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Learning to Trust

June 6, 2019

The Rev. Dr. Warren Lathem was just Wally when I knew him. He’s a former District Superintendent in The United Methodist Church and is active in an exciting ministry in Venezuala. 

This is from an ongoing series of his, reflecting on his life and ministry. It’s too good not to share with you here, and I thank him for the opportunity — 

Learning to trust in God’s provision

While a student at Asbury University in Central Kentucky, I served a church in Eastern Kentucky, 65 miles from the school where we lived.

So every Sunday morning we would drive the 65 miles to the church. I had to make sure I saved enough gasoline in my car to make the trip because I was often out of money by the end of the week.

They paid me $50 a week, in cash, after each Sunday morning service.

The Mountain Parkway was the fastest way to get to the church. The alternative was the old two lane curvy road from Winchester to West Bend. The Parkway was a toll road in those days and the toll to get to my church was $0.35. I often had to drive the old road because I did not have the $0.35 for the toll.

There was one service station relatively close to the church. So after the service, with my $50.00 in cash salary I would go to that station to buy enough gasoline to get home after the Sunday night service.

The owner of the service station was the son of a woman in our church. I led his father to Jesus while he was on his deathbed.

But the son was a reprobate. He drank heavily, was abusive to his wife and kids, fathered other children while married and just generally led a life of dissipation. I tried to witness to him every opportunity I found.

Occasionally, the person who was supposed to pay me after church would be absent and I would not get paid until Wednesday.

The first time that happened was a Sunday I had to avoid the toll road and arrived at church with my car on empty. The owner of the service station had told me earlier if I ever needed to, I could put my gas “on account.” In those days we had no credit cards and business owners would often extend credit to their customers.

So I drove to the service station and when the owner came out, I asked for “$5.00 worth, please.” I intended to ask him to charge the gas. But after he pumped the fuel and before I could say anything, he said,”Preacher, this one is on us. Go ahead.” I was shocked, but extremely grateful. He had never said that before.

The next week when I went by after the worship service, he did not make the same generous gift, but that was ok since I had money.

However, the next time I did not get paid and I needed gas, I went to his station intending to buy it “on account.” Again before I could ask him to charge it, he said, “Preacher, you go ahead. This one is on us.”

For three years I tried to reach him with the gospel. I failed. But also for three years, if I had no money he never failed to say, “Preacher, this one is on us.” If I had money, he never gave me any gas.

How did he know? I never had a chance to ask him to charge it.

God was teaching me some wonderful life lessons. The first one was simply to trust him for necessary provision. This lesson has been repeated many times in my life.

The second lesson was God could use even the hardest reprobate in the community to provide for his children. I just needed to trust him and not be surprised when God poured out blessings through the most unlikely source.

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