When Ministry Takes an Unexpected Detour

Kathy Howard

Just before the outbreak of WWI, Peter Zine fled what had been Ukraine with nothing but the clothes on his back.

Eventually making his way to Connecticut, Peter met a young Ukrainian woman named Julia. They fell in love, married, and settled into a humble home in a small Ukrainian neighborhood in East Hartford. Their life was simple but happy.

Then the stock market crashed in 1929, ushering in the most severe economic downturn the industrialized world has ever experienced. During America’s Great Depression, millions lost jobs, homes, and farms. In desperation, able-bodied men took to the roads, rails, and rivers, moving from one town to the next in search of work.

Many of these traveling, hard-working hoboes passed by the Zines’ home. The Zines didn’t have much, but when individuals knocked on the door begging for food, they were never turned away. Peter gave them a bowl of oatmeal and sat with them on the porch.

The oatmeal temporarily satisfied the hoboes’ hunger, but Peter knew their spiritual hunger was far greater. While they ate, Peter read Scripture about Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross. Though Peter was not a preacher, nor eloquent, he knew the saving power of God’s Word (Isaiah 55:10-11).

Circumstances had changed for Peter Zine. But he used what God provided to minister to those God brought. He served hoboes with oatmeal and the gospel.

Like the Great Depression, the pandemic has changed our world, lives, and ministries in significant ways. But COVID did not surprise God. He didn’t throw up His hands and say, “Well, I guess I’ll have to change my plans.” God’s will for the world and His eternal purposes for you have not changed.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).

4 Tips for Finding & Walking God’s “Unexpected” Path

Life rarely turns out just as we expect. But God’s “unexpected” way is always better. We can learn to embrace God’s path by following the apostle Paul’s example. After meeting Jesus, his life took off on a totally different trajectory.

1. Spend Extra Time with God —

After his salvation, Paul spent an extended time in Arabia (Galatians 1:11-18). Many scholars believe Paul spent time alone with God, studying and praying. Paul returned fully aligned with God’s plan.

2. Find Contentment in Your Present Circumstances —

God doesn’t promise a trouble-free life. But, as Paul experienced, God promises to provide contentment through Jesus’ strength no matter our circumstances (Philippians 4:13).

3. Follow the Holy Spirit’s Direction —

Paul held his plans loosely. During his second missionary journey, Paul planned to go a specific direction, but quickly followed the Spirit’s mid-journey redirection (Acts 16:6-10). God wants us to know His will. He will guide us if we wait, ask, and listen.

4. Embrace God’s New Opportunities —

Paul longed to share Jesus in the synagogues and marketplaces of Rome. But God sent him as a prisoner, confined to house arrest. Instead of going to the people, God brought great numbers of people to Paul (Acts 28:16-25, 30-31).

Yes, COVID closed many doors. But God has opened many new doors of opportunity. Embrace the new opportunities God has made available because of COVID.

A former “cultural Christian,” Kathy Howard now has a contagious passion for God’s Word. Kathy is a Bible teacher, author, and women’s event speaker. Find free resources at: www.KathyHoward.org. The Zines’ story is told in Kathy’s new devotional, Heirloom (Tyndale, September 2021).

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