“God put it on my heart to do this when I was sixteen. Jesus spoke to me three times one morning. It was like a voice I heard with my ears. He called me by my name and said, ‘Seek me and you will find me.’ ”
Ordinarily, when a conversation takes this turn, I begin backing up. But Andy spoke so directly and simply; his demeanor was so forthright that, even though one tiny, cynical part of me might have been rolling its eyes, the rest of me was riveted. Here, surely, was one of God’s own.
I was in Fredericksburg in central-west Texas. I had stumbled into the Greater Grace Christian Coffee House looking for a good wifi connection. (Surprisingly hard to find in a little town that caters to tourists.) And this coffeehouse was open until midnight! Not only that, behind the shop a gazebo in a grove of live oaks overlooks a small creek . Refreshment for all the senses!
But despite those advantages, I entered the GGCC with a morsel of trepidation. For one thing, I don’t like being proselytized. I’m Catholic. Period. For another, when Christians publicly identify themselves as such, by running a Christian coffeehouse, for example, they think they have to exude joy and warm, gooey luv. That they have to wish me a blessed day while gazing at me with clear, Christian eyes. And I tend to respond in kind, even though it feels fake.
So, I was glad when I got my coffee and bagel without any of the Hallelujahs. In fact, the guy behind the counter disappeared.
After a couple hours, he was back behind the counter, and I asked, half-joking, if he would be there until midnight. “Yup,” he said. “And then I’ll be back at 6:45 in the morning. Sometimes in the evening no one will be here. Sometimes there’ll be a crowd. And sometimes someone comes in who really needs help. Then I might stay until 2 or 3 a.m.”
Turns out this guy, Andy, has been maintaining those hours, six days a week, for seven years.
Andy was raised Catholic in southern Louisiana, which apparently practices a brand of Catholicism distinct from all others. For example, when was the last time you saw buckets in the rear pews of a church on Christmas morning for those who had celebrated too heartily on Christmas Eve? But when Andy heard the voice that morning, he started looking for its source. Eventually, he ended up in church.
“A bunch of elderly ladies were there, praying the rosary,” he recalled. “I went around looking at the Stations of the Cross; then, I went up and looked in the cups on the altar. The ladies kind of gave this collective gasp, but the cups were empty. I finally just said to God, ‘If you’re real and had anything to do with that voice, then take my life.’ ”
Several months later, “I felt God wanted me to go into the woods and just be with him. I stayed there 11 days, just being content. I didn’t eat anything during that time because I didn’t get hungry.
“I remember lying on the ground watching a cloud of mosquitoes buzzing over my body. In Louisiana, the mosquitoes will carry you away. I could hear the buzzing, but they weren’t biting me.
“On the 9thday, God spoke to me again (in my heart this time, not like a voice). He said I should do everything that he would place in my heart, including this coffeehouse. What seemed weird to me at the time was that he told me I should not go into any debt to do it. I didn’t understand that at 16, and I almost doubted that this was God’s voice, but when I was older, I realized how significant that would be.
“On the 10th day, he said I shouldn’t be concerned with houses or land, that he would provide for me.”
“On the 11th day, he said that I shouldn’t strive or worry, that he would bring everything to pass.”
For the next 30 years, Andy continued to faithfully follow that voice as he was given guidance. He pursued mission work in other countries, and he worked with youth in this one. He never went into debt, and he didn’t joined a church, but he read his Bible faithfully and developed strong ideas about culture and morality, some of which I’m not sure I understand, and others I’m not sure I agree with. But what is unmistakable about Andy’s story is that “God kept me,” as he says.
Then, “when I was 41, I felt that the Lord was telling me that it was time to move forward on the coffeehouse. Shortly after that, at about 3 in the morning, Jane, a homeless lady, knocked on my door. She was standing there smiling with one little tooth missing. She was in her late 50s at the time, but she was a total child.
“She said to me, ‘Andy, God told me that you’re supposed to open a Christian coffeehouse, and he wants you to get started on it. I’m supposed to pray for where it’s going to be.’
“After that, she’d go out and pray over this house or that vacant lot. She just didn’t know where it was supposed to be.”
Two sales fell through at the last minute, and Andy happened to be in Fredericksburg one day, walking around in frustration at the hurdles he was encountering when he met a German carpenter. “You wouldn’t know a place in town that might make a good coffeehouse, would you?”
“Actually, I know two of them,” the man said, and handed Andy all his keys. “Just let yourself in and take a look.”
“I had asked God for two things,” recalled Andy. “Since I was moving from Louisiana, I wanted big oaks and water. When I walked out the back door of this place and saw the huge oak trees on the creek, I thought, something’s happening here. Then, the carpenter came down $37,000 on his asking price, which is almost unheard of in this town. It was a total God thing.”
“Why do you think God chose you?” I asked.
“I don’t know. God says he chooses the foolish to confound the wise.”
Whatever you may think of Andy’s story, the take-away for all of us is not to worry or to strive, and not to be concerned with material things. When God keeps you, he brings his will to pass.