“So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.'” Genesis 16:13
The most significant intentional step I took was to travel alone to Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, and Mount Desert Island in Maine. It would have been our thirty-sixth wedding anniversary, and Bar Harbor, Maine was the destination for our honeymoon. We had returned to Bar Harbor for our twentieth anniversary in 2003.
I went to remember, and I went to honor and celebrate my marriage. I went to celebrate marriage itself. I went to take a significant step in my healing. As the time approached, I sensed God saying to me it was time to pull aside and get alone with him, as well. He would meet me there. My anticipation grew as the date came for me to fly to Bangor, Maine to begin my pilgrimage.
My time in Bar Harbor was my most significant of the “firsts.” In a nutshell, I worshipped, hiked, and journaled. I was amazed and thrilled with the beauty of Acadia National Park.
But the best of my pilgrimage was near the end of my trip. Even better than the tea and popovers.
On my anniversary, I took two mountain hikes. The afternoon hike, my second of the day, took me up Gorham Mountain. As I approached the summit, I passed and greeted three young ladies who were cooling off under a tree. I asked if I was close to the summit, and they pointed out that I was a mere fifty feet from my goal. As I enjoyed the summit view and took pictures, I heard the three young ladies begin to sing an old chorus, He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.
Moments later, I turned to head back down the mountain. Since they were still under the tree, I sang out, “He’s got you and me sisters in his hands…” A conversation began. After establishing that we were Christians, one young lady named Brit told me she worked at a Christian school. I replied that I worked at a Christian mission agency. She asked which one. When I answered, her eyes widened. She knew my mission agency. She then quickly added, that she was the administrative assistant to the head of the mission department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Then one of them asked if I was hiking alone, and I briefly shared about my anniversary pilgrimage. They asked if they could pray for me. And there on Gorham Mountain in Maine on Mount Desert Island, three believing young women ministered to me in prayer.
El Roi. God sees me. He cares for me. I’m not alone. He is Immanuel, God with us.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” Psalm 32:8
God wasn’t finished.
The next morning, I awoke and had some time before I had to go to the airport that afternoon. After coffee and prayer, I hiked up to Bubble Rock. I enjoyed the beauty that morning looking out at Jordan Pond below. This was a pivotal moment. I had come to the end of my time in Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. I would head down to my cottage, shower, have breakfast in Bar Harbor, and then head to the airport. I exhaled out a sense of accomplishment and completion. Then I turned with determination to end my mountaintop anniversary experience. I was finished. It was time to head home to continue facing loss.
But God wasn’t quite finished.
As I turned, a family was just ascending the peak of Bubble Rock. I saw the youngest son wearing a shirt that had Union University across the front. I commented on it, and a conversation ensued. They asked how I knew Union and I mentioned, once again, that I work for a mission agency. Our workers send children there for college, and we take graduates from the school and send them overseas. They asked which mission agency. When I told them, one son, Josh, asked if I knew the Laffertys. This couple, Todd and Susan, had just returned to Richmond as leaders. The oldest son continued, “Jonathan Lafferty is going to be my resident assistant and is going to live in the dorm room next to me next week.”
I asked where this family was from and learned that they were from Grace Community Church in Nashville, Tennessee where Scott Patty, a respected leader, is the pastor. The father, Bill Kersey, shared that he was an elder at the church.
Then, his wife, Lisa, asked if I was hiking alone. Once again, I shared that I was on an anniversary pilgrimage.
Bill asked if he and his family could gather around me and pray for me. And right there at the top of Bubble Rock in Maine on Mount Desert Island in Acadia National Park a family ministered to me in prayer.
Two days. Two mountain tops. Two prayers.
El Roi. I see you. Miraculous.
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Ps 73:25-26