Dreams have always intrigued me. Unlike other fields of science which are based on well established facts, oneirology (the scientific study of dreams) seems overly speculative. In college I read about dream interpretation, but concluded that the secular world lacks understanding of the role that the spiritual world plays in our altered state of consciousness during sleep.
About ten years ago, when I began rediscovering my Christian faith, I found myself drawn to the bible stories which describe instances when the Lord revealed something significant to someone in a dream. How would scientists explain Joseph's dream, described in the book of Genesis, in which he foresaw his brothers bowing down to him or his accurate prediction that Egypt would experience a grave famine? Countless times in my life I've had people explain situations in which they had a dream that later happened in real life exactly as it had in their sleep. The brain is so complex and the spiritual world is so far beyond our understanding that I've given up trying to make sense of it all. My only hope at gleaning a bit of insight comes from my faith that the Lord will give me the wisdom I need to discern the spirits.
Several months ago I awoke abruptly with a clear vision of what the Lord wanted my family and me to do.
I had just had a dream in which we had been charged with the task of creating a mobile evangelization unit; a large vehicle that would carry many people along with religious items that could help others grow in their faith (bibles, rosaries, artwork, prayer cards) and material items (water, food, clothing, medicine) to help alleviate their physical suffering. My profound awareness was bitter-sweet. Having bicycles as our primary means of transportation was challenging, but it was also liberating. By the very nature of it's design, bike riding requires one to move through life at a slower pace, which we appreciate. It also limits the range of one's activities, which is something we need. My inclination has always been to "go, go, go" and I delight in the idea of helping as many people as possible in any set amount of time, but that's not always what's best for my family.
After talking with Chris about my dream and praying together about it's meaning we decided to reach out to some of our mission partners for help. We trusted what St. Luke says in the book of Acts, "If this endeavor is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy it." (5:38-39) Upon receiving our requests, our amazing team of supporters began donating to FMC on behalf of our MEU (mobile evangelization unit). Feeling confident that this dream was from God, we began searching for the perfect vehicle.
When Katelyn and I began searching the classified - using two different computers - we found the exact same shuttle bus at the exact same moment. It seemed like divine providence, so we called... and found out that the vehicle has already been sold. We continued searching, but found nothing noteworthy. Later that day, when we headed out to do our ministry, we passed another 22 passenger shuttle bus for sale. We arranged to take it for a test drive, but Chris felt leery because that particular model year is known for having trouble with the engine. As a family, we talked and prayed and prayed and talked. Unsure as to what we should do Chris told the Lord, "We surrender completely to You. If this is the vehicle we're supposed to have, please lay Your hands upon it and make everything work perfectly. If this is not the vehicle we're supposed to have, please make that crystal clear."
While we were out for a test drive the engine in the shuttle bus seized up. The owner's son-in-law came to our rescue by spraying Armor All into the air intake, which allowed it to start back up. Less than a mile down the road the engine turned itself off once again and emitted odors which indicated there are a whole lot of problems that we had no interest in buying. We immediately offered prayers of thanksgiving that the Lord had made it SO abundantly clear that this was NOT the vehicle that He had in mind for us.
When we returned home Chris prayed for the Lord's direction and then dove headfirst into the classifieds. Immediately he came across a 15-passenger church van that he thought would be perfect for our family. He sent the owner a message which explained who we are and why we needed this particular vehicle. We later learned that although Pastor Jerry had received over 100 inquiries within the first hour of his posting, the Holy Spirit guided him to ours and told him that he was supposed to sell us his van. Incredible!
Thanks to the unbelievable generosity of Team Carmody we were able to buy the vehicle a couple short weeks later.
Unfortunately, we weren't able to actually drive it for almost two months because of the difficulties we faced transferring the title, obtaining the necessary insurance and chauffers' licenses, which are required here in Puerto Rico.
The first thing we did was have the mechanic, who lives next door, address some basic issues that arise when a vehicle sits unused for an extended period of time.
He also rearranged the seats to create a living room of sorts.
When I went to the hardware store I found that there was only one type of storage bin available - and it was exactly the right dimensions to fit under the seats. If I had fifty choices, I would have chosen this one.... and yet it was the only one there. I couldn't help but laugh and thank God for working out the details.
Shortly after telling our kids about my dream, Jack said with certainty, “We need to paint whatever vehicle we get purple because purple is the color of royalty. We’re going to be taking Jesus to people and Jesus is royalty because He’s the King of the Universe.” So, we bought an inexpensive spray gun and painted our mobile evangelization unit purple.
Before doing anything else, we had to scrape all the old letters off which said the name of Pastor Jerry's Pentecostal church on the other side of the island.
I really appreciate how helpful our kids are anytime there is work to be done.
Then we had to sand it all... twice.
As we were sanding the van Chris patched the larger holes in the roof and along the windshield with a Bondo-like product so that we don't get quite so wet when it rains.
Our first task was to cover everything with newspaper that we didn't want purple. Thankfully we had lots of help because it was a big task.
While we were working, black storm clouds began to darken the sky. Logic says that we should have cleaned up, covered the van with a tarp, and called it a day because painting in the rain doesn't usually go so well. But... faith has nothing to do with logic, so instead of calling it quits, we got our our bibles and began reciting Psalm 91, which is a promise of God's protection.
Our faith in proclaiming Psalm 91 comes from other experiences we've had whereby we avoided misfortune as long as we continued shouting the Lord's praises for all to hear. I am forever thankful for a friend of mine who gave me a book about Psalm 91 and the proven power that exists when people recite it as a way to petition the Lord for His protection. This will forever be a practice in our family!!
For over 2 hours we took turns reading Psalm 91 over...and over...and over again.
Since the rains stayed away, we were able to put the primer on as well as two coats of purple paint before nightfall.
Everyone took a turn with the spray gun, which means it wasn't going to look like a professional paint job, but we were certain that God wouldn't mind.
The following day we finished painting the van and also applied a couple coats of a clear protective sealant.
The rain clouds continued to loom overhead, so we busted out our bibles and continued proclaiming victory in the name of Jesus Christ as we recited Psalm 91.
Jack and Anna said that the best part of the whole project was getting to tear off all the newspaper and see the final product.
We're delighted to report that the Lord kept the rain away from our house and our van even though it rained in other parts of the community.
The next task was to decorate the outside so that our van was a mobile billboard for Jesus. We considered many different options, but ended up using duck tape just like we did in Peru.
As an ex-math teacher who struggles against type-A personality tendencies, one may assume that I would have assessed how many linear feet of tape we had, written out the phrases for each side of the van and then calculated the appropriate sizes for each message, but this isn't at all how it happened. I sat next to the van and said a prayer asking the Lord to be in control. I told Him that I just wanted to be an instrument in His hands and begged that He would help me to be docile. I asked Him what each side of the van was supposed to say and began ripping off little pieces of tape to create those phrases.
As I was finishing up the last letter in the colorful tape I realized that I had exactly the right amount.
When I headed to the back of the van to create "Viva Cristo Rey", which translates to "Long Live Christ the King", I glanced down at the roll of gold tape and doubted that I'd have enough, but decided to proceed in faith. As I finished the letter "E" in the word "Rey" my tape ran out. Feeling bummed out I thought about my options. How could I change things up to give me more tape? I knew that if I started peeling tape off the van that those pieces would never stick well again. I've learned to stop and pray anytime I encounter a difficult situation. As I was praying I remembered that there was a tiny little bit left on the roll that I used to do the hood which I thought was still inside the van. I quickly opened the door and sure enough, there sat a roll of gold tape with about seven inches left for me to make the "Y". When I got done I was thrilled that the Lord gave me the perfect amount of tape to create the sayings that He wanted; however, I couldn't help but feeling a bit disappointed that the "Y" was so ugly.
"Lord, why couldn't you have given me just a little bit more so that the Y could have matched all the other letters?" I asked. Immediately I started smiling as the thought popped in my mind, "Karen, the Lord will always give you what you need to do His work. You may not be able to do it the way that you think it should be done, but you'll always have what you need to do it the way that He knows it should be done." The next time we were at the store that sells duck tape, which is an hour away, I considered buying more gold tape so that I could fix the "Y". Surprise, surprise, there was no gold tape left. "OK, Lord, I get it." I remember saying to myself. "The 'Y' is supposed to stay just as it is to remind me that You are in control, not me!"
Here are some photos of the final product:
Thanks to the unmatched generosity of Team Carmody, we have been able to stock our bins with bibles (in both English and Spanish), rosaries, medical supplies, beautifully painted wooden crosses and so much more. As we drive around town we are a mobile billboard for Jesus and stop whenever we see folks in need. We've been able to transport people, their belongings, and even a wheelchair that we found for a guy that has trouble walking.
We didn't really want a vehicle because they're such a large expense and require so much maintenance, but the Lord made it clear that He wanted us to have this van to do the work that He brought us here to do. We are eternally grateful for all those that have donated for this project because through each person's "yes" the Lord's will may be done!
Please pray for our docility as we continue to seek the Lord's will for us and our big purple mobile evangelization unit. May God bless you in abundance this day. Love, Karen
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