April 16, 2008

When We Prayed for a Drummer

2008 1511 page28 capHEN I NEED BIBLICAL KNOWLEDGE, I call my pastor. When I struggle with theological issues, I speak with a religion professor I know. But when it comes to genuinely praising God for His goodness, these days I find myself learning a lot from an unlikely source: a teenager who stepped into a church for the first time only a few years ago.
The first time I met Tim Xin, I somehow knew God was leading his life.
Prayer for a Drummer?
It was a typical Sabbath at Upper Room Fellowship Seventh-day Adventist Church in Temple City, California. I was sitting there thinking about our praise team. After praying for a drummer for a few weeks, I was starting to realize how hard it was to find a drummer, let alone a good one.
The person leading intercessory prayer interrupted my thoughts by asking if there were any prayer requests. Should I? I wondered. Nah, that’s not something I want to share with the entire church. Or is it? After hesitating slightly, my arm shot up in the air.
“Let’s pray for a drummer,” I said loudly and clearly, hoping I sounded confident enough to let everyone know I was serious. It didn’t work; the congregation broke out into laughter.
2008 1511 page28What happened next made me realize God wasn’t laughing. Just a few seconds after I made the prayer request, a tall young man walked through the door. I had never seen him before. I knew I hadn’t because I wouldn’t have forgotten his appearance. His hair was bleached and spiked. Both eyebrows were pierced, along with his nose, lower lip, even his tongue. He looked like a drummer. Could he be the answer to my prayer?
Tim didn’t know the first thing about Seventh-day Adventists. In fact, he’d never been to a church, any church. Living most of his life in China, he had only heard about God. But since immigrating into the United States only a few years before, he was looking for a place to play drums. Turns out, a friend told him our church was looking for a drummer.
So that explains how he found us. But the timing—immediately after my prayer request—was amazing. Some might call it a coincidence; I believe it was God’s way of reminding me who’s in control.
After getting acquainted with Tim during potluck, I asked him to listen to a recording of one of the songs we were working on. After about four seconds, he said, “Oh, no problem,” and began pounding away as if he’d been playing the song all his life. Awesome! Thank You, Lord.
Growing in Grace
During the next few months I was beginning to be less impressed by Tim’s musical talents and more impressed by his walk with God. He started studying the Bible with Paul Kim, one of our church members. Slowly, I started to see changes. First, the obvious: his face no longer had anything metallic hanging from it, and his hair was back to his natural black.
There was also a more subtle change—on the inside. Not that Tim was ever a “bad” person; he was already a nice guy. But I started noticing his excitement for God. No, correct that: I started experiencing his excitement.
If something good happened, he remarked, “God is so good.” If something bad happened, he’d say, “I’m not worried; God’s gonna take care of me.” In either scenario, you could tell he meant what he said.
Tim started expressing his excitement more confidently, sometimes offering to pray before our rehearsals. “Dear God, thank You for Your many blessings.” He stumbled over a few words, then paused awkwardly as he struggled to find the right words. It was only his second or third time praying. “We’re nothing without You, Lord,” he confessed. “So, we just want You to be with us as we practice. We’re doing this all for You. This is all for You, Lord.”
It was a simple prayer, nothing fancy. But it touched me. I was just happy to hear him pray at all. But what he said got to me. He was telling God, and at the same time reminding me, that we were excited about doing something, anything, for our Lord. “We’re doing this all for You,” he exclaimed with confidence.
The months that followed were great. Our band had its first praise night. About 100 people came together to worship God through music. I was blessed by the experience, and, not surprisingly, Tim was very excited.
Would It Last?
Then Tim faced his first test. While I was away on vacation, he moved to Reno, Nevada. When I came home I got a call from him. He didn’t sound good. He had been looking for a job as a dental technician after graduating from school. But he wasn’t having much luck. Faced with pressure from his dad, he took a job at a restaurant in Reno. He was serving food, busing tables, even washing dishes. Making minimum wage, he worked 12-hour days. He shared a tiny room with four other people. He sounded miserable.
I felt angry at first. How could he just take off without letting me know? Then I got selfish. Oh, no! We’ve lost our drummer. So, without even thinking about what I was saying, I blurted out, “Tim, get back here.”
He didn’t really say anything. So, I said it again. “Don’t worry about anything else, just come home.”
But now my head was catching up to the words coming out of my mouth. What am I saying? Am I taking responsibility for him? What if he comes down and he can’t find a job? Then what? But I ignored my worries. Something told me to continue.
Whatever I said must’ve convinced him. He was on a bus that night. Although he didn’t arrive until 3:00 a.m., he still came to church that morning. When I saw him, I gave him a hug and told him not to worry, even though I was. We prayed together.
During intercessory prayer my arm shot up again. This time I explained the whole story to the congregation before asking everyone to pray that Tim would find a job as a dental tech.
Like Pieces of a Puzzle
After the service, I saw Tim talking to a guest I knew only as Mr. Lim. Mr. Lim was starting a dental lab in Redlands and needed some help. He had heard my prayer request and offered Tim a job.
There’s more: Mr. Lim and his wife had been planning to visit our church for some time, but they never got around to stopping by. On this particular morning, however, they felt compelled to come.
Meanwhile, Tim could easily have skipped church too, as he was tired from his long trip, but he came that Sabbath. The timing was perfect: Tim desperately needed a job and Mr. Lim was ready to hire a worker. And to top it all, the job was in Redlands, where Paul Kim lived, the one studying the Bible with Tim. When he heard the news, Paul offered to let Tim live in his house rent-free. Now they could study the Bible together at home. Coincidence? Tim didn’t think so.
“God is amazing,” he said with a hearty laugh.
Tim believes God provided that job for him. He believes God is the one who urged me to tell him to leave Reno and come home. He believes God gave him the courage to get on that bus and encouraged him to go to church even though he was really tired. He believes God delayed Mr. Lim’s visit to our church until just the right time. He even believes God was considerate enough to provide a job in the right location, so he could live with his Bible study teacher.
And when it all came together Tim got excited—really excited—about God, much as I used to be.
Tim was eventually baptized. Since then his passion for God has only continued to grow. He still won’t replace my pastor when I need biblical knowledge. He’s still no substitute for my professor friend when I need to discuss deep theological issues. But when it comes to genuinely praising God for His goodness, few can compare to that teenager who stepped into a church for the first time only a few years ago.
Keep on getting excited about God, Tim. And I’ll keep learning.
Tony Yang is a communication manager at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, and worship leader at the Upper Room Fellowship at the Seventh-day Adventist church in Temple City, California.