Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | October 6, 2011

Not According to Plan

There is a good reason why I tell those I lead on international missions initiatives to be more than flexible ― to instead be fluid. I have learned over the years that being flexible is not sufficient because regardless of the best laid plans, plans always change. Over the years I have encountered more unexpected challenges en route to and from our destination and at the places where we serve than I care to remember. Whenever things do not go according to plan my thoughts often turn to the Apostle Paul. On his Second Missionary Journey (Acts 16), Paul and his team encountered some closed doors that eventually rerouted them to a place called Troas on the extreme western shores of Asia Minor. It was there that Paul had a vision in the night of a Macedonian man earnestly appealing to him to “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9). As a result of an unexpected change in plans, the gospel made its way to the West for the first time.

Jerry with one of the first kids he rescued.

Whenever plans change, I also think about my friend Jerry Smith. In the mid-90’s Jerry had planned to go to Taiwan on a short-term mission trip. But, plans changed and he ended up going to Mongolia instead. While there he discovered the plight of kids who lived in the sewers beneath the streets of Ulan Bator and decided to do something to help. Jerry and his wife Susan moved to Mongolia and have been engaged in bringing hope to at-risk kids there ever since. I can’t imagine the number of children in Mongolia who would not be alive today had God not altered Jerry’s plans and had Jerry not been willing to be more than flexible. Only eternity will reveal the full impact and scope of his work in Mongolia.

When plans change unexpectedly, I can always count on three things. First, I always learn something about myself. I must confess that there have been a few times when I was less than pleased with what I learned. Nevertheless, in every instance God has used these occasions to help me to grow in new ways. Second, I always learn something about those I lead. I am often encouraged by how fluid folks can be when things change without warning or become tougher than expected. Finally, I always learn something about God and the fact that His plans and thoughts are much higher than mine. Looking back, I can testify to the fact that I have seen God do some really cool things because things did not go according to plan ― or what I thought should happen. So, the next time things do not go according to your plan, don’t despair. Be fluid. God is up to something good!

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