We love to hear what God is doing in Southern Illinois! Here’s a story sent to us by one of our members, Jill Betts:
I have been struggling with my faith the last few months – well, if I am being honest, the last couple of years. My family has experienced financial difficulties, job loss, and death. Through all of these struggles, I did not seek God. I instead tried to control almost every single struggle on my own. I was angry at God and felt like He was not near me or my family. I have a wonderful husband who would pray and often seek godly counsel. He would always try to encourage me, but I was just not receptive to it. I know my lack of faith has caused my marriage to suffer and has cost my family a great deal of opportunity and blessings from others. This has been a tough pill for me (as the fixer, and control freak) to swallow.
Back in January, my daughter’s dad and his fiancé came to visit. He noticed the tree near my mailbox had started to rot. He cut trees down for a living, so I knew if he was concerned I should be too. We had talked about him cutting that down this spring because he was worried about the kids playing near it. Unfortunately, a few months later he passed away. I knew cutting down that tree was something we just could not afford at the moment. So, instead of asking for help, I basically just ignored it.
Fast forward to Memorial Day weekend. My family and I were visiting my family in Northern Illinois. I had heard there was going to be a pretty major storm back home with significantly high winds. I remember thinking ‘Good Lord, I hope that tree doesn’t fall on the house.’ On Saturday, I asked a friend to drive by and check on our house to see if there had been any damage. It was dark out, but she said she didn’t notice anything…just lots of sticks and leaves. The next afternoon, she drove by again and I received some pictures from her of that rotten tree. It was completely uprooted and leaning on a fairly small limb of a fairly large tree. I panicked. I was frustrated. I showed my husband, Nate, who assured me everything would be okay, but I wondered how it could turn out okay. His hours had been cut and he is due to be laid off at the end of June. Money was not going to fall from the sky so we could pay someone to cut down our tree. My dad had recommended seeing if the church had a disaster relief team or someone who knew how to cut a tree down. I thought, ‘Yeah, maybe. But who’s going to want to help little old me?’
When we returned home I called the city, the church, and the phone company since the tree was fairly close to their lines. The city said they could not cut it down, but they would pick up the limbs when it was done. There was a gentleman at Cornerstone who offered to come look at the tree, but I had been waiting for the phone company to come take a look so we held off. Within the next week, the phone company came and also said they wouldn’t be taking it down.
I finally decided to call the gentleman from church and he was at my house within an hour to take a look at it. I remember giving him directions the week prior but hadn’t reminded him how to get here. He pulled over when he got into town to call a friend who he thought might know where I lived. As they were talking he looked up and noticed my tree. God had literally led him RIGHT HERE in front of my house. Wow! There are not too many times I am left speechless, but this was definitely one of those times. We chatted for a bit, he checked out the tree, and took some pictures. He was pretty confident he could get it down. (He was pretty excited to get to use his chainsaw!) He told me he’d get in touch with me about coming over that weekend and went on his way.
A few hours later, a tree service came by. This had actually happened quite frequently since it’s hard not to notice an uprooted tree needing to be cut down. He threw around some prices and what he thought needed to be done. I told him I appreciated it but that we just couldn’t afford to hire someone right now and we had a gentleman from our church coming over that weekend to cut it down for us. His eyes got big and he told me how concerned he was because of how unpredictable storm trees were. He took me to the tree and told me all the possible things that could go wrong. He showed me where to have our friend from church climb and where not to climb, where to cut and where not to cut. But, he was still concerned that no matter where you cut the tree, it was so unstable on the inside that it could easily crack and tumble over right on top of them. At first, I thought he was just trying to scare me into hiring him. I was gracious and told him I appreciated his advice and I would be sure to share his concerns with our friend from church. He went to get in his truck and just stood there. He said, “You guys seem like nice people, don’t be surprised if I show up in my bucket truck this week and cut it down.” I told him that was very thoughtful but reminded him I was unable to pay him. He told me he understood and to be very careful and went on his way. Not 10 minutes later, the man returned and got in his bucket truck. I thought, “Maybe this man is just checking it out. Surely he isn’t going to actually cut it down.” My daughter and I sat and watched from our office window and, sure enough, we heard a chainsaw start up. I watched him cut down a few limbs and then watched the tree completely fall over, exactly how he said it would. I was stunned. I immediately started thinking…that could have easily crushed my husband or the gentleman from Cornerstone. I met him outside when he was finished and couldn’t thank him enough. He said he had left my house with a pit in his stomach and just a sick feeling that someone was either going to die or wind up in the hospital seriously injured. There I was, standing speechless in my driveway, again.
I later called the gentleman from church to fill him in on what had happened. He was amazed but did not seem surprised. He told me, “Wow! God has had His hand in this the whole time.” I briefly mentioned how I had been struggling with my faith and had been so discouraged with the stress of my husband losing his job. He let me know the church had all prayed for our family in their prayer meeting that morning and that he truly believed God was going to see this through and not to worry about Nate’s job. God would provide. I was moved to tears. Until that morning, this man was a complete stranger and here he was encouraging me just as a close friend would do. It touched my heart and reminded me that our church really is a family. They pray for us, love us despite our shortcomings, encourage us, and help us in our time of need. He said he would still be by to cut up the tree and help make sure all the trimmings were where the city could pick them up. After I hung up from that phone conversation, I again just sat there…speechless. I often fill out a prayer card and always receive a postcard with everyone’s signatures who were at that week’s prayer meeting. Until that moment, I had never really understood just how loved we were. How those people TRULY pray for us. They don’t just sit around a table and say a “general prayer” while sifting through communication cards. They take each request and truly, deeply pray for us. In a church our size, it made me feel like I wasn’t just a number. I wasn’t just someone who sat in the back on Sundays and slipped out in a hurry to avoid conversation. I felt loved and cared about. I felt like family.
Fast forward to the following Saturday. The gentleman from Cornerstone worked with my husband to cut up that old tree. I’d see them take breaks every so often and noticed they would be in deep conversation, praying, or laughing. Those conversations were invaluable to my husband. I know he left feeling encouraged and incredibly touched by this man’s testimony, his faith in God, and his servant’s heart. There was one large log left to cut and the chainsaw died. He added some gas and it wouldn’t turn on, so he fiddled with it and still couldn’t get it to come on. They decided to take another break. Again, I saw them pray, chat, and just enjoy each other’s company. After their break, he tried turning that chainsaw on one last time. It kicked on. They cheered. I stood there in my driveway watching. I was speechless, yet again.
They finished up and we chatted for a little bit. We all agreed this was a story that needed to be shared. The gentleman from church just had one request, that he remain anonymous. This man wanted to give God all the glory and, in my opinion, he is the definition of a true servant of God. His servant heart really touched me and still leaves me feeling speechless. So here I am, with more firewood than I know what to do with. Firewood that will allow us to have fellowship with our family and friends in our back yard. My husband and I have gained a new friendship. God has moved me in a way I just can’t describe and restored my faith in Him. I firmly believe God used this storm to bring me back to Him. He worked every detail so meticulously and so beautifully. He loves me THAT much. I may still be a little broken and I still have struggles that I know I will face, but I no longer feel the need to face anything on my own. My trust and my hope is in God. I know that, ultimately, He works all things together for good. Even when we can’t see it and don’t understand it, we just have to remain faithful and trust Him.