of our trips.  When asked if they could make other items advertised on their menu the answer was always the same.  “No!”  But on this day the tide had turned, the winds had changed and we were in for a treat.  We decided to try a new restaurant – a small, dirty, potentially deadly hole in the wall – which also boasted a large menu of 6-8 items.  To our surprise, when asked if they had something other than chicken sauce they said, “No, but we can get it for you.”  And they did!  We feasted.  It was great.

Surprise #3 – God is faithful.  He is the Lord of the Harvest who continues to amaze us by answering the prayers of his servants.  When we see His hand at work among the Masikoro it always comes as a welcome surprise.  But why?  I don’t know.  I know He loves these people.  I know He is pleased when they worship Him.  So why should I be surprised when He works among them, in them, and through them?  I shouldn’t be.

Rick Warren wrote, “What surprises me most about God is that the creator of the universe should want a relationship with me.”  How true.

I like surprises.  I hope they keep coming.

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