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John's gospel ends with a comment that if everything that happened in the life of Christ had been included, the world itself could not contain all the books. A slight exaggeration, perhaps, but it does indicate that what we read of Christ in the gospels are just the highlights of a very full life. In fact, the whole Bible is like that.

As a writer, I understand that one of the most important jobs in writing anything (and especially a biolgraphy) is to cut out anything that is extraneous. I am confident that there are as many best-selling novels in the world as there are people. It is just a matter of finding a good writer, who can weave together the details of a person's life in such a way as to make it all tell a story.

However, as we read about other people, many of us get the feeling that there is something missing in our lives. Not only are they unfinished, but even from day to day there seems to be so much that is boring, confusing, and trivial. How could anyone make a story out of our lives?

To be sure, some lives are more interesting than others, and for various different reasons. But for me as a Christian, there is the sense of the supernatural, which is both extremely interesting and extremely important. It brings eternal meaning to all that I do. I'm not saying that just because I profess faith in God, my life is one long chain of miracles. But I am saying that, insofar as I seek to work in harmony with the Creator of the Universe, there will be powerful evidence of his presence in my life. And that is the subject of this article.

It concerns a 'faith outreach' by Sue, Vicki, and Vicki's two daughters, Rochelle (aged 8) and Sarah (aged 6). Faith outreaches (or 'survival outreaches' which we also call them) are something that we often encourage our members to undertake, in the company of at least one other member. We base them loosely on the instructions that Jesus gave to 72 of his disciples in the gospels, when he sent them out, two by two, to various towns where he intended to go later. Some of the instructions for this outreach seem to have been only temporary (e.g. not taking a purse with them, since other passages of scripture indicate that Jesus and the twelve disciples had a common purse which they drew on for their expenses.) (See ref?)

We encourage any members embarking on a faith outreach to spend some time before they start, discussing their basic ground rules. Sue, Vicki, and the two girls did this. They decided to take no money, no tracts, no medication, no glasses, no watches, no identification papers, no maps, no pens or paper, and no food. They wore only the clothes on their backs. They agreed not to ask anyone for money, and not to do any bin-raiding for food. The idea of the exercise was to open them up to other ways to witness as well as other ways that God is able to supply such things as food, transportation, and shelter.

What this article aims to do is to illustrate for members and non-members alike, some of the paradoxes with regard to miracles. So much depends on our attitude; but a lot depends on whether it is happening to someone else or if it is happening to ourselves. On survival outreaches, some people return overwhelmed with God's miraculous guidance and provision. Others report frustration with their own inability to discern clearly what God was telling them to do. However, over a period of time, even those who were less than impressed with the miraculous element tend to develop a somewhat nostalgic memory about the whole exercise. I believe that this is because the passage of time helps them to observe things from a more eternal perspective.

And so we are going to give a fairly detailed report on how this particular exercise developed, in an attempt to show how it could have been viewed as frustrating, confusing, and an exercise that went "terribly wrong" as one observer commented near the end of it. That will be followed by a more positive report. of what would have to be convincing evidence to the contrary, suggesting God's supernatural protection and intervention. We hope that it will be a faith-building experience in the sense that it will bring home to people just how much our own attitudes can influence our appreciation of all that God does for us.

The outreach started with a listening time, in which all four females received the names of different localities around Newcastle: Charlestown, Toronto, West Wallsend, and Cessnock. Obviously, something was wrong straight away. It was suggested that everyone was assuming that they needed to get the name of a PLACE during the listening time, instead of just listening to "whatever" God might want to give.

The next time around, things seemed a bit more cryptic, although someone again got the words West Wallsend. Other impressions were of a fir tree, the word "hardwood", a vision of a big hall with a hardwood floor, and the impression that it was connected with the Salvation Army.

In the end, because they had business to do in Charlestown, they decided to go there instead. They were taken there by Cherry and dropped off in the middle of the afternoon on a Friday. The girls wanted to write out little Christian messages to hand to members of the public, so they went into a bank, and used the bank's pens to write the messages on the back of withdrawal slips. This took a lot of time, and when they handed them out, the public's reaction was less than enthusiastic.

Toward evening, they sought shelter inside the parenting room at the shopping center, hoping to be locked in for the night. Instead, a security guard politely asked them to leave. They had another listening time and someone had the impression of a bird on the roof assisting them. They went to the rooftop parking area and saw only one person there. They said that they were looking for a place to sleep for the night, and he suggested a local three-star hotel. When they said that they did not have enough money for a hotel, he pointed out a nearby church that is often open overnight.

They slept outside the church, huddled together against the cold, and in the morning made some signs from discarded cardboard which they wore on their backs while walking from Charlestown to Warner's Bay. The signs said things like "Work for love, not for money," "Love your Enemies," and "Be kind." Cars honked and people shouted abuse at them as they walked. On their way, they saw three houses with fir trees in the front yard, so they tried knocking on the doors of each to see if they could do something to help the people inside. One yielded no answer, and the other two abruptly closed the doors on the women.

In Warner's Bay, on the shores of Lake Macquarie, they rested in a park before trying to hitchike further. It took some time, but they eventually got a lift to Toronto, on the west side of the lake.

More prayer resulted in impressions of water, a rose, and a sharp knife stuck into some flowers. There was also a picture of a boat. They decided to go down by the water's edge, where they saw a luxury boat. The owner invited them on board, but they later learned that he had mistaken them for members of a wedding party, and they had to leave.

That night they were, again, without accommodation, and the weather was turning quite cold. Near the lake was an unlocked caravan full of props for a travelling carnival. A suspicious looking man glanced sideways at Sue as she was getting into the van, to join the other three members of the team on an area of floor space about the size of a single bed. They shivvered through the night together. During the night they heard a group of rowdy drinkers just outside the van, and kept very quiet to keep from being discovered. And when Sarah stepped out of the van early in the morning, the same strange man was standing just outside, giving her quite a fright.

That day was Sunday. An Anzac Day parade was planned for the town, and the crowd did not seem at all open to their message about loving enemies, so they decided to make it a day of rest and in-reach. Spotting a vacant house, the women checked to see if there were any doors open, so that they could go inside and rest. It was locked, but they found another one not far away (also with a fir tree in the front yard), and the back door was not only open, but a key was in the lock. They went inside and sprawled out on the beautiful hardwood floor. Surely this was the place that God had meant for them to find.

There was some discussion over whether they should end the outreach after two days (that afternoon) or after three days (Monday afternoon). They decided to spend the night in the house, and then return to the base in the morning.

However, shortly after dark, a police car rolled up. Two policemen came in and ordered the women out of the house. They said that they were acting on instructions from the estate angent responsible for the house. There were threats to take the girls away from Vicki, whereupon she and Sue explained that they were there as a part of an experiment in living by faith.

"Well, it is an experiment which has gone terribly wrong, isn't it!" exclaimed one of the policemen.

And that is when they decided to end the experiment.

So that's one version of the story. Now listen to the other:

Only minutes after the outreach team announced that they would be starting their outreach in Charlestown, we received a phone call from a friend who lived about two blocks away from the shopping complex in Charlestown. He said that he was moving out of his room, and could we use some food that he would be throwing out. Cherry dropped the girls off in Charlestown, and they had two bags full of groceries ten minutes after they started.

While in Charlestown, Vicki had shared with a man who works in Cessnock, who had received a copy of "Survivors".

One of the people that they spoke to during the day on Friday, commented that he was picking up a load of day-old bread for the Salvation Army. Sue asked if he would be able to spare a loaf of bread for her and her friends. The man offered several loaves, and then pulled out ten dollars and gave it to her.

The man they spoke to on the roof of the shopping complex did much the same thing, insisting that they take all the change he had in his pocket, which amounted to almost more than ten dollars. This was used to buy textas for the signboards that they made the next day.

On Saturday morning, they visited McDonalds Restaurant. Sue and Sarah struck up a conversation with a woman named Colleen, who shared deeply about problems that she was going through. When Colleen learned that the women live by faith, she asked whether they were the same people who had distribute a book with a green cover, called "Survivors". She shared how deeply she had been influenced by the message of the book, and then she bought them sandwiches and coffee.

Although some people shouted abuse on the walk to Warner's Bay, others honked, waved and showed signs of encouragement.

In Toronto on Saturday, they visited another McDonald's to buy some ice creams. The manager said that the ice cream machine was not working properly, but that he would be happy to give them free ice creams if they did not mind it being softer than normal.

The girls enjoyed a tour of the luxury yacht in Toronto before leaving it, and when they did leave, they were welcomed by a fisherman who had overheard them talking about how God had led them to come down by the boat. "I think he sent you down here to talk to me," he said. He too, had received a copy of "Survivors", and he spoke at length about his faith. Two friends joined him, and they too had previously received copies of the 'green book'.

Near the carnival caravan in Toronto, was a charity bin with boxes of second-hand clothes next to it. These were used to keep the quartet warm on Saturday night. And the man who had stood outside the caravan from the time they went to bed until when they awoke in the morning was actually a friendly security guard, who introduced himself to the girls in the morning.

And even the policeman who said that the experiment had gone "terribly wrong" took the girls on a tour of the local police station, let them play on the station computer, and then gave them all a ride right to the door back at the base.

Food, money, transportation, shelter, and people responsive to the message that they came to share. All this and more practically fell into their laps during the two days and a bit that they were doing their experiment. The circumstances under which these things came about were out of the ordinary, and yet they all came in the same 48 hour period during which these four believers had placed themselves at the disposal of, and in the care of their heavenly Father. Truly what happened was supernatural.

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