Sacrifice and surrender are just as the Methodists of Swan Quarter, North Carolina, did in the fall of 1876. They had decided to build a new church for the glory of God on a highland spot right in the center of town. After selecting this perfect location, the congregation was distraught when the land’s owner, Sam Sadler, refused to sell them his property. They raised more money and offered Sadler a higher price. But hard-hearted Sam would not make the deal. Undaunted, the citizens built the new church on a low-lying piece of property out on Oyster Creek Road toward the edge of town. On September 16, 1876, they cheerfully dedicated to the Lord their small white-framed building sitting on brick pilings.
Weather historian Merlin S. Berry shares what happened next.
That same day a major hurricane was churning past Cuba on its way toward the Carolina coast. As the hurricane spun across the state, winds drove high waters across Pamlico Sound and piled them on the shores of Hyde County. Three days later, much of Swan Quarter was flooded with five feet of water. Homes and businesses were deluged and wrecked and the town’s fishing fleet was severely damaged.
Despite the devastation all around them, the residents of Swan quarter were awed by an act of divine providence; the powerful hurricane had hoisted the small church, intact, right off its foundations; it then gently floated on a direct route to the exact piece of property on which the congregants had originally intended to erect their building. Everyone was in awe of God’s intervention. Sadler was so overcome that he later signed a deed donating his land to the Methodist church today. Today, a sign stands in front of the Providence Church, reminding visitors that this was the church “Moved by the Hand of God.”
By now, you may be wondering, How do I know where the hand of God is leading me? It has been suggested that you can compare discovering God’s will with a sea captain’s docking procedure.
A certain harbor in Italy can be reached only by sailing up a narrow channel between dangerous rocks and shoals. Over the years, many ships have been wrecked, and navigation is hazardous. To guide the ships safely into port, three lights have been mounted on three huge poles in the harbor. When the three lights are perfectly lined up and seen as one, the ship can safely proceed up the narrow channel. If the pilot sees two or three lights he knows he’s off course and in danger.
God has also provided three beacons to guide us. The same rules of navigation apply-the three lights must be lined up before it is safe for us to proceed. The three harbor lights of guidance are (1) the Word of God (objective standard), (2) the Holy Spirit (subjective witness) and (3) circumstances (divine providence). Together they assure us that the directions we’ve received are from God and will lead us safely along His way.
God still leads us and devises incredible outcomes from ordinary beginnings. What seems uneventful to us today may be the preparation for something colossal. That’s the way it happened for me one pristine fall afternoon in Albuquerque, New Mexico.