United Church of God

Unconventional Outreach

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Unconventional Outreach

I’ve always loved the way God uses us in ways we don’t expect— how we can go into something with one intention, and end up spiraling into a whole new spirit-led project. My own little taste of this phenomenon occurred about two years ago, and has continued to be a part of my life ever since.

During that time, I had just created a business Instagram account to promote the inspirational fiction novel I was writing, “Edified.” The book was not even halfway written at that point, but I had a pretty good idea of where it was going, and knew it was time to start building my promotional platform for when it was published. Writing the book and choosing which scriptures to incorporate served as my morning coffee with God, as I prayed through the chapters I wrote, asking Him to bless the process and help it to become everything He wanted it to be. I wanted to include Him all the same in the development of my business account, so that the people who would benefit from reading my book one day would stumble upon my account and be led to a potentially life-changing resource. I prayed this accordingly, that my efforts would flourish, and that I would connect with people I could help. Little did I know that God already had in mind exactly who He would send my way.

God works in wonderful, unexpected ways.

As my account began to grow, I was no stranger to private messages seeking support—but one in particular stood out. One message was from a man from Haiti, seeking support for his orphanage called “Child of God Orphanage.” I was skeptical at first, as one usually is when someone online asks for a donation... but I felt something inside me, tugging at me to consider this man. I began asking him questions about himself and the children he supports, learning that there are 25 of them he cares for by himself. He sent pictures of the children, some laying on dusty floors, saying he doesn't have the proper space for all of them. He sent videos of the children singing praise songs in their native language, and then they would repeat after him the lyrics in broken English. He sent pictures of smiling children and sad children, telling me all 25 of their names, and that he can't always afford to feed them all... That the children are often hungry. I decided to look over his account, which had more than 1,000 pictures of the same children going about their lives together. I knew deep down that he still could very well be a con artist—someone who gets his pictures from another account to appear consistent with what he says... But after a heartfelt prayer, I decided to ask him what the orphanage needed. He gave me a humble list of things, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and food items.

At this point, I knew I wanted to help. I thought, "If this man is a con artist, He would be asking for money... Not 25 toothbrushes.” After talking with and receiving the support of my then fiancé, I went to the store to collect the items— toothbrushes, toothpaste, a couple pounds of instant mashed
potatoes, fruit cups, salt and pepper. I also decided to include a whole package of sweet treats along with three copies of our church booklet, “Sunset to Sunset: God’s Sabbath Rest.” I obtained the orphanage’s address from the man and included a handwritten letter, saying that I hoped he would save the sweets for the children as a Sabbath treat. The rest of the items they could enjoy right away, but I explained how the Sabbath is a special blessing starting from sundown on Friday and lasting until sundown on Saturday, and to make it special, we often have special Sabbath treats.

I took pictures of everything in the package and sent pictures to Fanot (the orphanage director), letting him know what was headed to Haiti. At this point, many prayers had been uttered, leading me to the conclusion that even if Fanot was a con artist, I didn’t regret my actions because God Himself knew where my heart was, and something about this whole transaction just felt right—like God was placing His hand on my shoulder and saying, “Trust me.”

Moments later, Fanot sent me pictures of the children holding up signs, addressing my fiancé and I by name, saying “Thank you, Brian and Marissa! God bless!” He said to me, “Praise God, that He is using you to help me with the children. God is able. God is good.”

My heart melted. I knew the right thing had been done and that Fanot was genuine. When the package arrived in Haiti, Brian and I were sent many pictures of the children enjoying their treats. Fanot shared that he read the booklet I sent and was going to read it to the children. Now, Fanot wishes us a happy Sabbath every Saturday, and shares frequent updates on the children (who are now 30 in number). He tells us what biblical teachings they are learning each day and asks often how he can pray for us. We do the same and continue to help them as we are able, sending a new booklet along with each donation.

It’s nothing short of amazing to me how God turned my little book promotion project into something much more meaningful.

God works in wonderful, unexpected ways. I could have overlooked Fanot’s message—dismissed it as another person asking for support. But I had a gut feeling about this message... Some sort of pull to listen to Fanot’s plea, and now it is clear to me where it was coming from.

My prayers had been for God to lead people to my book’s account who I could help in one way or another... and those prayers were answered—just in an different way than I’d expected!