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By Helena Smrcek

My family didn’t go to church. I discovered faith as a teen refugee. To me, church was a coffee shop in a small retail unit by the railroad track, in a small town of Traiskirchen, Austria, a short distance from one of the largest refugee camps in the EU.

God found me via a shoe box, delivered by missionaries. Just before Christmas of 1986, Andy knocked at my door, flashing his American smile, then called over Gillian, a Canadian.

Her and I have become friends. She’d visit every week. We talked about the Bible, went skating, and I practiced my elementary English. Over time I have met the rest of missionary team, and the group guided me to Jesus.

Our paperwork processed, my family moved to Canada. On February 22, 1988, we arrived home. Gillian visited us the following year. The reunion was sweet. Then we lost touch.

A couple of years ago, after a meeting at our daughter’s school, someone calls out to me. It was Gillian, my dear friend from Austria; her son a year younger than our daughter.

Seeing her was a surprise, and it was wonderful. Living in the same neighborhood, Gillian stopped by for a tea. We caught up on the decades that separated us. Then we moved to the farm, and got busy. A few Facebook messages back and forth, we loosely stayed in touch.

Over Christmas our family talked about things we’d like to change and prioritize in the new year. To my delight, our young adults asked to go back to a congregation we had visited some ten years ago, as they felt disconnected at our current church.

In early January we walk into the familiar building, and who do I see? Gillian, volunteering at the welcome table. We hugged and talked for a few moments before the service. I don’t believe in coincidences. God was so close I could feel Him.

After reconnecting with my long-time friend, we found our seats and sipped Starbucks till the worship team took the stage. I started to tear up, overwhelmed by His kindness, as I silently thanked God for bringing us here.

The sermon was focused on Jesus, which may not be a shocker to most, but the pastor went for gold. Was Jesus Real? I listened, and watched my daughter from the corner of the eye. On the way home, she couldn’t stop talking about how clear the message was, and how it helped her to sort things out. A few weeks later she brought her friend.

From time to time, I like to look at the big picture. The seeds of faith in a shoe box, donated by a church somewhere in the US; prayed over by young missionaries…perhaps life isn’t a box of chocolates, but a giant puzzle. God oversees the pieces, often handing us a surprise, watching us guess what He has planned next, as we grasp to understand the awesome beauty of His design.

Helena Smrcek is an award winning author publishing her first novel, Burning Justice, in 1999. Since then she has penned Color of Money, Glitter and Sorrow and the non-fiction Kingdom beyond Borders. In December of 2016 her latest book, Petra’s Journey was released.

Click HERE to leave a comment for Helena.