Praying in the Wilderness

One of the things I believe is that God will put the right people, in the right place, at the right time to help us on our
journey of faith. Michelle Simon also shares this belief. I met Michelle in the early 2000s as we both worked in the community banking industry. Michelle has spent most of her career in bank marketing. We were recently reunited when Michelle and her husband Dave and their son Jackson visited Bethel. The timing of her visit couldn’t have been more perfect. Our website administrator is moving to Europe to do mission work so we needed someone else to manage our website. Little did I know that Michelle is co-owner in a marketing company that happens to design and develop websites and they are now managing our website. Again, God puts the right people, in the right place at the
right time.

As Michelle and I talked about our website, I was blessed to learn about her journey of faith. Michelle is from Oak Hill, West Virginia and she had attended Oak Hill Baptist since she was born. The youth program at Oak Hill was very influential in her life. Her youth minister helped her learn how to connect to God and Michelle was also involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in High School. After graduating from high school, Michelle attended West Virginia University and, like many of us, Michelle said, “God took a back seat in my life while I was in college.” After college Michelle was living in Bluefield, West Virginia, but she felt a pull to move to Richmond. She had friends in the
area and there were more job opportunities available in Richmond. Unfortunately, things didn’t go very smoothly for her at first. She was in a job she didn’t like, struggled to make ends meet, and perhaps the worst part, she felt alone. Her mom encouraged her to come back home and leave Richmond behind, but the pull was still there to stay. Michelle continued to struggle with these feelings until one day they overwhelmed her. Broken and in tears she cried
out to the Lord. Michelle said, “I was sitting outside and I looked up at the sky and I saw the face of Christ. The clouds had formed the face of Christ and it was crystal clear. I was taken back. I stared at it for a least a couple of minutes. At the same time I was overcome by the Holy Spirit. I couldn’t move. That incident left me with a sense of peace and I felt like it was all going to work out.” Within a month of that experience Michelle landed a great job with a local
bank. She also began attending First Baptist Church in Richmond and eventually joined the church and found a Sunday school class where she made some wonderful friends. Perhaps the biggest challenge in her life was trying to become
a mother. Michelle and her husband had a difficult time trying to have a baby. She went to several doctors without any results. Michelle said, “I was not giving up on God and I wasn’t giving up on having a baby. We decided to go through various treatment options and after several years we were able to conceive.”

I asked Michelle what she’s learned about God through her journey of faith. She said, “I’ve learned about the importance of prayer. In all of these situations, I put as much time and energy into my prayer life as I did trying to find solutions to my problems. As I cried out to God, I’ve seen that He listened and He’s answered my prayers, but believe me I was uncomfortable in the process. There was a point that I could have gone back home, but if I did then I wouldn’t be where I am spiritually today. I would have been comfortable, but I wouldn’t have grown.” Michelle said there were plenty of times she felt like she’s been “In the wilderness.” Just as Jesus was tested in the wilderness she has also been tested and she has grown in her faith because of these tests. One final thing about Michelle. In July of this year she, along with two other work colleagues, Joe Shearin and Julie Hill, started a company called The WOW Collaborative. WOW came from Joe Shearin who was a former president and CEO of a local community bank. He encouraged his employees to deliver the kind of customer service that would cause the customer to leave saying, “Wow! That was exceptional service.” Michelle and Julie picked up on WOW service and they made it an acronym
for “Women On their Way.” Their company helps women entrepreneurs by doing educational seminars, mentoring and
being a partner for women in business. They also provide marketing and branding services as well as website administration and social media management. This endeavor would not have been possible if Michelle hadn’t connected with both Joe and Julie earlier in her career. “I’m thankful that God has put people like Joe and
Julie in my path and for the fertility doctor that I worked with, finding him was like a miracle. God really has guided me
through prayer and through other people.” God has now placed Michelle, Dave and Jackson in our path.
Not only is Michelle our new website administrator, but Jackson also attends our preschool. I thank God that He’s
sent the Simon family to Bethel. As I think about Michelle’s story, I want to offer you a word of encouragement. If you’re “in the wilderness,” lost or wondering how it’s all going to work out, cry out to the Lord. Do as Michelle has done and spend as much time in prayer as you do other activities. Pay attention to the people God puts in your path and trust! Trust that God is leading and guiding even when you don’t feel that is true. Trust and have faith in the Lord, for He is good and once his plans begin to unfold, I think you too will have a “WOW moment.” Amen. May God bless the Simon family and our Bethel Church Family. Thanks be to God that we have a God that gives us WOW moments every day. Amen.