Charlie the Christmas Goat and The God of the Unexpected

When my wife and I were first married, we lived in a downtown neighborhood and were part of an urban ministry.  Part of our role was to help lead a high school youth ministry at a neighborhood church.  One year, we set a goal to take our youth group across the country to a conference in Washington D.C.  One of the challenges was coming up with the funds to do this.

In most youth groups, the leaders have the kids send out letters to family and friends to raise money for trips like this.  However, the kids in our group didn’t have that kind of network available to them, so we had to get a little creative.  We lived downtown, but I discovered when talking to my next-door neighbor one day that he owned a small ranch outside of town.  He happened to mention that he had goats.  I filed that little piece of intel away, and when this whole fundraising problem came up,  I knocked on his door.

“Hey Pedro, one time you mentioned that you had some goats out at the ranch.  I was wondering if you would let us borrow one for a day?”

I’m not sure which was more strange:  The fact that I was asking to borrow a goat for a day, or the fact that Pedro didn’t ask a lot of questions and simply said, “Sure.”

Early one cold Saturday December morning I drove out to the ranch, spoke briefly to one of the men working there and loaded up a real live goat into the only vehicle we had available to us: our minivan.  I feel like there is a fairly exclusive club of people that have had a live goat in their minivan and I’m happy to say that I am a proud member.  We picked up the youth group kids and set off on our adventure.   This is how it went down…

We pull up to a random person’s house, and several teenagers (some wearing Santa hats) pile out of our blue minivan, open the back hatch and carefully coax a goat wearing a giant red ribbon around his neck down an improvised wooden ramp down onto the street.  “Charlie the Christmas Goat” is on the job.

We walk up to the front door and Charlie leaves a few initial small Christmas presents on the sidewalk on the way up  (no worries though — we have a shovel along and as far as animal droppings go, goat droppings are fairly tidy).  We ring the doorbell and a puzzled homeowner slowly opens the door.

“Hello, we are a youth group from the neighborhood and are raising money for a trip to Washington D.C.   For a donation of any amount we will deliver Charlie the Christmas Goat (and a Christmas Carol) to anyone you wish.”

We had our first client, and we were off to the races.  Our fundraiser was a hit.  People were genuinely amused to have a live Christmas goat delivering holiday cheer sent to their front door and were thrilled to send him on to friends and neighbors.  One person paid us to deliver Charlie to the Mayor’s house.  Another sent us to a house in the suburbs that was in the middle of hosting a large Christmas party.   The person at the door yelled back inside, “Hey guys, come check this out!”  I think it’s safe to say that Charlie the Christmas Goat was the best thing that ever happened to a Christmas party.

At the end of a long day, we delivered Charlie back to the ranch to tell all his friends what it’s like to ride in a minivan.  We then gathered the kids back at the house to celebrate what God had provided through this unlikely candidate.

Many of us feel like we are in difficult, if not impossible, circumstances.  It just seems like the resources we need are not there.  Maybe you are a foster or adoptive family in desperate need of a weekend away, but that seems impossible.  Maybe you lead a ministry at your church with little to no budget and without the support from church staff you’d ideally like.  Maybe you are a child welfare professional and you simply don’t feel like you have the resources to do your job well.  Maybe you are an non-profit leader who is wondering whether you can keep the doors open for another year.

We all have felt the resignation and anxiety that come with these kinds of circumstances.  But sometimes, the answers to our resource problems come in very unexpected ways from very unexpected places.  Here are two questions to consider:

  1. What might the amazingly creative God of the Universe (who, by the way, invented the duck-billed platypus) have already provided, without you noticing, to meet your need and blow your mind?
  2. Could it be that you are God’s unexpected creative provision for someone else?  How might he want to use you this week to blow someone else’s mind?

Our God owns the cattle on a thousand hills as well as the goat on the ranch just outside of town. Look expectantly for the unexpected way He will meet your need and use you to meet the needs of others.