ince this post office box is for a new Seventh-day Adventist Church, can you find us one with lots of sevens in the number?” I jokingly asked the postal clerk.
He smiled. “I’ll see what I can do.”
We had recently planted the Abundant Life Seventh-day Adventist Church in Wenatchee, Washington, as an effort to involve more members in ministry and to have more points of contact with the community. Our volunteer secretary, Amber Barber, told me my signature was necessary to rent a post office box, so we met at the post office one afternoon. Looking at the five sizes of boxes, we decided to rent the second smallest size; then we waited in line for the first available clerk to help us.
When it was our turn to go to the counter, a friendly man with the name “Emery” on his name badge offered assistance. “Let me see what box numbers are available for that size box.”
Soon he returned with a list of about a dozen possibilities. Pointing at the first number on the list he said, “Here’s one with some sevens in it.”
“P.O. Box 1774; that’s a good one,” I responded.
“Or you might be interested in this one.” He pointed to a number farther down his list.
The number jumped out at me. “How did you know we might want P.O. Box 1844?” I asked, amazed.
“I grew up in Loma Linda,” he said. “My wife and I met in eighth grade at the church school. I used to work in the post office there. It was closed on Sabbaths.”
I noticed he said “Sabbaths,” not “Saturdays.”
“Then I transferred to a different town.” He hung his head slightly, letting us both recognize what that meant.
“We’re starting a new Seventh-day Adventist Church, and we want you back,” I offered.
“I read about it in the newspaper. My wife still cooks vegetarian at home.”
I was overwhelmed. I realized that this was not a coincidence; it was a divine appointment. God had orchestrated so many things—when we would both be in the post office, which clerk would be available, what size box we would choose, and which numbers would be available. What if I hadn’t made the offhand remark about a post office box with lots of sevens in it? What if he had not pointed to 1844? I felt humbled—and very small.
“We meet every Saturday at 9:30 at Pioneer Middle School. Why don’t you come this Sabbath?”
He hesitated. “I work.” It seemed as if he was almost ready to add, “and I know that’s wrong.”
“We have lots of other activities during the week you can come to,” I offered as I mentioned several options.
“I’ll keep it in mind.”
Amber finished filling out the paperwork, and I signed where I needed to. Once outside I turned to her and said, “We have to get our members praying for Emery. Do you realize what a miracle has just taken place?” We took a moment to pray right there on the sidewalk before going our separate directions.
The Widening Circle
The following evening I was at prayer meeting at the Wenatchee Seventh-day Adventist Church, the mother church of the Abundant Life Church. I told the group about what had happened the day before at the post office.
Vivienne Evans, whom I had rebaptized a year before, said, “Oh, I went to school with Emery and Andrea in Loma Linda a long time ago. Ever since I came back to the Seventh-day Adventist Church I’ve been praying for them.”
“Well, it sounds to me like God has them surrounded,” I responded. “Let’s see what will happen.”
As word spread of the divine encounter, more prayer warriors put Emery and Andrea Rockwell on their prayer lists. When they went to the post office, they’d let others go ahead of them in line so they could be served by Emery and invite his family to various activities. A few months later a postcard arrived in P.O. Box 1844 addressed to the Abundant Life Seventh-day Adventist Church family: “We’re on vacation and have been thinking about all of you. Thought we’d send you a card since we knew the address from memory! Love, Emery and Andrea.”
The prayers, invitations, and friendship at the post office counter continued. Several years later I accepted a new ministry assignment and left the area. But I heard bits and pieces of what God continued to do. In August 2008 Emery was baptized for the first time, and Andrea transferred her membership from the Loma Linda Campus Hill Church and joined the Abundant Life Seventh-day Adventist Church. A long-lost 84-year-old aunt had moved to Wenatchee some years earlier and had encouraged Emery to attend church at his late mother’s request. She now attends services every Sabbath with Emery and Andrea.
The following summer I went back to the Wenatchee Valley for a weekend Bible conference in one of the churches. I noticed a friendly, familiar face I had last seen six years before behind the counter of the post office. “Pastor Dan, thanks for sharing God’s Word with us and encouraging us to share it with others,” said Emery. “I’m now a member of the church board at Abundant Life and I’m in charge of the church newsletter.”
Then he added, “When I noticed that P.O. box number was available, I knew my ‘cover’ would be blown if I recommended it; but it was just too good of a coincidence to pass up. I had made a promise to myself and to God that if a job came up with Sabbaths off, I would bid for it and start attending church. I finally had enough seniority to do just that. I was ready and had a longing to get back to my Adventist roots. God had my family surrounded. He sure knows what He’s doing!”
Now it’s Emery’s turn to pass on to others the invitations he received. Here’s a recent one he sent to all his Facebook friends, including me: “Our church is going to have some very interesting meetings this week, beginning Saturday evening, June 13, at 7:00. There will be activities for the children while the adults listen to topics such as ‘Secrets of the Ancient Scrolls’ and many others. Please plan to attend tomorrow night’s first meeting. There is another topic each night @ 7 p.m. all week. You will be enlightened and amazed. This is something I’m sure you don’t want to miss. Call me with any questions @ 509-xxx-xxxx. See you there, Emery.”
Often only in hindsight can we recognize these “divine coincidences” that indicate God’s providence at work in our lives. That’s why we must always be conscious of the Holy Spirit’s leading in our conversations. Who knows where they might lead? The apostle Paul wrote: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).
Dan Serns is ministerial director for the North Pacific Union Conference with headquarters in Ridgefield, Washington. This article was published November 12, 2009.