By Beth Vaughan
When Christopher and Lauren Thomas* opened their home to Andrew Hipps* to sell him some furniture, they had no idea God was opening the door of provision for them.
The Thomas family was serving a six-month stateside assignment in September 2015, when the International Mission Board (IMB) announced the Voluntary Retirement Incentive (VRI) for personnel at least 50 years of age who had served for at least 5 years.
“We had served with the IMB for 15 years in Thailand,” Christopher recalled. “We never expected to move back to America at this time.”
However, as the VRI deadline approached, the Thomases’ hearts were stirred.
“We didn’t want to leave the field, or the IMB,” Christopher said. “But we found as the deadline grew closer, we simply couldn’t say no to the VRI.”
They did not know what God had in store for them in America, but the Thomases were convinced that the Lord was leading them to accept the VRI. So on January 5, Lauren and Christopher boarded a plane to their home in Thailand — not to return to the ministry there, but to pack their belongings and say goodbye.
“It was very difficult,” Lauren recounted. “The work was vibrant, and the need so great. Plus, it was home — the only home our youngest son had ever known.”
As the couple sorted and packed, worries mounted. Where would they live? What would they do for work? What would they do for transportation? Despite the questions, the Thomases knew God was asking them to obey.
Arizonans and new IMB appointees Andrew and Beth Hipps were fresh off the plane and came to the Thomases’ home to discuss buying their dining room table. As they talked, Andrew asked Christopher if they had a car in the states.
“Well, yes,” Christopher answered, “but we have to return it soon.”
As only God can orchestrate, the Thomases were going to Arizona to be with Christopher’s parents, and Hipps had a truck in Arizona that needed an owner.
Through a series of emails with Mitch McDonald, Arizona Southern Baptist Convention missions facilitator, arrangements were made to get the truck to the Thomases when they arrived.
“We were hurting and discouraged. God used so many little things to affirm that we were, in fact, doing what He wanted us to do,” Christopher said.
One by one, God began to answer each question, and Hipps’ truck was just the beginning.”
There is so much more to this story than just the truck,” Lauren said. “But the truck is a big piece of the puzzle.”
Since the announcement of the VRI, and subsequent Hand Raising Opportunity (HRO) for personnel not qualified for the VRI, the IMB has been in a raw state of flux.
Seeing God bring things full-circle by using a family just starting their service overseas to bless a returning family is exciting. It’s a reminder that God can use anything to edify the body of Christ. Even a red pickup truck.