On a trip with my husband Bob, a Delta Captain during his trip to Johannesburg, South Africa not long ago. I would have never expected to see reality come to life in the Scripture (Philippians 1:28). Where it describes the rock-like temperament you and I should display in the face of attacks and onslaughts by our opponents and adversaries - both physical and spiritual.
When people or events come against us to destroy us, or complicate our lives by evil means. How we should stand firm and confident that everything is going to work out for the best. "Standing in faith that what the enemy meant for evil, God will turn around for the good."
For in a situation like that we are not to change, but must remain constant to let God do the changing of the circumstances for His glory!
It was late November 2008, and our arrival into Johannesburg, South Africa. When I began to get excited in meeting a friend for the first time. A woman I had met through the Humanitarian Organization my husband Bob and I were partnered with to help orphans, and women with AIDS in Africa.
Connecting on-line in the International network the organization uses, I saw many people who were trying to make a difference in the world. Seeing these people, I began to wonder if they were truly the way they seemed. If their heart were as true to their cause as their words would have you believe?
Upon meeting Sharm Pillay, a fellow board member, and woman who founded the organization CFH - Celebrities For Humanity. A charity that allows celebrities to use their fame for the greater good for many abandoned, and abused, women and children in South Africa. Seeing Sharm's amazing work, and real passion, seemed to have connected us immediately, and had given us the opportunity to work on a major project with her charity. Doing so, God would then join our hearts as spiritual sisters in an amazing way.
This trip however, would be our first time to meet in person, as Sharm would be meeting my husband and I, at the hotel the Delta crew stays while on layover in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Once at the hotel, and after a short break to relax before dinner with Bob's crew, and Sharm. I began to decide how I was going to give the gift that I brought for Sharm.
Being the business woman she is, I decided to purchase something practical she could carry her laptop in; a Faux crocodile laptop case/purse. (One that I also purchased for myself for traveling due to its size.)
Opting instead of giving it to her in the huge gift bag I was to put it in; to then see her haul it to dinner. I decided to take mine (which I never do on layovers) to get her reaction first. Then once back at the hotel I would surprise her with hers.
As Bob and I made our way to the hotel lobby, and stepped out of the elevator, I spotted my precious friend Sharm. All lit up with smiles in seeing Bob and I finally.
She was exactly as I expected in seeing that gentle spirit I had come accustomed too over this past year, as we worked together for the orphans in South Africa.
In seeing the familiar Spirit of God upon her made Sharm feel more like family than a friend. Something only God can do when His Spirit lives in the heart of a true believer.
After many joyful tears, hugs, and laughter, the rest of Bob's crew emerged. Then after a few brief introductions we were on our way to Delta's favorite restaurant in Johannesburg called the "Bull Run," much like an upscale steakhouse.
Upon entering the restaurant we were escorted to our long table which was positioned in front of a group of sliding doors that were opened to a fountain court yard that connected to a shopping mall. Feeling a bit strange at the layout, I ushered caution away as I continued to enjoy meeting my dear friend. To our joy and amazement in what the Lord is doing in both our lives for those in Africa.
Over the year in working with Sharm, I've had the opportunity to help strengthen her faith in Jesus Christ. Doing so, allowed me to better understand the reason for her strong passion for the hurting and the helpless in society. A passion I knew (as a Biblical counselor) had to be rooted and empowered by a painful past. One she chooses today to use for good to give hope to many.
At times as we worked, Sharm would share information about her past that would break my heart , and bring me to tears. However sad it was to hear of her suffering, I could see an amazing thing taking place in my special friend. For she had chosen to take that hurt and turn it; not into bitterness, or hate, but rather, into a passion that today helps countless hurting women and children in South Africa. A journey God would use to then, at His time, bring me along side her in order to help further God's healing touch and to strengthen Sharm's faith.
In seeing how our relationship was unique in how God not only joined us to the same mission, but made us spiritual sisters. Who today encourage each another as we struggle to help the innocent suffering in the world. As God also used me to gently guide Sharm into the experience of true freedom from her pain, but empower her on many levels toward her destiny for those in Africa.
Our time at dinner seemed to stand still, as I poured encouragement into her as we shared our ministry dreams and concerns. My husband Bob and Sharm's male friend who came with her poked fun at us in our excitement, to which Sharm and I would poke back in fun.
Dinner that night was amazing, as the food and company could not have been any better. Even the Delta crew seemed to connect as they learned about Sharm, and our work through her organization. Before long, it was time to go.
Upon our arrival Sharm and I had taken a seat with our backs to the open doors that led to a court yard, so we could enjoy the evening breeze. In the photo you can see the fountain behind Sharm and a lit neon figure that in the picture, looks like a man sitting on my shoulder which I think is hilarious.
However, good it was to sit there, it wouldn't be until we all started to leave that I would realize the mistake it was to do so. A situation that would suddenly change the joy of the evening into one of shock and sorrow.
In seeing Sharm's response to my purse that I knew she would like, I was now excited to get back to the hotel so I could give to Sharm hers. During dinner, I had placed it on the floor against my leg until it was time to leave. Then as the Delta crew gathered their things, I began to look for my purse for it was not in the place it should have been. Not finding it, the crew immediately knew what had happened and started to respond in shock. In realizing also in that moment, I had forgotten to take out my wallet that held my passport which was now gone too.
Learning the magnitude of the problem that is prevalent in Johannesburg, God seemed to cover me in a supernatural peace. As some of Bob's crew began to mention that I would not be able to go with Bob on their return trip to Dakar the next day; if they did not find my passport. Not thinking it was Friday, Sharm feeling heart broken for me, said she would take me to the US Embassy in the morning, (which was impossible being it was closed on weekends). My husband ushered the restaurant manager over so they could call the police to file a report. As we waited, the flight attendants broke off in groups of twos to look in all the trash cans around the joining mall and streets.
During this time my husband became very concerned in having to leave his wife alone in a country where crime was known to be one of the continents highest in Africa.
Sharm feeling sorry for me tried to think of ways to help. Finding none, offered her home for me to stay until the embassy could issue me another passport. Something that could take weeks, if not months.
As we all stood in the courtyard just outside the doors (which were now closed) where our table was, the reality of finding anything let alone, seeing the police arrive seemed impossible. After two hours of waiting my husband started getting upset at the restaurant manager's lack of concern, who then decided to escort us to a near-by hotel connected to the mall, so we could sit in the lobby as we waited for the police to arrive.
Upon settling down in a expensive stuffed chair as everyone found their seat, was when I realized in all that time, I had not asked for God's intervention in my situation. A reality that I immediately mentioned in front of Sharm and the Delta crew. Then upon my revelation whether it me, or the Holy Spirit's prompting, I boldly launched into a prayer for God's intervention. Saying,
"Jesus! I know you know where my purse is and I am asking you now to turn around what the enemy meant for evil, to good! To give me back (if anything) my passport and my car keys, for everything else can be replaced. In Jesus name, I pray! Amen."
Then within minutes after that prayer, and the realization we had been waiting over two hours for the police, I felt the need to get back to the hotel so I could cancel my credit cards, and cell phone.
Back at the Hotel, I hugged goodbye my deeply saddened friend. Seeing the hurt in her eyes as I knew my situation challenged her faith too. In questioning why would God allow this to happen to me, and to her, when it was clear he had brought us both together?
However challenging it was, God was clearly with me, as Sharm noticed my calmness. A peace that even allowed me to joke about my situation as I tried to comfort Sharm in her concern. In all honesty, I was never ever afraid during the entire scenario. I felt such peace ...a calm...and I wondered if this truly was that peace that passes all understanding about which the Bible mentions.
Exhausted, and in my hotel room, I began to call the few card companies I knew were in my wallet to cancel them; along with my cell phone. Then afterwards, I literally passed out to the echo of my husband talking on skype to someone at Delta, in finding how I could get out of Africa.
Next thing I remember was our room phone ringing, as my husband was startled awake - answers it. It was the front desk saying we needed to come down stairs for the police were there to take our report. Hanging the phone up my husband noticed the clock on the nightstand which read 4:30 am.
After an hour, as I shared what was stolen and how it happened, as one wrote everything down in a report while the other talked on his two way radio as calls came in of crimes being committed that morning. In seeing that Johannesburg is a place much like places in world were there is no rest from evil forces that blankets that city.
Then after an hour and half, we were finally finished. As my husband ushered us all to the Hotel desk to get a copy of the report for the American Embassy. We then thanked the officers who (arrived eight hours later) for their response to our call.
Back inside our room my husband and I fell back into bed to the tick of the clock on the side table which read 6:am.
Drifting off again we were awaken to the sound of the phone again. Glancing at the clock on the side table it read 11:30am. My husband answered the phone, then came wide awake to hear the voice of the man in charge of the Delta hub at Johannesburg airport named Graham.
Graham knew Bob, as Bob had gotten to know Graham during his many trips to Jo-burg during the year. Bob had meant to call Graham the night before but had forgotten due to exhaustion. Then when Bob heard Graham's voice Bob got excited. So as I lay half in and half out of sleep, I listened to their conversation which went something like this:
Bob saying ..."Hello, Bob Maier....pause....Graham! Awe man, I'm so glad you called, I need to talk to you." Then Graham butting in asks Bob if I am with him? Bob then answers...."Yes! My wife is with me." Then another pause as Bob listens, then begins to smile... "What? Say that again?" Bob asks Graham to repeat.
Now....I'm totally into the conversation as I pull myself up to a sitting position still wrapped in my terry robe, as I watch my husbands face.....searching for clues in what's being said....when suddenly, Bob shouts "Praise the Lord! Thank You, Jesus!"
In excitement my husband concludes his conversation with Graham and hangs up the phone. Looking at me with the most amazing look tells me, "Patty! Your not going to believe this, but that was Graham, and he said that he had received a call from a woman who had found your passport and car keys." Graham only mentioned passport and car keys which was exactly what I had prayed for in front of the Delta Crew and Sharm the night before. Bob said Graham was really moved over the whole thing and had mentioned he never seen anything like this happen before in all the time he has lived in Johannesburg, and most likely, never will again.
Feelings of great joy and awe came over me, as I realized what my bold faith in Christ had done. For God did exactly what I had asked of him in turning evil to good, and to give me back my passport and car keys. I laughed thinking we had better be careful in what we ask for because if God chooses, we'll get it. Wow!
What a feeling in knowing a faith that is real mesh with a God that is ALIVE! Doing exactly what He said He would do if only we would believe.
Later that afternoon Bob and I met Sharm for lunch, as Bob shared what happened as God found a way to get my passport back to me before it was time for us to leave. The expression on Sharm's face was precious as hope in God was birth anew in her heart, in seeing what faith in God can do for those who stand on God's promises. An experience that has now strengthened us both, and one I believe had strengthened Sharm, for months later, Sharm would fend off an attack, when her car broke down going home one night after working late. When men came rushing at her and her friend in a car in front of her, who had stopped when she saw Sharm's car stall. In a time when Sharm would boldly call on the help of Jesus! Who not only came to her rescue, but also protected Sharm's friends from being killed when shots were fired from point blank range. For in all the hostile commotion and screams, no one was harmed except shaken emotionally. An outcome that yielded another miracle that could have been the end for them all if God were not involved.
Meanwhile, and back to my story, it wouldn't be until I was able to meet Graham, head of Delta in person at the airport to begin to see the magnitude of the miracle that happened. For it was bigger than what was first understood. As I continue this amazing story of faith in God's intervention on another posting which will then introduce an amazing woman with a British accent from Britain who lives in Johannesburg. And a poor humble artist who was homeless from the distillate country of Zimbabwe.