A highlight of the season when I served as a pastor in eastern Appalachia was our fall outing. When the leaves had reached their peak of brilliance, my little country church would hold an outdoor church service in the Breaks Interstate Park. The 4,600 acre park that straddled the state line between Kentucky and Virginia boasted a five-mile gorge that plunged over 1,650 feet. It was affectionately known as the “Grand Canyon of the South.”
What made the park unique was the hiking trails, scenic river, picturesque picnic areas and pavilions and a museum that showcased a real moonshine still. It was there at the still that while reading the information plaque, I felt a tug on my elbow. Turning expecting to see one of my children, I instead found myself looking at the friendliest little doe ever. This special deer had been hit by a car and was allowed to roam the park to convalesce. Now fully healed, it had no fear of park visitors and frequently would beg for a carrot or a favorite piece of an apple from strangers. Numerous times during our services or picnics, the friendly doe would show up to the delight of all the children.
We chose the autumn because the air was crisp in the morning, warm by afternoon and the pests (mosquitoes and flies) were minimal. We had always had perfect conditions until this day. As we gathered under the covered pavilion sitting at picnic tables, the unwelcome winged “guests” started harassing us. It seemed the problem was quickly getting out of hand. If the mosquitoes weren’t bad, the no-seeum gnats were, when that wasn’t enough, the sweat bees came out in force. It seemed as if their collective purpose on this day was to completely ruin our church service and picnic.
As a speaker you know when your audience is not listening. Everyone was now preoccupied with our mini-biblical plague of flies and I had to stop mid-service. I said, “God is Lord of All so lets ask Him to drive these pests away so we can enjoy our day!” This was a teaching moment that did not go unnoticed among the faithful. In attendance was an older church member who was experiencing a test of faith in her own life. Her granddaughter was dealing with some difficult personal struggles and it had been weighing heavily on her. As I made the announcement that we would ask God to drive these insects away, her heart harbored doubt. I was seeing first hand again like many things in life, that when trying circumstances befall us, it may not be an ah-ha moment for us, but the person watching us.
As I prayed for God’s intervention, she relayed to me later that she was doubting His ability to answer my simple prayer. After all, wasn’t a cloud of miserable insects an unimportant thing to God? As I said amen, the insects remained for only a matter of minutes. In fact within five minutes, the cloud dissipated and the area became free of harassing bugs. God had not only answered my prayer, but answered it quickly. The rest of the day was filled with praise, good food, laughter and an appearance by our friendly doe. God had found favor on our little country church.
Some weeks later, the church member sent me a note. She said her faith factor since our outing had jumped exponentially. When she returned home that day, she wrote a letter to her granddaughter with these hopeful words, “If God can answer a little prayer about insects, He can handle any struggles going on in your own life.” I find it comforting as a Pastor that I have seen firsthand that Jesus has many names; I have needed them all throughout my life. He has been known as Comforter, Advocate, Prince of Peace and many more. But on this day I added another to His impressive list of names; Lord of the Flies. He never ceases to amaze me!