On our recent vacation to Germany, my wife and I experienced a rather unexpected blessing. The first three days that we were there, I did all the driving, but on Wednesday we decided to go on a tour that our resort was sponsoring to the home of the Von Trappe family in Salzburg, Austria. The von Trappe family home place is the place where “The Sound of Music” story took place. It was going to be an all-day adventure, but at first, it appeared like it wasn’t going to happen, because no one else had signed up (they needed at least four to do the trip). On Tuesday evening when I went down to check to see if we were actually going to be going on Wednesday morning, there was a young man in front of me who was registering his family of four for the Salzburg, Austria tour. When we went down for our tour on Wednesday morning, we met this family of four who were from Jakarta, Indonesia.
I know Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, so I was a little hesitant to bring up religion with this family, but I really sensed the Lord speaking to me about talking to them about faith issues. I started by asking some questions about the Muslim population in Indonesia. The mom, whose name is Yonita, stated, “We’re Chinese, so were considered a minority in the nation even though our families have been there for three or four generations. We’re also minorities because we are Christians!” How interesting. I shared with them that I was a pastor from Central Jersey. We had an absolutely delightful time the remainder of the day talking about the Lord’s work in our families and our nations. This family is in a large church in Jakarta where their teenage son and daughter are very active with the youth ministry there. It made our trip to Salzburg so much more enjoyable to know that we were fellowshipping with another Christian family. Our driver who was from Serbia also shared with us that he was also a Christian. It was an unexpected and delightful blessing and to be able to fellowship with people from the other side of the world because of Jesus Christ’s redeeming grace. I think I enjoyed our Wednesday’s tour as the best day of our vacation. We very much enjoyed visiting von Trappe family estate walking around the grounds. We then went to the city of Salzburg and visited some beautiful churches. Our new friend’s teenage children joined Deb and me for a tour of Mozart’s homeplace. Both the son and daughter are gifted musically, and though their mom and dad didn’t join us for the Mozart tour, we went as a family of four and had a very pleasant time together.
The teenage children of our new friends are very active in international student ministries and are planning on coming to Philadelphia sometime in 2018 for an international student ministry conference. We have invited them to come and stay with us a couple of days early, so they could go over to the big city and enjoy some other sights and sounds of NYC. All because of chance occurrence on a tour to Salzburg. I’ve connected with the mom through Facebook and Messenger, and it’s interesting to make new friends from Indonesia. God gives us so many things to be thankful for, and I believe it is profoundly important for us to look for His hand in the people He brings into our lives.
Who are some of the people in your life that you can give God thanks for as we enter this season of Thanksgiving? Remember Paul’s words of encouragement when he wrote to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4 NIV). Paul also tells us in the next verse that we should give thanks in everything as we see God working out His plans in our lives. Our vacation was very relaxing and refreshing. But it was also especially delightful in that God gave us new Christian friends from the other side of the world. Serving the Lord Jesus Christ is always interesting and exciting when we keep our eyes on Jesus. This Thanksgiving I am so very thankful for each open door He sets before me to enjoy His presence and Christian fellowship.
Rejoicing in the King,
Pastor Rich Sivo