God was doing a new thing, but I could not see it.
It was August 1993. My husband Julius had already come through several near-death incidents. His emotions were spent. His medications—including chemo and radiation—were running in excess of $3000 per month—not covered by our insurance. The church was helping us pay them. First, our premiums had been raised to $1000 per month in the CHOG National Health Care Plan but within months we were informed that the benefits would expire in three months. A local Baptist pastor (Dr. Jenkins) who had befriended Julius volunteered to take us into their group health care plan temporarily. This helped considerably, but Julius was concerned that the pastor was about to retire and that the new plan administrator might not want to keep a non-Baptist in the group. Thus, he surmised that the way to ensure coverage was for me to get a teaching job.
I had seen the fruit of our Christian School in my own two children and their success at the university. Closing the school would be a major blow to our students and to me as I had been the principal (without pay–by my choice) since it began in 1983. The church had been declining in attendance ever since Julius was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in December 1985. He worked tirelessly on the tractor clearing the property, cutting down trees, leveling the ground to make the property appealing. Several young men and some faithful members could be seen helping him almost every day. The members remodeled the inside of the standing building as well. Pastor Lee Jordan made the architectural drawing for a modern church building which our congregation aspired to build on our newly acquired property. None of these things had resulted in church growth. Now, being the practical person Julius was, the only solution he could think of for our need to have health insurance was for his wife to go back to public school or college teaching.
His decision put me on an emotional roller coaster. “If the walls could talk…” they would tell you how I lay on the floor crying out to the Lord to deliver me from having to go back into the public school. It was a selfish prayer, and the Lord chose to ignore it. I realized I could not continue in this crying state but must get off the floor and get to work on finding a job. Because of his illness and fragile state, I did not tell my husband about my distress call to God.
I began calling the colleges and high schools in the Detroit area. There was only one vacancy in my subject areas and that was at neighboring Inkster High School, and they were not taking applications. I left my name and phone number and mailed them a resume.
It was the end of August and time was running out. One morning after our family prayer time, I felt the Lord impressed me to call Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville. I had taught there for two and a half years before we moved to Michigan—17 years earlier. My phone call was immediately put through to the administrator who pulled my records from the archives and urged me to come as they were desperate for a high school teacher with my certification. I was hired over the phone and needed to report the next morning at 8am for teacher preparation day.
An hour after that phone call, the car was packed and I was headed to Louisville, leaving my husband and son behind to take care of making transitions in Michigan—sell the house, and transition the church. Our son, 15, was attending community college and living at home so he would need to find a place to live or transfer colleges. We planned that I would return home for Thanksgiving at which time we would pack up and move south. (Hint: Man makes plans but God determines his steps…Prov. 16:9).
The seven-hour driving trip from Detroit to Louisville seemed like a few minutes. There was nothing playing in my car—no music, no radio, no cassette. I was just praying all the way—trying to make sense out of what was going on, searching my heart and examining if any of my own actions and behaviors to blame for my predicament. (The devil will always give you a list!) Julius was to call friends, Morris and Phyllis King, in Louisville to tell them I was coming and ask if I could stay with them until I found a place for our family to live.
The Kings welcomed me with open arms. That evening, Julius and I talked on the phone for an hour and a half going over all the pros and cons. After saying it looked like God was working out this opportunity for me, he said, “But you’re the one who’ll be working and you have to make the final decision.” At least, I thought, no matter what I decide, I won’t be disobedient to my husband. That gave some relief.
My friends took me out to dinner at a lovely, peaceful, outdoor restaurant on the river. We came back to their house and talked…and talked…and talked. Finally, Phyllis (a psychiatric nurse) suggested I take an Ambien so I could sleep. It was the first and last time I ever took Ambien. I didn’t sleep.
I lay awake tossing and turning and praying and reasoning with the Lord until 3:30 AM when He spoke very clearly to me: “Get up; go home; and pour the sidewalk.” (A couple of weeks earlier, the city had sent a mandate to the church to pour a boulevard sidewalk.) After that, peace enveloped me. Sleep came. When I awakened the next morning, I felt refreshed and settled with just three hours of sleep.
At 8am, I was at the school to meet the principal as planned. While I waited, one of the teachers came into the office, threw her arms around me and said, “I prayed you all the way from Michigan!” It was easy to see she was a gracious, Christian lady. I agreed to go with her to see what was to be my classroom and she gave me a quick five-minute orientation. I’ve enjoyed every teaching job I ever had and this would be no exception. It would be an easy, comfortable assignment for me. It all “seemed” to be God’s way of working out our financial situation. But not every open door is of God, and I had no peace in my heart or mind about it because I had a “word from the Lord” that I was to go home.
Back in the Principal’s office, I shared my whole story with him—from seeking a job to pay for our insurance to what the Lord had spoken to me in the night. I asked his forgiveness for having given him false hope. I had come to Louisville out of desperation, but now I had to go back home to Michigan out of obedience.
I left the school and went back to the friends’ house to call Julius and return my belongings to the car. The Kings had left for work before they knew my decision to go back home, so I left a note for them. Julius did not answer when I had called earlier, so he still didn’t know about my decision to return home. I took grapes from the frig for a snack to eat on the way back to Michigan. Just before closing the door, I remembered he had planned to visit Gus and Diane to share with them what was transpiring. I called their house, and Julius had just arrived. Although the night before he had been pretty settled that I would take the Louisville job, he actually seemed relieved when I told him I had declined it. Then he told me, almost matter-of-fact-like: “Inkster called you this morning (Friday) at 8 AM to come for an interview Monday.”
At exactly the moment I was obeying God and apologizing to the principal that I had to decline the job, Inkster Schools called. I jumped. I shouted. I praised the Lord all the way back to Michigan. I knew in my heart I had the job. I knew it was a divine call—not just an ordinary teaching job. I was so excited for Monday to come. Of course, the rest is history… but the story is not over yet. You must read to the end!
On Monday morning, I was hired to teach at Inkster High School. I felt at home from the first minute I walked into that high school classroom as a “child of the King” and an “evangelist” from the Most High God. I was on a mission in the midst of a community nicknamed “Little Saigon” and infested by gangs. My Bible stayed on my desk and by the end of first semester, my students and I had become acquainted. At some point, they asked to have prayer meeting in my classroom every day before school. When those teenagers prayed, the room shook, and God heard. They helped me more than they could ever know to cope with my husband’s physical and emotional needs as he dealt with the cancer. I looked forward to getting up and going to work every day. I loved and still treasure those seven years at Inkster High School—and, in addition, our family’s insurance needs were met.
Seven years. God’s number of perfection. At the end of my seventh year, a private company, The Thomas Edison Group, was hired to manage the school district and the new company wanted to bring in young teachers whom they could train in their methods and curriculum, so they offered buyouts to the top 21 teachers, by seniority at the school, from those who had taught there a minimum of seven years and would turn 60 by June 30th. Friends, I turned 60 on June 9th and by God’s grace, when the count was completed, I was number 21. The by-product was retirement in the state teachers’ retirement system with a monthly stipend of $500 plus Blue Cross/Blue Shield health benefits for the rest of my life. I did not see it coming, but when God issues an order, He follows through.
But here’s the rest of the story: Remember, that night in Louisville at 3:30 AM the Lord told me: “Get up; go home; and pour the sidewalk?”
When talking with Julius that morning and giving him my decision to come home, I did not tell him about the “sidewalk.” It didn’t seem important. As I headed back to Michigan, Julius visited with Gus and Diane for a while, then later in the day he went to pay a pastoral visit to an elderly church member, Eileen Honeywell, to cheer her up and pray with her. At some point during their conversation, Eileen said to him: “Didn’t you say in church that the city wants you to pour a sidewalk?” He confirmed they did. “How much will it cost?” He had done research and knew it would be about $800 for the cement and men from the church would do the work. She instructed her daughter right then to write a check to the church for $800 to pour the sidewalk.
The Lord spoke to Eileen and she obeyed and gave. Before I even got back to Michigan that day the Lord had fulfilled His word. (Eileen has gone on to meet the Lord, but this week I sent this story to her daughter Sheila who responded: “I really enjoyed your story. I remember the day very well as your husband had a shocked look on his face when Mom asked me to go and write him a check.”)
One more important part of this story. Initially, I thought my husband’s request for me to take a public school teaching job was selfish and not fully trusting God. In retrospect, I’m sure it was difficult for him as well—and God turned it into good. Julius had the opportunity to see how the Lord blessed me and how much I enjoyed the school; he was appreciative of the insurance benefits. Over the years, I was able to express my gratitude to him for seeing the situation more clearly than I. Sadly, he died in the middle of my sixth year of teaching thus did not live to see the reward of lifetime health insurance God would arrange for me just 17 months later.
The Bible says, “Obedience is better than sacrifice…” (1 Sam. 15:22). God rewarded my feeble obedience by totally directing my steps, even the detour via Louisville, during what was one of the darkest seasons of my life—a time when I was struggling to make sense out of everything that was happening in me and around me.
Thank God He doesn’t answer prayer based on how good or faithful we are. He answers prayer because He cares about us. He says:
“For I am about to do a brand-new thing.
See, I have already begun!
Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness for my people to come home.
I will create rivers for them in the desert!”
I pray you see this happening in your life as vividly as I see how God did a new thing in my life. It is a continuous process. He made a pathway through my wilderness and now He is creating for me…rivers in the desert. My heart and soul rejoice in the God of my salvation!
*This story began in August 1993 and ended June 30 2000.
Students gathered for prayer at 7am daily in my classroom at the high school.
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(c) C. Yvonne Karl. Published in The Alabaster Box, Vol.22 No.08 2007. firstname.lastname@example.org