Twelve dogs and a crocodile. These were recent answers to prayers. Our daughter, Jemimah turned one in January and we faced the issue of celebrating a lockdown birthday. We had wanted to go to the farm or zoo because Jemimah loves animals. We decided to put out a plea on social media asking for willing local dog owners - within the ten mile restriction - to visit our house the next day. A puppy parade if you will. We put out the request, waited and prayed.
The next day, we had visits from twelve dogs and a child in a crocodile costume. Insignificant to others, but it showed us that God is interested in the little things and he is at work.
God has been at work
Of course, we shouldn’t have been surprised. God has always been at work and it is often only as we look back that we notice. Life for us looks very different than a year ago. Jemimah had just been born, I had no job to go back to and we were wondering what would happen next. An E3 Schools’ Worker job for Scripture Union Northern Ireland (SU) in North Belfast and Newtownabbey was advertised in February. I decided to push the door. My husband, Robert, is from North Belfast and his family live there so at least I would know some people. I had been involved with SU for most of my life - Ballyholme CSSM, an SU camp leader, taking part in SU groups as a pupil and a teacher and knowing lots of E3 workers through SU schools’ events. I got the job!
God had been constantly working in the background, weaving his tapestry of SU and North Belfast connections into my life. In my new role, I began to see more of God’s handiwork. A lifelong friend was the chair of my District Support Team (DST). A local minister’s daughter was in an SU group I had been involved with as a teacher. I knew another of my DST members from my university days. Another church had a PCI summer outreach team I had visited. I had taught with another local youth worker’s wife. One of my sisters-in-law works in a North Belfast school which my niece attends. So many seemingly random connections appeared that I knew God brought this about.
However, God had also been working in the lives of many others who brought the SUNI E3 project in north Belfast and Newtownabbey to life. God had been at work long before I got the job, long before it was advertised and even before I met my North Belfast born husband and his family. He has been putting teachers, pupils, ministers and congregations in the right place at the right time.
God is at work now
With the arrival of Covid-19 and accompanying restrictions, most of my work has been from home and online. Initially, I thought this would hinder things, but God is still at work. I have been able to make virtual connections with many schools, churches and supporters and have had the opportunity to speak in three churches three Sundays in a row, which wouldn’t happen under normal circumstances. I have shared many more assemblies with primary, post primary and special schools with the aid of online videos than would have been possible in person. Zoom has its flaws, but it has allowed more people to attend online prayer meetings who mightn’t have been able to come to in person gatherings.
School SU groups are using social media to connect with pupils with some groups seeing new members accessing material who would not have taken the step to attend in person. A DST member recognised an opportunity for an acoustic night fundraiser from the comfort of your own home (a benefit of lockdown) and organised a brilliant event.
Churches have been supporting their local schools. One local church worker invited me to bring cards of encouragement and boxes of chocolates for staff in eight local schools. Another church partnered with local schools to buy IT equipment to support local families who are struggling to home school due to lack of resources.
God is at work, enabling people to use their creativity and enthusiasm to make the most of every opportunity to share the gospel.
God will continue to be at work
The amazing thing is that God actually doesn’t need us to further his kingdom, he can do that on his own – he is not served by human hands (Acts 17:25). However, he does choose to let us be a part of the work even though sometimes we hinder it. God loves it when we come to him, when we are close to him and when we want what he wants. God continues to be at work and can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20), So, let’s not allow present restrictions to limit our prayers to him.
If you knew God would say yes, what would you ask for? What big prayers do you have? Be specific, because God loves details. Where do you want to see God at work? I am praying for God to do amazing things in North Belfast and Newtownabbey. I am praying for God to work through Christian teachers, school staff and pupils as they shine for him in their schools. I am praying for God to be at work in local congregations, stirring them to pray for and connect with their local schools. I am praying for every school in North Belfast and Newtownabbey to be prayed for and supported by Christians in those communities. I am praying for God to be at work in ways I haven’t even thought of yet, but he has. I am praying for God to be at work in the background, getting amazing things ready for this area, for other existing areas in which there are SU E3 workers and for the ones in which there will be one in future.
So what about you? In whose life do you want to see God at work? What specific outcomes do you want to happen? In which particular project are you asking God to be at work? Where are you looking expectantly to see what want he is doing?
Ruth Dalzell is a member of Second Comber Presbyterian Church and Scripture Union E3 Schools’ Worker in North Belfast and Newtownabbey.
This blog is part of a wider series under the campaign, Refined to help members and congregations during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Visit the Refined hub here.