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Daring to Believe

The Rev. Joel Atong

As people of faith, I wonder how many things we miss out on in our lives when we discount a dream set before us?  What if we embraced the not knowing how things would work out for a little longer?  What might happen?

This means trusting beyond our own capabilities.  This is faith.

A few months ago I was visiting my wife at her seminary in Alexandria, VA.  Mary asked  if I would meet with a classmate of hers who is from Kenya while I was there.  “Joel wants to build a clinic in his village to treat people with HIV/AIDS and malaria.”  Even though I had been a chaplain in a HIV clinic for 15 years, I was reluctant to volunteer because I had a full plate.  I didn’t want to make a commitment I couldn’t keep.  I was afraid that I might fail.

I met with and was impressed with Rev. Joel Atong’s (an Episcopal priest) humility and crystal clear faith.  He believed that God wanted him to build a small medical clinic for $15,000 in Ngunya, Kenya.

After dragging my feet for a few weeks, Mary said she would take the lead.  She has a gift of bringing people together to do extraordinary things.  I tried to protect her, and asked if she was sure?  “Yes, I want to try, who knows what will happen?” she insisted.  I relented.

She began to network within our home church in Cullman.  People like Jerry Jacob and others stepped up to help.  She emailed a new friend who is the priest at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham to see if he would be interested.  Rich Webster picked up the ball and ran with it.  We asked friends of ours on Facebook to give $10 each.

We brought Father Joel Atong to our home as our guest this past weekend for people to hear his story firsthand in Cullman and Birmingham.  I heard myself trying to soften his  potential disappointment that we might not be able to raise all of the money this weekend.  He just smiled.

And then it happened.  People responded.  Friends, family, as well as people we had never met, came forward with small, medium and large gifts.  While the final tally is not official, $15,000 will be the amount given.

A health clinic will be built in Ngunya, Kenya.

And now I have some praying to do, in fact I’ve already started.  I slipped in a downtown church yesterday and sat alone for awhile.  I prayed, “God forgive me. I believe you can do more than my limited mind and spirit and energy can imagine.  I believe, please help my unbelief.”

How about you?  What are you willing to let go of to see what God can do?  How big are your dreams with God?

If we can see how something can be done through our own planning, maybe we need to stop and dream bigger?

My brothers and sisters, our lives can be so much more joyful and purpose-filled if we take the risk to trust further than we can see.

If we can dare to believe, to trust in God’s voice especially when we don’t see how in the world it could possibly happen, we may discover that miracles still happen today.

Note to self:  3 lessons for me

  1. Do what you can (realize you don’t have to do it all)
  2. Don’t be afraid of failing, not trying is worse
  3. Trust that God will use whatever you offer



Below is The Rev. Joel Atong singing at the end of his talk on Friday, April 30, 2012, on his experience that miracles still can happen today.  Of course he was singing this 48 hours before we knew we would reach our goal.

1 Comment

  1. mary bea

    Hey there, don’t forget that you modeled well that sometimes we have to acknowledge our limits. I thought it was important for you to admit your plate was already full. Also, you supported and helped in lots of ways. I worried and doubted a bunch too-so grateful this is coming together. It is inspiring. AND so grateful to be learning these lessons with you!

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