The Right Place at the Right Time
There is a thin line between presumption and faith. The promises of God are given to meet our needs in fulfilling His will for us and through us, and to mature us through experience. What I have profoundly learned so far through this process of God’s promises and answered prayer is that we are called to work ‘with’ God, not ‘for’ him.
For instance, at one of our year-end board meetings our Associate Chaplain, Larry McConnell, who has served by my side for over seventeen years, shared a major concern. His health was challenging him to the degree that he could not walk well. That affected his ability to be out in the airport community. Visibility is an essential aspect of our ministry. Larry seriously questioned whether he could continue since this medical condition was permanent and declining. Obviously we went to prayer.
The very next morning, the man who comes and picks up relief supplies from us once in awhile, knocked on my door and said, “Tom, do you know anybody that could use a free electric wheelchair? It is in good shape and is worth over $900?” Wham! God’s will was that Larry remain His servant here as a chaplain. I phoned Larry and in the midst of the conversation I told him, “Larry, take this as a hint from God. He has provided a way!” Larry hung this sign on the back of the wheelchair: ‘Airport Chaplain Larry’s Chariot’. A unique answer to the prayer related to God’s will: “...for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Matthew 6:8 NIV) But to ask Him is a must.
What about ministry experiences? “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…” (John 6:44 NIV) My greatest joy is seeing evidence of the Father drawing souls to Himself through chaplaincy ministry.
A businessman from the southern States knocked on my open office door. “I saw your chapel sign. I have only twenty minutes before I need to catch my plane home. Tell me what do I do? I just found out my wife is having an affair.” Twenty minutes? Mental prayer reached toward God for the words he needed. God had obviously drawn him into the chapel office while I was there. We talked and I gave him some resource material to read on the plane. He emailed me a couple weeks later to share how he had been helped and how things had improved. The Holy Spirit gives us the wisdom and words to communicate His will to other souls.
A passenger from the Middle East came into the chapel and did his Muslim prayers. Later he came to the office door and, knocking loudly, asked to come in. He sat down in the guest chair and in a very agitated voice asked for help. I made it clear to him I was a Christian minister. He shook his hands in the air in agitation and shouted, “I don’t care! I need help with a problem badly!” Only God would draw this Muslim to approach a Christian chaplain. I was able, in the short time he had before flying out, to discuss the serious issue. As he parted I gave him two Radio Bible Class booklets to read on the plane, both of which clearly presented the Gospel. A week or so later he e-mailed (sic): “…I appreciated the guidance you provided. I found the material very useful and want you to know that situation is much better. By God’s support I feel I am getting back in control and on the way to complete healing.”
One troubled Christian recently wrote to me and expressed: “...a deep sense of worthlessness and of being unloved by everyone I have ever loved. I feel forgotten and unimportant and would gladly press the 'exit' button on my life if one existed.” God connected her with me because He has an answer to give her through me. Through my willing surrender and through prayer I am able to be open to God’s work of drawing souls to Himself. With humility I can say that I expect His promised resources to faithfully carry out His will.
For me, among the greatest blessings of airport chaplaincy, personal evangelism ranks at the top. Yes, I love sharing the Gospel with the travellers and airport employees whom the Lord sends my way. Take Kate*, for example. This young lady discovered our chapel at Pearson Airport while on her way to Baoding, China to teach English as a second language. With plenty of time between flights, Kate listened as I shared the entire Gospel with her. She also accepted a Bible and a few study booklets to take with her on her distant journey. Some sixteen months later, I received an email from Kate. Here’s an excerpt:
Hello Chaplain King,
My name is Kate, and we met on August 14 . . . at the Pearson Airport. I know this is a very belated “Thank you,” but I want to give my sincere gratitude for all that we talked about on that day. Over the past year and four months I thought a great deal about what you said about God, and I am overjoyed to share that I am letting God into my life, and I’m amazed at what’s happened and still happening to me. I remember you said you have a prayer list and you wanted to add me to your prayer list . . . if you did, THANK YOU. I hope that you can pray that my relationship with God strengthens, and I can open my heart and mind even more to hear the Good Word.
Yet that wasn’t the end of Kate’s story. This young lady was later baptized—in Beijing of all places!
Of course, airport chaplaincy comes with its share of challenges. For instance, I can recall receiving a telephone call from a woman in distress. Her brother-in-law had taken his own life while his elderly parents were away in Florida for the winter. As a result, not only did I find myself in the role of counsellor to this distraught woman and her husband, but a bearer of heart-breaking news to the elderly couple upon their arrival in Toronto. Yet even so, God graciously provided the strength, wisdom, and compassion needed for “such a time as this.”
And yes, there’s the challenge of balancing the wide range of responsibilities surrounding my role as the Senior Evangelical Chaplain at Canada’s largest and busiest airport. From liaising with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) to officiating at weddings and funeral services, the scope of the ministry can at times seem daunting. Yet God has never failed to supply the grace to carry out His work—thanks to the faithful prayers of His people!
*Name changed to protect confidentiality