This story is adapted from 'Our Transforming God', Anglican Diocese of Wellington.
Gary and his wife Michelle (not their real names) both came to faith in their mid-life.
Gary was a highflier in the real estate industry. He had his own very successful company and was the president of a large national conglomeration. He travelled all over the world to conferences.
Michelle was astute and engaging, and had her private pilot's licence. She and Gary had a holiday bach up the coast and loved to explore the outdoors with their children.
For several years they lived diagonally opposite an Anglican church. On Sunday mornings, they would watch people arriving for church, and as confirmed cynics would comment to each other about the hypocrites, wasting their time. Then Michelle who for a long time had been questioning how she was living her life, was invited along to a Christian meeting and was overwhelmed by God's love.
Then Gary found himself in hospital, virtually at death's door. The doctors told Michelle they could do no more for him. In desperation, Gary called out to God, who he had previously refused to believe existed. Within days Gary was miraculously healed and out of hospital.
A few months later, Gary began to lose his appetite for success in the real estate business. He questioned his ambitions and his motives. His former goals of money and self-gratification didn't sit well with him anymore. He had become uneasy in board and shareholders meetings. His priorities of making money and manipulating people had changed - but his partners hadn't.
After talking it over with Michelle, he walked into a partner's meeting and quit his position, giving them his shares, and taking a position as a salesperson. The partners were suspicious that he was up to something, but Gary and Michelle were tremendously relieved and felt freed.
A couple of years later they were able to buy into another real estate company where they could run things the way they felt it should be run. But a couple of years after that they felt called by God to go do some bible training, even though they were in thier late 40's. They could have rented their home and got in a manager but felt they had to be all in for God, so they sold the business, the house, the BMW. Parents and many old friends thought they has "lost their marbles".
After training they prepared to go to work in the Ukraine and former Yugoslavia, assisting Jewish communities with aid, helping those experiancing persecution to leave and emigrate to Israel. But 10 days before they were due to leave they were involved in a head-on collision. Gary nearly died in the ambulance, one of his lungs had been punctured as a result of crushed ribs. They had to cut him open to drain the fluid in his lungs, in the ambulance with no anaesthetic. Despite this and other injuries they had sustained, they flew out to Europe several weeks later.
The Ukraine was post-communist and the structure and economy of the whole society was collapsing, the Mafia ruled, inflation was rampant, communication poor, health care primitive, fear and uncertainty was a way of life. In one Jewish community where they worked, all the old men were Holocaust survivors of the Nazi death camps of WWII. As a minority group the Jews were increasingly unwanted and the target of vicious slander and persecution once again.
Gary and Michelle's entrepreneurial and problem solving gifts were put to good use in a society that was breaking apart. Back in NZ for a break, Gary was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease triggered by the earlier car accident. However they returned to the Ukraine as planned for 2 more years.
Gary lived 20 years with the Disease gradually worsening until his movements were so severe he couldn't leave his home, but those years were full of joy and gratitude. He and Michelle continued to pour their energies and love into a myriad of opportunities to serve God and others. At Gary's funeral I was impacted by how deep and wide this couple's transfromation had been. God's redemptive power had impacted every area of their lives.
What about you? Has God ever challenged you about your lifestyle, the way you operate in the marketplace?