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June 19, 2014

Press Photo

BCF Freshman Missions Major Jennifer and her Uncle.

What the world calls a "coincidence," believers call a "divine appointment." Some events are so far beyond human control, that only divine providence can be credited. Such is the recent story of Jennifer and her uncle.

Jennifer, a freshman Missions major at The Baptist College of Florida (BCF) in Graceville, had no thought of divine appointments last fall when she asked to be part of a team of 10 students traveling from BCF to Cuba as part of a summer 2014 Florida Baptist Convention partnership mission project. She simply loves missions, loves sharing the gospel, and loves taking BCF classes. "A mission practicum through BCF is the best of all worlds," Jennifer says. "I get to do what I love, learn while I am doing it, and get college credit all at the same time."

Besides that, Cuba held a particular interest for her. Jennifer is a Cuban American, born to Cuban parents who immigrated to the United States as children. While it was not her primary motivation for joining the team, she admitted that there was some mystique about visiting the land of her heritage and seeing for herself what life is like in the island nation her parents once called home.

As preparations for the trip were made, Jennifer was reminded that she still has relatives in Cuba to whom she had never even spoken to, much less met face to face. A few weeks prior to leaving, she confided to BCF missions professor Rich Elligson that she had an uncle living somewhere in Havana. "Jennifer casually mentioned an uncle in Havana, and wondered aloud about the possibility of meeting him there," Elligson recounted. Knowing the rigors of the schedule, the remote location of the project in Cuba's interior, and the complexities of arranging such a meeting, he did not give her much hope for that happening. "I basically told her that we were going to the interior to work, and would spend very little time in the capital city. But I said we would see how things went. I didn't want her to get her hopes up," Elligson said.

After an intense week of ministry inland concluded, the exhausted team boarded the bus for the trip back to Havana for departure back to the States. Jennifer was content with her solid week of ministry, and happy to have had the chance to experience the Cuban culture. But still, she wondered about meeting her uncle. "Jennifer had a couple of potential phone numbers for her uncle with her," Elligson explained. "I encouraged her to go ahead and call. Who knows? Maybe something would work out after all."

Her uncle answered the phone almost immediately, and very graciously offered to meet Jennifer in Havana before the group departed. The next morning at 10 o'clock, the entire team cheered as she embraced her mother's brother for the very first time.

But the story gets better.

With the team headed to a local marketplace, Jennifer's uncle decided to tag along with her and the group. For the next few hours they visited, gradually getting to know each other better and catching up on family news. When the conversation turned to the team's purpose for being in Cuba, it opened the door for presenting the gospel. The Florida Baptist volunteer team leader reached for his Bible, and a student translator joined them at a wooden table while BCF teammates lingered and quietly prayed.

Jennifer's uncle said he believed in God, but was not sure how Jesus fit into the picture. And he wasn't sure how God could really love a man like him. Over the next thirty minutes, patiently and lovingly, the Scriptures were shared. Fishing his glasses out of his pocket, Jennifer's uncle read for himself of God's great love demonstrated in Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross. "He was very intent," said Kelsi, a BCF Missions major who helped with translation. "Before the conversation ended, he was answering his own questions. It was exciting to watch."

When asked if he wanted to trust Christ, he emphatically said yes. And in the concluding moments of this "divine appointment" Jennifer led her uncle to faith in Christ. Needless to say, Jennifer, her uncle, and the entire team were overjoyed at such a dramatic end to an already fruitful week.

Two days later, as the team arrived back in Graceville, Jennifer put it all in proper context: "Our God is an amazing God. I know we shouldn't be so surprised when He does 'abundantly more than we ask or think,' but I am sure glad on this trip He did just that. What an amazing trip...and what an amazing God."