Brownie mixes, REESE’S cups, Stove Top packets, cans of green chiles, peppermint candy canes and so many other goodies were piled on tables and chairs in the hotel conference room. The abundance of these goodies that had mostly been donated by supporters and church families felt overwhelming — a good overwhelming. I couldn’t wait to see the faces of the missionary women whom we had prayed for and would receive the blessing of these goody bags—things that are difficult to find where they live.
This was the second Greater Europe Mission (GEM) Connecting Hearts Retreat I had helped with. One of my main responsibilities was coordinating the goodies for these bags and getting the supplies to this year’s retreat location—Greece.
Our only problem in retreat preparation: We didn’t have the bags. They had accidentally been left in the U.S., and our retreat started the next morning.
With an hour before dinner, a heart for adventure and a love for the reality TV show, “The Amazing Race,” I took it upon myself along with another leader, Bev, to venture into Greece and try to find 38 bags to hold all of this goodness.
The hotel staff sent us toward an outdoor shopping area. They didn’t completely understand what we needed, and we didn’t understand where they were sending us. As we pulled into the shopping district, our taxi driver motioned that he would let us out soon. I didn’t see any stores I knew, only Starbucks.
Bev and I glanced around. These were mostly clothing stores.
“Bev, let’s go to Starbucks,” I suggested. “I have an idea.”
She agreed as we entered what felt like the most familiar place in Greece, other customers in line immediately overheard us speaking English and turned around.
While I was trying to decide what to do next, I walked over to a display filled with coffee, travel mugs, and coffee mugs. Just like a tourist, I picked up a coffee mug that spelled out “Greece” on the front and decided this would be how I would make the ask.
A twenty-something guy stood behind the counter looking at me attentively, probably ready to write my drink order on a holiday cup. However, I wasn’t ordering a drink.
“Hello. I would like to get this mug,” I said, as I handed it across the counter. “And could I please have 38 bags?”
He looked up from what he was doing. A bit stunned at my request. While most Starbucks baristas are used to a variety of languages, I wondered if he questioned his own understanding of my English.
“Thirty-eight?” he asked. Or maybe he wondered if the holiday tunes were too loud for him to correctly hear what I said.
“Yes, 38 bags. I would be glad to pay for them.”
The next thing I knew, the barista had brought out a box of new bags, counting them each as he made a pile of bags for me on the counter. After gathering the bags, he returned to the register to tell me my total. The total only included the coffee mug. I looked at him confused.
“I can pay for the bags,” I insisted.
“Ma’am we don’t sell bags. These are for you to have.”
“Thank you so much!” I exclaimed. As I looked down at one of the bags, I noticed the phraseology on the front, “Crafted by Hand and Heart.” I couldn’t believe that not only had we found bags within our budget, but they were perfect for the women’s retreat entitled, “Connecting Hearts” with the theme “My Cup Overflows.” It felt like God was in every detail—and all of that within 30 minutes from leaving the hotel to begin our adventure.
I was able to snag a bag to take home with me, but have found that this phraseology is used on the bags and coffee sleeves of most Starbucks. Now every time I see a Starbucks bag or coffee sleeve this season, I’m reminded that God is in the details. He doesn’t miss a beat on meeting us right where we’re at—in our need, in our desperation, even when it feels like we’re small and insignificant, and maybe that He’s late or has forgotten.
I’m sorta glad we had to go on the hunt for new bags because then I got to experience God’s heart for the small and seemingly insignificant. His love is BIG, but it’s also detailed. He’s not late. He hasn’t forgotten. He will show up.
As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” —Matthew 1:20-23