Sermon Illustrations

From Chicago to Memphis

That’s always how it is in the life of faith. Many times you will be called to step out for God and you will be precisely where Abraham was—believing God but not knowing what the future holds.

When I think of that principle, my mind goes back to a conversation I had with Dan and Linda Hoeksema at Family Camp a year and a half ago. They were agonizing about whether or not they should move to Memphis. I remember having a long talk with Linda one night around the campfire. She had struggled so much with leaving the familiar surroundings of Chicago. Moving to Memphis for her was like going to a foreign country. The whole decision was made more difficult by the fact that Dan had no contacts in Memphis, no job, no promise of a job, no reason to move there at all, really.

Except one. Len and Roberta Hoppe had already moved to Memphis where Len had taken a new job. We all knew that Len and Dan were close friends and I think many of us assumed that Dan wanted to move to Memphis simply because the Hoppes were there. Frankly, it didn’t make much sense for the Hoeksemas to go to Memphis.

But that night around the campfire Linda told me that she had finally decided to go and that she was trusting God to work out the details. So they went, and it would be fair to say that the first year in Memphis proved to be quite difficult. There was the culture shock, the language difference, the impact of moving from a huge metropolitan area to a much smaller city, the challenge of making new friends, getting the kids settled in school, finding a new church, and on top of that, Dan didn’t have much work for a long time.

But life changed forever last Thanksgiving when the doctors told Len Hoppe that he had cancer. Here’s one fact that you may not know. On the Thursday before Len’s surgery here in Chicago, he and Dan had a last lunch together in Memphis. Len knew full well that there was a good chance he wouldn’t survive the surgery or the recovery period. So he asked Dan to take care of his family in case he died.

After Len’s funeral, Marlene and I flew to Memphis for the memorial service at the Central Church. When Dan drove us to the airport the next morning, we passed by the restaurant where he and Len had shared their last meal together.

“Many people wondered why Linda and I moved to Memphis,” he said. “I wondered myself many times, particularly when I didn’t have a job here. There were many times when I questioned whether we had done the right thing or not. But now I know why God sent us here. He knew beforehand that Len was going to die and he wanted us...

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