Sabbatical 14: I Heard Jesus Whisper

Over two months of my sabbatical had passed (now mid-June) and I was enjoying 28 days of just being at home in Vancouver with not a drop of rain! My days continued to be filled with lots of reading, prayer, exercise, reflecting, and doing odd jobs around the house. Near the end of this period, I celebrated my 58th birthday. How does an introvert celebrate his birthday on sabbatical? (No introvert jokes please.) Being an introvert, I replenished by being alone and being on sabbatical amplified my sense of wanting to be quiet. However, birthdays are also about relationships, so I felt torn. The day started quietly enough. Then, text and voice messages started pouring in, even from around the globe. I received touching messages from my kids and grandkids, parents, and friends. I even got a voice message singing “Happy Birthday” from our “angel of Seoul,” Kyung Jin, in Korea! Earlier in the week, Kathleen and I were treated to a lovely supper by my friend and former assistant pastor Alec (Arnold), and his wife Crystal and family, just before their move to St. Louis for Alec to pursue his Ph.D. That same week, we were also hosted to a wonderful luncheon and relational catchup with our friends and interim pastor, Joanna, and her husband, Wade.  Last but not least, our dear “Oma Nim,” Korean mama, Kwonju (Esther), who attends VEV so faithfully every Sunday, shared a delicious Korea Town lunch with us. I didn’t do too badly that week relationally, for an introvert!

However, on my actual birthday, I was given one of the most remarkable gifts I could have ever received. For special occasions like birthdays, I love to go the Cactus Club at English Bay, and on the rare occasion that I do, I have to make a reservation for the dining room. This time, I also wanted to watch a Stanley Cup Final game that was showing that night. The only way that Kathleen and I could view the game at the Cactus Club was to sit in the beach level pub area. I was told by phone that they don’t take reservations for that area, so there would be a long line-up to get in. We decided to try anyway. Sure enough, when we arrived, it was packed. Long lines extended outside and down the beach. We were told it would be a minimum half-hour wait and even then, we were not guaranteed a view of the game. Still, we made our way to the back of the long lineup. 


Then, the miracle started. As we made our way to get in line, Kathleen recognized an East Indian family from a Hindu background that we had prayed for over a year before. At that time, through a connection with Crystal Arnold’s mom, I had first been asked to come and pray for one of their teenage girls. She was in the psyche ward due to being tormented by evil spirits in the night. I first went to visit her at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster. Through our conversation, I found out that we had the same birthday (if not the same year)! Not only so, we found out that we shared a mutual love for celebrating our birthdays at the Cactus Club at English Bay! We had a good connection and she allowed me to pray for her. I visited her a second time, and this time Kathleen joined me, and we both enjoyed a profound connection with her.

A short time later, we were called by her mother who was again requesting prayer. Her daughter had since been discharged from the hospital, so this time, Kathleen and I went together to pray with her and her family in their home. When we arrived, the whole family had gathered, including her father, mother, sisters, and one aunt. Well, the Holy Spirit began to move as we prayed, and Kathleen got several words of knowledge and prophecy. I noticed the surprise on their faces several times as words were given. One of them literally exclaimed, “How did you know that?!” The Lord had shown up and was graciously showing his love and care for this precious family.

After our prayer time, they invited us to stay for a cup of tea. Foolishly, we declined as we were under time constraints. Later, I deeply regretted this because I didn’t hear from them for over a year and wondered if we had offended them. Now, here they were once again at the Cactus Club and they seemed so excited to see us! Sure enough, they were celebrating their daughter’s birthday, and she looked radiant. To our amazement, we found that she was much better, and that both she and her mother had since become followers of Jesus! They had both been baptized in water, and were now attending a Christian church! We were overwhelmed. 

The mother then particularly expressed her profound gratitude to us that we were willing to go all the way out to the Royal Columbian hospital to pray with her daughter whom we didn’t know, and as a result, her daughter had felt so loved by us. At that moment, I felt this warm blanket of affection from Jesus being wrapped around me, thanking us for being willing and available to him so that he could work in this family whom he loved so much.
Well, even though we had just arrived at the Cactus Club, I could have gone home right then. It would have been enough of a birthday gift. However, after a wonderful visit with this family, Kathleen and I then headed outside to the back of the lineup down the beach. We had only been there five minutes when a lovely waitress came right up to us and invited us to follow her past many people who were lined up in front of us. (I can only surmise that they preferred outdoor seating on the pub patio.) She led us to a table with a front row view of the big screen TV where we could enjoy our meal and watch the hockey game. To our left at eye level was a breathtaking view of English Bay and the setting sun over the mountains of Vancouver Island. During our meal, the family we had met earlier came back to see us and thank us one more time. After they left, and Kathleen and I sought to absorb all that had just happened and to savour it along with the remarkable setting we were in. It was then that I was sure that I heard Jesus whisper, "Happy birthday, Gordie!"