By Edwin F. Smith
You can tell the size of your God by looking at the size of your worry list. The longer your list, the smaller your God.
The columns didn't balance, so I ran them again. Same result. I wanted to blame the bank, but I knew the error was mine. No matter how I analyzed the numbers, I didn't have enough money to make it through the rest of the month.
I suppose everyone has had the sinking feeling that swept over me that day. It's a part of financial life to balance the accounts, and find that a simple error in addition or subtraction had left us short. We deal with it, but I was nineteen years old and 6,000 miles from home in a foreign country with an overdrawn budget, a missionary companion with his own financial struggles, rent due and an unsympathetic landlord.
Six months earlier I had worked as a "hoddy," tending the needs of a handful of brick masons in the hot August sun. The work was hard, but the pay would help me sock away some extra money before leaving on a church mission. At the moment, that hard work and August sun seemed pretty enticing.
The opportunity to donate two years in the service of the Lord was both an honor and a challenge. The mission was voluntary and self-funded with help from my family, if necessary. Since my father was a schoolteacher nine months out of the year and a driving instructor during the summer, we had always had sufficient funds for our needs but not enough for surprises. It would be no different during my missionary experience. Faith was certainly going to be an ongoing part of my service in faraway Germany.
My companion and I shared expenses and we were both out of money. We put the matter to prayer, seeking divine intervention without a clue as to how the Lord would help us resolve our problem. We retired for the evening, with faith in our hearts and zeros in our bankbooks.
This was pre-Internet, pre-Skype, back in the 1970s. Our only communication was the postal system. A letter took eight to ten days from Munich to home and the same in return. So as I mailed my letter home asking for $60, I knew it was a futile effort, since I needed the rent money the very next day.
That night, we tried to avoid the building manager, who would insist on receiving the rent on time. He wasn't a bad sort — he was just doing the job he was paid to do. As we crept past his apartment, his door opened.
"Sie haben eilpost," he said without emotion. That means, "You have express mail." I took the envelope from his outstretched hand. Then he reminded us that the rent was due.
We went inside and I used a butter knife to open the priority mail envelope. Unfolding a single sheet letter within, a check for $60 fell out. My father's letter was three words long. "You need this."
It is difficult to express the thoughts that rushed through my mind. For that check, in the exact amount needed, to have arrived within twenty-four hours of our mailed request, my father would have to have known our specific need and mailed the funds almost two weeks before we even knew we had a problem.
Many months later I expressed my gratitude as I related this experience to my father. He told me he arose one morning and knew that I needed $60. Without knowing why, he rushed to the post office and mailed the check, by express mail. Many people would write such things off as coincidence, but I recognized then and have often since, that miracles happen.