It was the late 90’s. We were serving a church in North West Florida as their pastor. It was a church of less than 200 people in a small community near Pensacola. The salary was modest. We had three small children, a dog and one car.
Felicia and I had never even flown on a commercial flight much less left the country. We were pretty much home bodies, so when our Indian friend Arvind suggested that we should go to India with him to preach the gospel we didn’t really take it seriously.
Some time passed by, we were hosting Arvind and Susan in our home, he was cooking Indian food, helping Adam with his math and chasing our little girls around the house to the sound of squeals in a game of hide and seek. Our children loved Arvind. The food was awesome and they loved the way he loved to play. In a moment of stillness he looked into my eyes and said with his perfect English but with a heavy Indian accent, “pastor Scurlock you and Felicia should go to India with me to preach.”
“Ok,” I said and he smiled. While the smile was still large and his eyes sparkled with happiness I’m already having a personal conversation with myself inwardly. “Jeffrey! What are you thinking? India?”
I was certainly no missionary. As a matter of fact I entered the ministry with the hope and expectation that God would never call me to a foreign country.” I encouraged my church to give to support missionaries, we gave to all kinds of missions endeavors and the monkey was off my back,. I thought.
Arvind immediately began putting the wheels in motion for our trip. Before I could say “now wait a minute and slow down,” the date was set. A few days later the phone rang and when I said hello I was greeted with Arvind’s usual telephone greeting, “Praise the Lord pastor Scurlock.” Then he pushed us another step closer to India with, “I have reserved your airline tickets and I need $3000 to pay for them.”
“I don’t have three thousand dollars right now.”
“Pastor Scurlock, God will provide.”
I knew God was a miracle worker but three thousand dollars to me might as well been three hundred thousand. I agreed with Arvind vocally, “Amen, God will provide,” but I had major doubts. After all I am human and three thousand dollars to fly to India seemed a little extravagant for me.
My congregation knew I was planning a trip to India. What they didn’t know is how little faith I had that it would ever actually happen.
A couple of days later it was Sunday. Sunday’s are stressful for most pastors. I’m one of those. I’ve often said that my least favorite time of the week is Sunday morning before service begins. Most Sunday mornings were spent dealing with the anticipation of what the day would bring, some stress usually accompanied by an upset stomach and coffee with men from the church. The morning rocked along, pretty much normal. The morning service must not have been anything special because I have absolutely no memory of it. What I do remember is Betty walking to greet me at the pulpit when the service ended. She was a middle-aged widow. Her husband had been killed a couple of years earlier in an accident. She lived a simple life, a small home and old car, a couple of dogs on her front porch and her kids, mostly grown by now. “God told me to help you with your trip to India,” she said while reaching out to me with a folded check in her hand. I immediately began having one of those personal conversations in my head. As I’m reaching out to receive the check the conversation in my head goes something like this. “She’s a widow lady! What could she do? I know Betty doesn’t have much so Jeffrey don’t let your expectations of what that check amount is exceed common sense because you might be setting your self up for disappointment.” As the conversation in my head continued I reasoned in myself that Betty could probably donate a hundred dollars and that would be extravagant for her.
Now with the check in my hand I embrace Betty to say think you and then she walks away. I didn’t want to seem to eager so I waited until she had exited the building.