We had been living in Pardubice, Czech Republic for three years and we had gathered around us a group of Christians to pray and worship together. My wife Michelle had a clear call to return to the Czech Republic but I never felt that we would be the ones to lead a church and I did not feel that we had the gifting to do it.
We chatted with Mike Betts – who serves on the Relational Mission Apostolic Team – and he said, ‘I think you should be asking God if you shouldn’t be starting a church, because it sounds like you’re already doing it. Enjoy your holiday in Croatia and while you’re there, spend some time sitting on a beach and ask God for clarity.’
So, on the first morning of our holiday I was sitting on a beach – it had this vast lagoon of special healing mud right next to the sea. My son and I had been in the mud and I went in the sea to wash it off. I suddenly realised I had lost my wedding ring of 17 years. There was an immediate sense of nausea, it was horrible. I shouted to Michelle to come and help me look for it. We spent the rest of the day snorkelling and trying to find the ring in the sea.
We spent the next day in the mud lagoon, feeling around, trying to find the ring. Basically it just felt like the holiday was a disaster. And in the back of my mind was Mike Betts’ advice.
It was a bit of a depressing time really – trying to enjoy the holiday, whilst losing my wedding ring, whilst trying to work out what God was saying in all this. So I prayed a dangerous prayer along the lines of, ‘God, if you give me my ring back I’ll do anything.’
Later, the owners of our accommodation put us in contact with the Croatian National Metal Detectors Association but unfortunately the nearest crew were on an island and wouldn’t be able to get to where we were until after we had left! Not good news…
However, on the last evening of our holiday we were sitting watching the sunset and Michelle prayed, ‘God, you know exactly where that ring is. If you want, you can give it back to us.’ Just then she noticed that she had five missed calls on her phone. It was the metal detecting crew. Their message read: We’re at the beach, where are you?
We quickly packed up our stuff and raced off to our beach. By the time we got to the crew it was almost dusk. Time was running out. It was a pretty big area but they started scanning. I had turned my back, with all hope gone…and then…beeping! They pulled up a clod of mud. Broke it in half and there was my ring! I put it straight on “Wow!”
Michelle asked the men why they had come a day early to look for the ring. “We just had a feeling that we were meant to be here,” they said. Michelle had been praying just before the messages had come in…she had that feeling too.
It was a Jonah moment for me. In that despair, God got my attention and a year later we began meeting as a church community, looking to God and opening our hearts to friends for the help and input that we needed.