*This post is part of the “Reason to Return” church series!

by Paula Walker Baker

Have you ever heard that little voice in the back of your mind that you are not altogether certain it’s you? Maybe it’s God whispering in your ear? I have had that happen so many times, yet discarded it as a fleeting thought. I am now convinced of this. I know for certain it was God’s voice in my ear, just as sure as I am typing this. Maybe you wonder how I can be so certain. It began in  2020, not because of the pandemic, but despite it, and many other things happening  in my life just then. 

Prior to the pandemic, my husband, Stephen and I had been involved in a church for the homeless in downtown Dallas. The Gathering was held at Thanksgiving Square, appropriately enough, outside. Every Sunday, the Episcopal diocese sponsored this church without walls for the homeless population.

After the  service, lunch was served. A band played, people sang, worshiped and fellowshipped. We loved serving in this venue, met so many people, falling  in love with the homeless folks. The ministry was able to provide weather appropriate clothes, hygiene packs, underwear and socks as needed. There was  a hat ministry where I learned to crochet to help provide warmth for their heads. I continue that ministry today. Then the pandemic hit, and the ministry had to shut down, like so many others. Suddenly, we no longer had a church home. Like the rest of the country, we stayed home on Sundays.

In the meantime, life went on as usual. Stephen’s work was still open and doing business and I continued delivery with Uber Eats. It’s always nice to have some things stay the same when unexpected circumstances arise.

A Life Altering Event

Soon,  a dramatic change in our lives would take place . My dog began to act strangely around me. He began to sniff my chest all the time. If I took a nap, he followed me, lying on the bed  beside me.  Our other two dogs followed suit; one lying on the floor, the other at the door. I  commented to Stephen that if I didn’t know better, I’d have thought I was sick or something. Not long after that remark, my right breast developed pain. I made a doctor’s appointment and was soon off for a mammogram. On July 23,  (my parent’s wedding anniversary), I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was  ductal carcinoma in situ. I scheduled a double mastectomy for August 31. Admittedly, I am not a calm person, but I heard this come from my mouth to my husband’s ear: 

“It’s going to be okay, one way or another. If it’s bad, I’ll be at home with God; if it is okay, then I’ll be home with you. It’s going to be alright.”

That could have only been God because I know it didn’t come from me!

A Calling From the Church

Not long after diagnosis, I just needed to go to church. I wanted to be with other like minded people, needed to be with God in His house. While on a delivery, I saw a church performing a drive-by communion, but I couldn’t stop.  If I finished the delivery in time, I’d attend, but they were gone when I drove back by. No worries. God had me in the palm of His hand. He sent me on a delivery that went by another  church getting ready for their service. 

 I finished my delivery down the street and went to the church.. I sat in the back and the service was beautiful. Afterwards, I tried to sneak out, but heard someone say, “Thanks for visiting!” to which I replied, “Thanks for having me!” I couldn’t wait to tell Stephen what God had brought me to and called him straightaway!

When I got home, I wrote to the church thanking them for being there at a time when I needed them most. I explained the diagnosis and they wrote back to tell me they knew of The Gathering and Fr. Charlie, who was the priest. I was told they also work with the homeless.  The most amazing thing was they had a lady who previously had breast cancer and counseled breast cancer victims and survivors at a hospital as a member. I was paired with her and she walked me through the process. Although complications later occurred, God and this church had my back.

God’s Provision is Always On Target

God knows what we need before we do, and He will guide us safely and gently through the trials and tribulations of life if only we will listen. The outcome may not always be what we want it to be, but it just might be what we need to hear.

If you’re interested in learning more about why the Church matters so much in the lives of Christians, or want to support the work of the local church, check out my new book, Reason to Return: Why Women Need the Church and the Church Needs Women.

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