One of the most comforting passages in the Bible for me has been Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
During the 80s, my wife and I were missionaries in Austria. We had moved to a new town of 40,000 people where there was no Evangelical church. Our task was to help launch a church, train Austrian leadership and leave the church in their care.
But we ran into a huge roadblock. After contacting every real estate agency in that town, they had absolutely no house or apartment for us to rent. Planting a church is a highly relational activity, so living in this town was imperative. So, we prayed for God’s provision.
A few days later, a co-worker of ours was driving up and down the streets of this city and spotted a vacant house. He asked the neighbors about it and they put us in touch with its owner.
Apparently, the house had been sitting empty for five years. The widow who had lived there was very old and somewhat disabled. So, for ten years prior to her death she had confined herself to just two rooms in the big house (villa).
When she died, the house went to her nine-year-old grandnephew. But there was no money in the estate and the house was in such poor repair that the little boy’s family couldn’t repair it. So, the house had sat decaying all these years.
Despite its condition, we couldn’t find any other living option, so we asked the boy’s mother if she might show us the house. When she unlocked the big, double door into the house, I cannot adequately describe how awful it looked! Think, “Frankenstein’s lair!”
A thick, black layer of soot blanketed and coated everything. All the heat registers had burst in the cold. There was no water, no electricity and no heat and the house was a mess. The boy’s mother kept telling us, “You don’t want to live here. You don’t want to live here.” And she was right.
My sweet wife cried when we got to the car. We tried every other alternative we could think of to find a place to live but kept coming back to the house at 47 Schneeberggasse. So, the boy’s mother put us in touch with her son’s grandfather. He happened to be the district attorney in Vienna and had some funds.
We talked with him about the possibility of fixing up the house and he made the following offer:
- We would do all the work, except when an electrician, a plumber, or other licensed professional was needed.
- He would provide funds for all repairs and remodels.
- They wanted to keep the furniture that was left in the house, but anything else we found was ours to do with as we pleased.
- When the house was ready to move into, we would only pay half-rent for one year.
- Finally, he insisted on paying me fifty Schillings per hour (about $3) for my work.
We dove into the work and had lots of help from several of our co-workers. We cleaned, painted, repaired, retiled, put in kitchen cabinets, and hired professionals to get the water, electricity and heat working.
For five-and-a-half weeks, I worked 14-hour days to get the house to the point we could move in. But all the while, I was beating myself up, “What would our sending churches think if they knew I was renovating a house instead of spreading the Gospel?”
But as the weeks of working on the house crawled by, we began noticing something unique and wonderful. All our neighbors were overjoyed that someone was finally fixing up the old villa! They were also curious to see the changes that were taking place.
So, when we finished the house, we did something very atypical of the Austrian culture. We invited everyone on the block to a celebration of the completion of the renovation. Linda made fancy invitations and we distributed them to all the neighbors. The day of the celebration, someone came from every single home we had invited! We served desserts and other light delicacies.
Normally, it would have taken us years to establish relationships with our neighbors. But God did it in just five-and-a-half weeks! We developed some very close relationships with people on that block and shared Christ with many as a result. To this day, our kids would tell you that of all the homes we’ve lived in, that was their favorite.
But God’s provision didn’t end there. The Austrian churches had invited me to attend a prayer retreat with them that fall. But the expense was more than we could afford. So, we prayed for God’s provision. One day, I was continuing some work in our son’s bedroom and I found a secret panel in the wall. Inside the panel was a cup—with human teeth in it!
I was a bit grossed out and showed my co-worker. He looked at the teeth and exclaimed, “There’s gold in them there teeth!” He was a hobby jeweler and took the teeth home and extracted the gold. A week later, he presented me with the cup the teeth had been in, which now contained cash from the gold. And wouldn’t you know, it was enough to get me to that prayer retreat!
We have such an amazing God! He is so creative in the ways He provides for us. Never cease thanking Him and praising Him for His loving kindness and provision.
By the way, I’d love to hear how God has uniquely provided for you. So, please leave a comment and tell your story.