14What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-17)
The Middle of a Miracle, part 1
It was all because of a deer.
Well, it was really all from God, but it started with a deer. A poor, foolish deer that attempted to cross a busy road in Savannah, GA, in the early hours of twilight. This year has been a very deadly year for deer fatalities around Savannah. The city is growing at an incredible pace, and large sections of natural habitat are unfortunately getting cleared to make room for new homes. This has displaced many of the beautiful, wild creatures surrounding the city. On what I thought was a regular night and a regular call for service, I responded to an accident on Eisenhower Drive. I arrived on scene, put on my emergency lights, my traffic vest, and got out of my vehicle. I was met by a rather tall man and he began to tell me how they had just gotten back in town from a plane trip home. His wife was driving west on Eisenhower and something struck their vehicle. He had not seen what hit them. It only took a quick inspection to know it was a deer. The fur on the front, the huge dent down the entire driver’s side, and the poop smeared along the back doors were pretty good indicators a deer had struck them. This stranger began walking down the middle of the busy road without a care or worry of all the vehicles still whizzing by us despite my lights being on, scanning the side of the road for the deer he must have thought would have collapsed just off the north side of the road. He was so careless he made me nervous. I would later learn, as we waited for the tow truck to arrive, this man wasn’t foolish, he was faithful. He was not afraid because he had that blessed assurance that he would be protected. And if he was not and somehow a distracted driver swerved into the middle lane and did hit this powerful man, he knew where he was going.
You see, this stranger, though we just met on what I thought was a random night, a random accident, was a true brother in Christ. This man was actually a Father, a Reverend (retired), from Savannah’s historic First African Baptist Church. He had served in the ministry for thirty years, or something of that time frame. As we were standing in the middle of Eisenhower, I knew there was much more to this random meeting, there was a greater purpose unfolding. In the middle of a busy road, in the middle of a bustling city, I was aware that I was in the middle of a miracle.
It would be about a month later before I realized why God had designed me to meet this mysterious retired Reverend. Of all the stories this godly man shared with me, the one that stuck with me the most was when he described how he had met Alabama’s legendary football coach Nick Saban. Tuscaloosa had just been ravaged by a massive tornado and this Reverend’s response was to load up a U-Haul and fill it with supplies and drive it right into the heart of the recovery. Well, the First African Baptist Church did just that and when they arrived in Tuscaloosa, Nick Saban was waiting for them with a handful of young men from the football team ready to unload this truck. This story was told to me when we were talking about college football and the Reverend was seeking to validate why Coach Saban was an incredible man. But the story was really told to me because it planted a seed in the back of my mind, so that when I was on my knees, in the middle of my kitchen, asking God to use me to help the victims of America’s most recent tornado disaster, that previous indiscriminate act of kindness was the action my heart set on.
When the images, videos, news of the Quad-State Tornado started flooding my news feed I was crushed. So much devastation, so much loss, and right before Christmas. I started sharing links to the organizations I knew were already on the ground. And I prayed for God to give me guidance. I prayed for God to use us to do something bold. In the middle of my kitchen floor, with my arms lifted high, I heard the whisper of the Holy Spirit say “Go,” and due to God’s design I knew what ‘go’ meant. And playing in the background (because I always have good Christian music playing in the background) was Jon Reddick’s masterpiece, “God, Turn It Around.” In the middle of that song, Reddick drops into an amble and sings: “He is up to something. He is up to something. God is doing something. Right now.” The middle of that song would be the rally call for our miracle. So four days after the Quad-State Tornado tore through 250 miles of God’s country, we were going to rent a U-Haul, fill it full of supplies, and bring the people of Mayfield, Kentucky everything they needed. I thought God was going to use this miracle to springboard the mission of Common Sense REBORN into the spotlight. But our miracle was coming in the middle of an entire nation that stepped forward. Our miracle, while it will provide later down the road, was almost too little, too late. Like everything in this act, God provided us just the right place at just the right time.
My plan had three parts, a donation drive through my local church, a donation drive through my place of employment, and a GoFundMe to pay for the trip and for us to have an abundance of funds to donate one we got to Kentucky. The GoFundMe was placed at just $2,000. I thought by the end of the first day we would have blown that number away. Boy, was I wrong. To date, as the end of the campaign comes to a slow-halt, the amount of money raised sits at around 60% of the goal.
This crazy, rash, “impulsive compassion” as I called it was still a truly, truly miraculous experience. As a middle-aged man, putting my faith into action for the first time, I had an acute sense of God working around me. There were so many little nuances in this miracle that could only be designed by God. When no truck rental company would budge on their prices or discounts, I locked in a truck the day before it was to be picked up, as all the rentals in our immediate area had suddenly vanished in less than 48-hours. A $400 quote by Penske turned into $1200 in that same time frame. But U-Haul managed to find us a truck, or so we thought. When we went to pick it up, that truck had been double booked and might not even be available. So a day before we were supposed to have a truck ready to pack, there was no truck. I left one U-Haul location, got on the phone with U-Haul, expressing my frustration and why we needed a truck. The kind lady at their corporate customer service center worked diligently to find a truck, this one just over the border of South Carolina. Picking up this truck was another miracle in the making. The U-Haul sales representative at this Hardeeville location told me during check-out that he had just finished cleaning this truck out. He had barely put it back in the system when U-Haul reserved it for us. And the truck wasn’t even supposed to be dropped at that location, it was supposed to go to Hilton Head but whoever the random previous renter had been, they had decided to drop it there. When I heard that I smiled because I knew why the truck was there: it was all part of the miracle, dropped off in the middle of the road between Savannah and Hilton Head. And picking up the U-Haul in South Carolina put me just down the road from one of my watch Sergeants who had a donation to give me. We were supposed to meet at the precinct that night, but he was not going to be able to make that trip. He had called me on the way to SC, and was excited to hear I was headed that way, because that was the same way he was heading. He stopped in while I was finishing the paperwork on the rental. He gave me an envelope of cash. He would donate $500 himself towards the rental of the truck. At that point, with his donation, we had just enough to cover the U-Haul rental, but we wanted to do more with the cash, we wanted to give it to someone in need in Kentucky.
But to me, this was just a powerful example of how the Holy Spirit moves. This entire action was not some deep predestined action in my life. This was all random acts of kindness, all directed and steered by the Holy Spirit. For every time it seemed like we were not going to have the results we were seeking, God provided a way. This miracle proved that where God leads, God truly, truly provides. We were not the breakthrough miracle the people of Kentucky needed, but we were just about the last supply drop-off before every town stated they were out of room. As we got closer to our collection day, the Mayfield Mayor and Chief-of-Police said they were out of room for material donations. But in the middle of the night, while I was stressing about where we would take a truck full of donations, I realized I had a personal connection in the area.
Facebook’s algorithms put an old high school youth group friend’s posts into my feed and I was able to reach out to this connection and she was able to direct us to a place where we were able to make our delivery. Kentucky has received so much love from the country, so quickly that when one person stated they were still taking donations, not to listen to the news, twenty hours later they were saying they could not take anymore donations, they needed time to sort and organize all that came pouring in.
God used this miracle to humble me and remind me that I’m long overdue to stepping out in faith to provide for those in need. We were met with praise and appreciation from the handful of loving hearts from Compassion Christian Church and the Savannah Police Department. Our trip was mostly covered as the GoFundMe surged after a local news reporter somehow caught wind of what we were doing and “randomly” messaged Mrs. Z on Facebook and put a story out. Big hearts donated big amounts and we left from the Savannah area with the trip fully funded. I thought we were going to be met with a parade of thanks and gratitude in Princeton, KY. When we reached our intended destination, we found ourselves in the middle of a small town bustling with activity, at an empty church parking lot, unsure if we were even in the right place.
Well, a few phone calls later and we were directed to a random garage that was set up as an “overflow collection point.” This double bay garage was already half-full of donations, in the middle of the road between Mayfield and Bowling Green. In the middle of a beautiful winter day in December, we found our little family unloading the truck all alone, but that was the best miracle of all. We had so much fun. Our kids were able to be themselves. Our daughter showed what a hard-working, powerful young lady she is growing into, and our son was his normal silly self, sliding down the ramp of the truck in an empty cardboard box. In the middle of the day, in the middle of our journey, in the middle of America’s response to devastation and destruction, I found my miracle. It was living out our faith as a family for the very first time, and growing closer as a family through all of it.
This is the middle of this story, and the rest I will share tomorrow.