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FIRST-PERSON: Does God answer prayer? Monica knows

KENNER, La. (BP)–Monica Skiles, a member of our church since childhood, had just finished college when Southern Baptists’ International Mission Board commissioned her and 159 other grads for two-year stints as journeymen to serve alongside career missionaries all over the world.

Monica would be a kindergarten teacher and youth worker in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. She and her class met at the IMB Missionary Learning Center near Rockville, Va., for several weeks of training. One Saturday, the entire group was taken into Washington, D.C., for a field trip.

Monica and a small band were dropped off at Union Station, the historic railroad terminal, and given three hours with four assignments: observe internationals, engage them in conversation, eat some international food and bring someone closer to Jesus. After two hours, Monica was panicking.

“Lord,” she prayed, “I need your help. I’ve seen internationals and I’ve eaten their food, but I haven’t really talked to any of them and I certainly haven’t brought anyone closer to Jesus. I need you to confirm to me that you want me to do this.” She said “amen” and looked down the corridor where a display of African arts and crafts was being exhibited.

Monica picked up a handcrafted item which the lady behind the table identified as a xylophone. Then the woman said, “It’s from Tanzania.” Monica said, “Oh? I’m moving to Tanzania.” The woman asked, “Where will you be living?” “In Dar es Salaam.” The lady said, “I am from Dar es Salaam. What will you be doing?” Monica said, “I will be teaching kindergarten in the Haven of Peace Academy.” The woman said, “My granddaughters go to that school.” Chills ran over Monica as she realized God was answering her prayer beyond anything she had asked or expected.

The woman continued, “My granddaughters have come home telling me about Jesus. They said he loves me and that if I should ever get in trouble, I should call on him and he will hear me.”

When Monica left the station an hour later, she had prayed with the lady and carried in her pocket two letters to the woman’s grandchildren. Monica would see them before she did. In Tanzania, one of the girls was a student in Monica’s class.

When the orientation in Virginia ended, Monica came home to wait for a visa so she could get into her assigned country. The other 159 appointees received theirs and traveled to their destinations, while Monica sat at home and continued to wait. After a week or so, she prayed, “Father, I need your help. I need you to really confirm that you are leading me to this work in Tanzania. Please show me.” That night she attended a singles’ get-together in our church fellowship hall, attended by singles from metro New Orleans churches.

Everyone there was wearing a nametag with only their first name. For some reason, Monica’s full name was written on hers. A young woman approached and said, “Monica Skiles, you’re going to Tanzania as a journeyman.” Monica was taken aback and said, “Well, yes, I am. How did you know?” The woman said, “We’ve never met. But until recently, I worked for the mission station in Nairobi, Kenya. I handled all the paperwork for you to come to Tanzania.” One week later, the visa had arrived and she was gone.

That was in April 2000. Monica came home July 2 and, on a Sunday night, presented a report to our congregation. It came as a surprise to none of us that God had blessed her investment in the children of Africa and had greatly blessed her in return. We knew from the start God was up to something special.

Kind of makes you want to slip away and pray, doesn’t it? Perhaps we could take a cue from Monica and begin, “Lord, I need your help.”
McKeever is pastor of First Baptist Church, Kenner, La.

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  • Joe McKeever