Sorry for the length, but the blessings are in the details.
Last month we received some disturbing news. Several years ago, while on staff at Calvary Baptist Church in Middleburg, FL, we purchased a house. When we went to the mission field we rented it out so that we could continue making the monthly payments. Such has been the case to this day. The disturbing news was that the most recent tenant had packed up and disappeared, and had left the house a total disaster.
The property management company that we had been using told us that the entire interior needed to be painted (among other things) before it could be rented out again. We immediately called our ‘go-to’ man in that area that has helped us several times with the property. After viewing the property he called us back and conveyed the true state of the house. “Brother,” he said, “there is so much that has to be done to this house before I can even paint it. You really need to see it.”
That night Sandra and I prayed about the situation and asked God for wisdom in handling it. The following is the incredible story of how God answered our prayer and how he takes care of us.
Knowing how much it would cost for the labor alone for just the painting, we decided to look at a plane ticket for me to go and do the work myself. To our amazement, we found a ticket for $650 round-trip, with only 2 days anticipation (normal prices are around $1,200)! We prayed about it again and then bought the ticket.
In the airplane, I had this thought, “I have no tools, no money, no vehicle, and no phone. Lord, I’m going to need your help.” Little did I know how He had already begun to line things up for me.
My plane landed in Jacksonville at about 11:00 PM (after 25.5 hours of travel time), and I was picked up by Pastor Anthony Jones. He brought me back to his house where I slept in the guest room. The next morning Pastor Jones gathered up some of his painting tools for me and took me to our house.
As we turned on to the road that leads to our house, we noticed something very interesting. In my front yard, piled about 4-5 feet high, were the cuttings of the neighbor’s palm trees. “Well, that wasn’t there when I came by last.” said Bro. Jones. He dropped me off with the tools he had let me borrow and said, “Good luck, brother.” “Well,” I thought “at least the plane ticket was cheap and now have a few tools.”
I managed to find a way to the front door and went in. Bro. Jones was correct when he told me that I needed to see the house for myself. The walls were half-way painted all through the house. Apparently, the previous tenants had painted the house in some very interesting colors (lime green bathroom, dark brown master bed room, and Lightening McQueen Red and dark Blue in the other bedrooms). They tried to cover it up with white paint, but ran out half-way through the living room. Nothing was cut in or covered completely (the colors still shown through the white cover paint). The 3 bedrooms had carpet in them, but had been so destroyed that they were unusable and would have to be replaced. There were holes in the wall that needed to be patched, and a thick layer of dirt and animal hair that covered everything. On top of that, several of the doors were broken and off the hinges, and one door was missing entirely! I tried to go out the back door to see what the yard looked like, but couldn’t open it because it was blocked by something. I went back out the front door and around the house to find that the wooden fence separating my property from the neighbor’s had been cut down and was leaning up against my house!
I walked back to the front yard feeling a bit overwhelmed. Not only did I not have anything that I needed to do the work, now I was sure I would be short on time because of the amount of work to be done. It was at just that time that the next blessing came. A brown van rounded the corner and I saw the silhouette of someone waving at me from inside. I didn’t recognize them, but I decided to wave back. After parking, the couple came quickly over to me asking if I were the owner of the house. I told them that I was, and that I was there to get the house rent-ready again. They introduced themselves as Damon and Glory, the owners of the house next door, and then assured me that the pile of palm trees in the front yard would be gone that morning. They were also responsible for the torn-down fence, and that they were going to be building a better fence between the properties. I assured them that I had no problem with the palm pile, or with the fence. They were quite relieved. Little did I know how God would be using them to help me over the next week.
I left Damon and Glory to their work and walked down the road to the Verizon store (about 5 blocks away). It always amazes me when returning to the States how spread out things are! When I finally got there they told me that they couldn’t get me the prepaid service that I needed, and that I needed to go to WalMart to get it. WalMart was another 5 blocks in the opposite direction, so I forgot about getting a phone and went back to the house to start working.
I decided to tear out the carpets first, it seemed like the easiest, quickest thing to do that I didn’t need to buy any materials for. After pulling out the first room, Glory came over and asked where I went. I told her that I had walked to the store, but that I still needed to go to another store. When she heard that, she said, “I didn’t know you were walking. You won’t be doing that again.” 5 minutes later, Damon came in to where I was working and told me to get in his truck and that we were going to WalMart. Thank you, Lord, for free transportation! I bought a phone with a month of service, bananas, PB&J, cereal, and a gallon of milk. We then went back to the house.
I was able to finish tearing the carpet out of all of the bedrooms that afternoon, but could not get the floors completely cleaned because the carpet pad had been glued with Liquid Nails all through each of the rooms. The 2-inch scraper was not going to be able to clear 450 square feet! “Lord, this sure would be a lot easier and quicker if I had the right tool.” I did what I could before it was time to get ready for the Wednesday evening service.
That evening Bro. Spencer Martin came by to pick me up for church. It was wonderful to see everyone from church again. Most of the people had no idea that I was in town and were surprised to see me. It’s always a good feeling when people smile when they see you! After the service, Bro. Henry Martin came up to me and said, “Brother, I hear that you might be needing a pickup truck while you are here.” He then handed me the keys to his truck. “Praise the Lord! Now I have a way to get the materials to fix my house.”
We had sold our van about 2 months ago to a family in the church, and they have since been paying it off monthly. The man who bought it came to me after the service with an idea. “If I let you make purchases on my credit card for your house, could we subtract that from the amount I owe you on the van?” We talked about it being more expensive for him that way because of the interest, but he was sure that he wanted to do it. “OK,” I said, and he handed me his credit card. Now I had a way to buy the things I needed for the house! “Not bad, Lord. I came here with no money, no vehicle, and no tools, and now I have all the things I need.”
After the service Nate, one of the teen guys, invited me out to Sonic for a quick bite to eat. He bought us a few sandwiches and drinks. It was great to catch up with him and what God has been doing in his life. As we finished up, he told me that he could come over and help me the following afternoon.
After Sonic, I went to Mrs. Lee’s house to pick up an air mattress that she let me borrow for the whole time that I was there. That was an incredible blessing! Not only did she give me the mattress, but the air pump that goes with it! Also, sheets and blankets, and towels. I went back home praising God for His goodness toward me.
The next morning I woke up and began the tedious task of scraping the glue off the cement with my 2-inch scraper. Not long after I had begun, the front door opened and in came Damon and Glory. They had brought me a cup (and thermos) of coffee, and a home-made egg, bacon, and cheese muffin. Cereal was going to have to wait! We ate breakfast, and then Glory said, “I almost forgot. I brought you something that might help you some.” Outside, leaning against the house, was the most beautiful sight for my blistered hands – a pole scraper! Now the job that was going to take me way too long would only take me about an hour. What a blessing! It was then that I remembered telling God the day before that I would like to have had the correct tool. He sent it to me, with breakfast and a cup of coffee! That morning I finished up preparing the bedroom floors for tile.
At lunch time I was about to open up the PB&J when Glory told me that Damon had been slow-roasting some chicken wings for lunch, and that they were almost ready. We ate as many wings as we could handle. What a blessing! Not only that, but when we were done with lunch Damon asked me if they could keep the left-overs in my refrigerator. “Sure,” I said. That became dinner for me as well as lunch.
After lunch I went to the tile store to get materials. I found a nice looking tile for the price that I was expecting to pay. I bought all the materials using my friend’s credit card from the night before! I know it is me paying for it out of my van sale, but it was great because I didn’t have the cash to be able to do it right then. God supplied my need!
When I got back to the house, Ryan, a young man that I had some influence with a few years ago, had arrived at the house to help me work. He helped me to unload all the tile (not a small job) and place it in the appropriate rooms. We spent the rest of the time talking, but it was a big blessing to me to have his company for a while. After he left I begun to lay the tile.
I got a little of the tiling done, and then Nate called me to come and pick him up. I lost some time in going to get him, but we gained it back and then some once we began working. We had a little system going before too long. Phil (Nate’s cousin) kept us supplied with tiles, I spread the mortar, and Nate laid the tiles. We worked until about 11:00 PM and then I took them home. I remember thinking, “Lord, I don’t have enough time to get this done.” That’s when He sent me help to do it quicker.
The next morning Damon and Glory walked in the front door again holding a cup of coffee and breakfast. After we ate, I continued to lay tile, and they continued with their fence project. They had been using the bathroom in my house because their house was occupied by tenants, but the bathroom was where I was keeping my dirty clothes. Sometime that morning, Glory came to me and told me that if I would put all of my dirty clothes in a bag, she would take it and do a wash for me. That was great news because I was currently on my last set of work clothes! Sometimes God answers prayers that we don’t know that we should be praying yet.
Lunch was once again provided by Damon and Glory, but this time it was hamburgers. We all sat in the shade and enjoyed lunch while we talked about things that had been going on in the neighborhood. One of the major issues that people had been having was with my other neighbor, who had a collection of different things in his front yard (and spilling onto my front yard). Several people, including Damon, had tried to get him to move his stuff because it was an eyesore to the neighborhood, but none of those attempts had produced anything other than conflict. I told Damon that I would try to talk to him about it, and, because it was my yard that his stuff was encroaching on, I might have a little more success. So after lunch I knocked on his door and asked him if he would be able to move his stuff. Without any real effort on my part, he simply agreed and told me that he would begin that weekend to move things. I returned to tell Damon and Glory what had just happened, and Damon couldn’t believe it. “What did you tell him?”, Damon said in disbelief. I told him that I simply asked. He still couldn’t believe it. It was then that Glory said something very interesting. “It seems to me that everywhere you go you have a cloud that follows you and makes sure that things happen correctly for you. I think your cloud’s name is Jesus.”
After lunch I went to go speak with the property management that had allowed the house to get to such a state. We had a difference of opinion about their responsibility in preventing what had happened. “I’m getting that you are not happy with the situation.” said the manager. What an understatement! “That’s correct.” I told him. We decided to terminate their contract and management of our house, but before I left he gave me some advice. “Steve,” he said, “you’ll never get a decent amount of rent out of that area. The best thing that you could do in your situation is simply stop paying your mortgage and let it be re-possessed. Your credit will go down, but you’ll recover. I don’t think that they’ll come after you for anything else.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! I was glad for the confirmation that God was giving me at that moment that I was doing the right thing by terminating our relationship. However, I did leave a bit discouraged as I went back to the house.
As I pulled up to the house, Glory came out from the side yard where they had been working. “I have some good news for you!” she said. “I just finished talking to Skip (a neighbor a few doors down) and he is listing his house for $1,100/month, and it is only a 2-bedroom house.” What an encouragement! Proverbs 25:11 talks about ‘a word fitly spoken’, those definitely were the words I needed to hear. I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening laying tile until I ran out of tile. I had almost finished laying all 3 bedrooms.
Saturday morning Glory and Damon walked through the front door again bringing me breakfast and a cup of coffee, but this time they also brought back my bag of freshly washed and folded clothes. Just in time! We ate and then I set off to buy the tile that I lacked and the grout. Upon returning I began to cut the tile pieces, something that I had never done. Bro. Jones had lent me a sliding tile cutter, but I didn’t know how to use it. I had tried to use it earlier, but ended up breaking the tile. But now I had to use it, there was no other way. It’s at times like these that I turn to YouTube. After watching a quick video, I learned what I was doing wrong, and then began to cut them correctly. To my surprise, they cut perfectly! To paraphrase Hosea 4:6, “My TILE are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Now equipped with the ‘how to’, I started cutting and laying the special tile pieces.
After lunch (again provided by Glory and Damon) Damon went to the hardware store and picked up a few tools that I needed for painting the interior of the house. When he got back, he told me that he had purchased the tools, and that they were his, but that I could use them for as long as I needed before giving them back to him. In other words, he bought the tools I needed just so that I could use them! God is again providing for my needs again.
That evening I went to visit with the Greens. It was great to see them again. Few people have been as good to us as they have. Since the day we arrived to Florida, the GG and Poppy Green have been like grandparents to our children. After the visit I went back to the house to continue cutting tile.
Sunday morning I awoke to a strange sound, like banging and breaking. From the window I saw that the neighbors were coming through on their promise to clean their yard. It’s one thing to have a promise, it’s quite another to see it followed through! After that surprise, I got ready for church.
This Sunday was Pastor Pledger’s 30th anniversary of being the pastor at Calvary Baptist Church. There was a guest preacher, and many of the people who hadn’t been there in a while were in attendance. After the morning service there was lunch-on-the-grounds. I saw that as yet another way that God was supplying for my needs. Since my first day of my trip, I hadn’t had to buy my own meal!
Back at the house I continued to cut tile. What a project! 5 days into the trip and I still hadn’t finished the first job! Just before the evening service I had finally finished cutting the last bit of tile. That was finally done, but there was still so much more to do. I had 1 week left, and still had to paint both the interior and exterior, and do various repairs.
After the evening church service I saw a few of the guys playing basketball in the parking lot. It has been a few years since I played, so I joined in. It was refreshing to get my mind off of the house for a while. I didn’t win (Bro. Matt won), but I still had a great time. After we talked for a while, I went back to the house.
Knowing that I had so much left to do, I decided to prepare the interior walls for painting. Because the walls were so dirty and dusty, they needed to be lightly scrubbed with sand-paper. By the time I finished that, I still wasn’t extremely tired, so I started to prime the walls. I hadn’t planned on it, but I ended up painting the whole night. Finally, at about 7 AM, I finished and then laid down for a few hours.
Monday morning (around 11) Glory and Damon showed up, again with coffee and breakfast. We had previously discussed the color that I was going to paint the house, and she had even given me a sample with the color I wanted, but I still hadn’t bought the paint. I really was dreading having to buy it because I know how much paint costs. While they finished up the last bit of work on their fence, I ran to Home Depot to get the paint. I took the sample with me so I could make sure to get the right color. Just as I walked into the store, Sandra called me. I told her what I was doing, and she suggested that I check the returned paint to see if I could get what I needed for a little cheaper. I didn’t think that it would work because of the amount of paint that I needed, but I went to check. Just as I thought, there were sever 1-gallon buckets of returned paint, but they were all different colors. It would have been cheaper, but I didn’t want a multi-colored house. Then the lady behind the counter pointed out a 5-gallon bucket of returned paint on the other side of the section. It was the only large bucket, so I didn’t get my hopes up. Out of the hundreds (maybe thousands) of colors available, it was the exact color on the sample that I brought with me! It was the only 5-gallon bucket of OOPS paint! And it was the right level of gloss (eggshell)! And it was only $30! I bought it and then called Sandra back to tell her the news. When I got back to the house, I showed Damon and Glory the paint, and they couldn’t believe it either. They had to each check out the color compared to the sample like I did. She said, “That’s your cloud working for you again.”
That morning I had to return the truck to Bro. Martin Monday afternoon, but Bro. Tim Pledger let me use his car for the day, so my transportation was still being provided. I picked up Nate again and we went to the house to begin painting the OOPS color. It was great to have his help again. We painted the entire house that day. He rolled the walls, while I cut the edges. On the way to Nate’s house, he laughed and told me, “Bro. Reyes, I hate painting.” I’m glad he was willing to help no matter what we were doing.
Tuesday morning I had to pick up Bro. Tim and take him to the church, because I still had his car. We got to fellowship for a while, and then I headed back to the house to begin painting the trim a bright white gloss. That took me the rest of the day! I eventually I traded Bro. Tim’s car back for Bro. Martin’s truck.
That evening I went to a special evening service preached by Bro. Fugate. It was an encouraging passage about the end of the world. Sound’s funny, but it was very true. I was able to talk with him for a short time after the service, but I wanted a little more of his time. I asked Pastor Pledger if he would mind if I took Bro. Fugate to the airport in the morning. We arranged the time and meeting place, then I want to the fellowship hall for another free meal. God is still providing for me.
Earlier that day, Pastor Jones called me to tell me that someone had given him 10 gallons of exterior paint that he couldn’t use, and he wanted to know if I needed it. If I thought 5 gallons for $30 was good, 10 gallons for FREE was better! Once again God is providing for my needs. I picked up the paint that evening at church.
I knew that I had to be up at 5 AM to go pick up Bro. Fugate, and since I really didn’t want to miss my appointment, I decided to work through the night again. This time it was grouting. The night passed quickly, and soon it was time to pick him up. The conversation was wonderful, however short. At the airport we prayed and then I went back home to sleep until about 10 AM.
Wednesday morning I had to go back into town to pick up another bag of grout because I ran out the night before. More grouting and some more painting filled the time until the evening church service. After the service, Aaron (another former teen that I had some influence with) asked me if there was anything that he could help me with the next morning. He said he would be showing up at about 8 AM. After leaving church, I went to visit with Mrs. Lee and her family for a while. They are another family that God has used over the years to be a tremendous blessing to our family.
Thursday morning at 8 AM, Aaron arrived and we began painting the outside of the house. I don’t know if either of us really knew what we were doing, but we were sure trying. It was great to have a chance to talk while we were getting things done. It was a great help to me because it was saving me time, which I quickly running out of.
After we finished with the front of the house we stepped inside the A/C for a quick break. It was then that we heard a knock on the door. Skip (the neighbor that had given us some encouraging news of rental prices in the area a few days ago) came in the house holding a strange looking machine. “Do you know what this is?” he asked, holding up his machine. He continued, “It’s a paint sprayer. I bought it a few weeks ago when I was painting my house. It helps because it gets into all the cracks that a roller cannot reach. It saved me a ton of time.” “Are you offering to lend it to me?” I asked. “No,” he replied, “I just wanted to show you that I had something that would help you a lot, but I really don’t want to let you use it.” He laughed as he said that he was just joking. “Sure I’ll let you borrow it. I actually have a little free time now and will paint it myself if you want.” He ended up painting more of the house in about an hour than Aaron and I had in the whole morning. When his time was up, he left the sprayer for me to use until I finished the whole project. God was once again supplying for my financial and time needs. The rest of the afternoon was spent picking up more things from the store, and finishing up some interior painting.
Friday morning I started painting and by the afternoon, I had finished painting the rest of the exterior, thanks to the sprayer that Skip had lent me. I also took some pictures of the house and listed it on the internet. Within just a few minutes I was getting calls on it. What a surprise and relief! It was wonderful to know that the price was good for the area. So much for the advise to let it go into foreclosure! By that evening, several people had come by to view the house.
Saturday morning was spent changing power outlets and light switches. I needed to work on the outside replacing some siding panels, but it was raining. So much for that. At noon I drove over to Pastor Jones’ church for a Father’s day luncheon. There were quite a few men there, and there was quite a bit of food. We listened to a great lesson on fatherhood taught by Bro. Chaffin from Calvary Baptist in Middleburg. What a blessing Pastor & Mrs. Jones have been to me and my family.
After the meeting it was still raining, so I continued to work on the power outlets. Those things took what seemed like forever to change out! I finally finished with them and began to take care of some smaller things. That evening Skip came over and I was able to get a whole lot of rental advise from him. He owns several properties and was full of good advise. Our conversation turned eventually to the Bible, and we spent a good while talking about spiritual things also. It was quite refreshing to be able to be able to express my thoughts completely and be understood fully. I’m not used to that any more. He eventually left and I got some sleep.
I must confess that Sunday morning was difficult for me. I knew that I needed to be in church, but I also knew that my time was up and I still had to clean the house, replace a section of the siding, and other small fixes. I went to church because it is right, but the whole time I was there it was difficult for me to focus on anything because of all I knew I had to do still. After the service I raced home and, to my surprise, found that some of the small fixes in the front of the property had been taken care of. I paused for a minute because I knew that I had not done them. The sun was out so I quickly changed and got ready to start working on the siding. Before I could get outside I heard someone walk into the house. “Skip, is that you?” I asked. He replied that it was. Then I asked, “Did you do some work on my house this morning?” “No,” he replied, “It was some random guy running through the neighborhood with a caulking gun.” I thanked him for his help, to which he replied, “Don’t you still have some work to do? Would you like some help?” We then started working on the siding together.
About half-way through the project, some other neighbors that I had spoken with a few days ago came over to where we were working carrying their own mops and buckets. “Could you use some help cleaning the house?” they asked. I couldn’t believe it. That was the only thing left on the list that I wouldn’t have time to do. They cleaned that house from top to bottom, and even inside and behind the refrigerator. I felt like Nehemiah being taken care of by the good hand of God, and like Elijah being fed by birds. It was almost too much to believe.
That night I preached the evening sermon at Calvary. The message was about God’s goodness, and how his power works through the obedient Christian. The people of the church were so encouraging to me, many of them placing money in our hand-shakes, and others giving me their blessing. After the service I met up with Dawson and Gabby (a former teen girl we had some influence on) who had recently celebrated their first year anniversary. We went to Sonic and had a shake. It was great to talk and get to know Dawson a little better.
Monday morning I had to return surplus materials, return borrowed vehicles and tools, and say ‘good-bye’s to loved ones. The house was finished! I left it in the hands of some friends to manage, and then drove away. Mrs. Green dropped me off at the airport, and 20 hours later I arrived back in Tacna, PERU.
There was one obstacle getting back to the house. A group of local truckers had been on strike and had blocked the only border crossing into CHILE. The taxi driver took me as far as he could, and then I had to walk the rest of the 4 kilometers into town, my 4 suitcases in tow. God sent a man with a hand-truck to help me with half of the bags, which made the last 2 kilometers much easier!
Finally arriving to the house I found the front porch with a banner on it, “Welcome Home Dad.” It was great to be back with my wife and kids! That night Elisha prayed, “I hope Dad never had to go out of the country again.” Me, too, Elisha. Me, too.