When Kal changed the location of our coffee meeting from Starbucks to Wagner Hills – a recovery home for men with addictions – I was fine with that. It was that day in March that I met Jack. He was the speaker at the chapel that morning and he structured his whole testimony around the theme of identity. This was interesting to me as we were planning an upcoming retreat (Wonderfully Made) in partnership with Barnabas on the same theme.
Jack’s testimony was tragic and riveting. Drugs and alcohol addictions nearly took his life. He was at the end of his rope when he arrived at Wagner Hills in the fall of 2021. Now he was grateful and hopeful. I was surprised that he chose to sit at my table right beside me, and as we ate lunch I found myself and Kal together inviting Jack to attend a men’s retreat on Pender Island. He immediately expressed interest and later registered.
A few days before the men’s retreat, one of those coming texted me and asked if there was room for a Ukrainian refugee? I said “of course,” and knowing that Wasim (our Pakistani friend and amazing chef) was also coming piqued my curiosity as to what God had prepared for us. We came to the ferry terminal in 3 trucks and met each other on the ferry. 14 of us. It was easy to see that Valentyne (Ukrainian man) was uncomfortable. I invited him to eat lunch beside Jack and I and within seconds the two of them were speaking fluent polish! Valentyne’s face lit up as he started smiling and sharing his story with Jack – and with me, since we had a Polish translator! A wave of emotion swept over me, an awareness that God was with us and once again was orchestrating something beautiful right before our eyes.
During the weekend we were able to hear Wasim’s incredible story of escaping what looked like certain death in Pakistan. We also heard remarkable stories from Jack’s journey. And to listen to Valentyne’s account of how both he and his wife’s families escaped the Ukraine during this horrible war was quite amazing. Our hearts were impacted deeply. As the retreat was coming to a close I won’t forget Valentyne’s honest words to us when he said, “I didn’t want to come on this retreat. Why would I want to spend a weekend with men I don’t know, who speak a language I don’t know? Then he smiled as he told us his mother-in-law was the one who encouraged him to come, “Go. God has something for you.”
Call it synchronicity. I like to think of it as God’s intimate care. We’ve experienced things like this before when circumstances come together in remarkable ways. It’s a humbling experience. As we prepared for this retreat, none of us knew we would need a Polish translator, and that God would provide it in our new friend Jack.