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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Study in Canada: Timely Provisions

While having a lot of spending money or ignoring price tags had never been a part of my life, neither had wondering from where my rent money would come. I always worked hard and budgeted carefully. I did the same this first year in Canada, too, but I still never knew from where my provisions might come. I found it unnerving, at first; but then, I saw it as the adventure it really was. Ruth had been absolutely right! God does have other ways to provide for me, when I am not allowed to hold a job.

Receiving money I hadn’t earned hacked away at my pride, a hard lesson for an independent twenty-three -year-old. When second semester fees loomed on the horizon, I thought I’d come to the end of my time at the school. I prayed my usual, “Father, it’s time for another bit of cash…and this is a big lot I need just now…so I’m here; tell me what to do, please.” I prayed, but tried to prepare myself, mentally, to pack my bags, in case Father God had planned for only one semester.

Then, out of the blue, Dr. G., the professor in charge of the bookstore, approached me. “Sojourner, I’m in need of someone to help manage the bookstore second semester. I have one student, but it is taking more time than she is able to give this coming semester. I wondered if you’d be interested in being a co-assistant manager.”

Wow, would I! That’s like asking a ten-year-old if he’d like to be the candy store’s taste tester. Of course, I would! “I’d really like to help; I just love books. The only thing is that I’m an American, and not allowed to work in Canada.”

A hearty laugh escaped the giant of a man. “That works out just fine, then, because we don’t have  it in the budget to pay you any money. However, I’m authorized  to offer you a scholarship for second semester fees. If you’ll help with the bookstore, you won’t need to pay tuition. How about it, interested?”

And, that’s how the Lord chose to provide the huge sum of cash I needed right away. Of course, as was the case for the entire year, there was still the money needed to live.

All-too-many times, the provision came as the month drew to a close…the eleventh hour, the Bible calls it. Located in one corner of the lounge area, known as the Student Commons, was a large, rectangular structure, full of student and faculty cubbie holes. It was here that mail from home was received, as well as notes from other students or faculty. I had not mentioned any financial need to the folks back home, but a check was occasionally included in a letter of encouragement. Naturally, I diligently checked my cubbie hole for mail, at least, once a day…and more often during the last week of the month. One just never knew if a stray letter from friends or family may show up, you know? A few times an envelope bearing my name only, had a single Canadian bank note enclosed with a Scripture or “God asked me to give this to you,” written on a small slip of paper. The handwriting was always different; I never knew from whom the gift had come.

I hadn’t realized how much I’d come to count on this one avenue for provision, until the month it didn’t come. God is so much more creative than I gave him credit for, really. If only I’d grasped that truth, I’d have saved myself a lot of anxious hours and sleepless nights!

At last, it happened. The rent was due. We’d moved from the meals provided home after the first month in order to be closer to campus, and now we needed to buy groceries. Where was the money? Every day that last week of the month, I checked the mailbox in the Student Commons. Between classes, during every break, I reached into an empty box. My prayers went from fervent to desperate.

Distractedly ambling down the corridor, I noticed Dr. H. leaving his office as I approached. “Good morning, Dr. H.” My greeting was returned as I passed the President of the school.

A few seconds later, I heard the accented call of my name and froze. “Sojourner, would you please step into my office?”

The voice was, very clearly, that of Dr. H. What in the world could he want with me? Of course, my first thoughts were of something I might have done wrong, like any kid called to the principal’s office, right? I tried to smile as I crossed the threshold to his functional but not elaborately appointed office. Naturally, I found breathing a bit more difficult than I had the previous moment, as my heart rate accelerated.

“Yes Sir, you wanted to see me?” I stood before his desk, only taking a seat when indicated to do so.

“How are you finding things here, Sojourner?” Dr. H. tapped his steepled fingers and leaned forward as he awaited my answer.

“Oh, it’s great, Dr. H. Well, it’s a ton of work, of course, but I’m really learning a lot. The faculty makes a real effort to see that we understand, and they’re available outside of class, too.” Okay, so maybe I’m not in trouble. Maybe he’s polling the students to see if everything works for them, or changes are needed?

“Splendid, splendid. And, how are you managing with your funds just now, Sojourner?”

I tried not to gasp at his question, but it’s hard to disguise the automatic tensing of body muscles. The question was so totally unexpected. Had I missed a payment of some kind? Silently, I mentally scrolled through the possibilities, but came up blank; I had not a clue why Dr.H. had asked. The gentle, British man of dignity relaxed his hands and leaned back into his chair, waiting.

“Oh, well, uh, I can say that God has always supplied what I needed this year. I’m sure He will now, too, but…things are a bit tight at the moment, Sir. You see the rent is due, and we are in need of groceries.” I reached into my pocket and pulled out an old penny. “I still have this penny, though, so I’m not totally broke.”

A slight smile spread across the President’s kind face. I watched as Dr. H. slid his chair away from the desk so he could open the center drawer. I tried to sort out the real reason for this unexpected meeting. Out came his hand, holding a white business envelope, which he laid before him on the desk.

“I had finished asking the Lord something but hadn’t an answer to my question. When you saw me just now, I had decided to walk over to ask Ruth, who knows all of the students quite well.” I nodded, intrigued by the President’s words. “However, when I saw you in the corridor, I sensed I had my answer. A benefactor of our program for graduate students gave me a bit of money, asking me to pass it along to a student of my choice. I know little of the financial situation of individual students, of course, so I simply waited on our Lord to show me to whom I should give this gift.”

My heart was really racing now! I was dumbfounded and couldn’t have spoken, if he’d asked me anything. Dr. H. lifted the envelop from his desk and handed it to me.

“Here you are, Sojourner. Pay your rent, buy some groceries, and take a bit to enjoy yourself.” Dr. H. smiled as I took the envelope from his hand. Tears welled up and toppled over onto my heat-filled cheeks.

“Thank you, Dr. H. I…I…I don’t know what else to say. Thank you.”

“There, there now. You’re most welcome.” Dr. H. stood and it was apparent the meeting had ended. Taking his outstretched hand, I shook it and left the office.

I wanted to find Cheryl to share the great news with her. She’d been longing to go to a recital of the very man whose name appeared on all of her lesson books as she learned to play the flute. He’d be in town in a couple of weeks but, until now, it was a dream we could not afford.

We carefully, calculated what remained after our household budget needs had been met. To my great joy, there was enough for two tickets to the recital, plus a hamburger supper at a restaurant.

It was a fabulous evening out. Cheryl delighted in the after-recital, personal visit she had with the famous flutist, as he allowed time with the audience.

For the entire school year, my Heavenly Father God provided just what I needed, just when I needed it, and a little bit more just for fun. Little wonder I trust Him and love Him so!

At that time, I had no idea that God was preparing me to be a fulltime, career missionary in a foreign land. The reminder of this precious year of His provision was all I needed to say Yes to God’s call on my life. I’ve lived just as described in this post for the past twenty-nine years. God has never, ever let me down. As Ruth said when I met her the first day of school, “God is faithful to do His part; you be faithful to do yours.” I have and so has God!

****Study in Canada: Dental Distress…Next Post

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