“Since this post office box is for a new Seventh-day Adventist Church, can you find us one with lots of sevens in the number?” I jokingly asked the postal clerk.
He smiled. “I’ll see what I can do.”
We had recently planted the Abundant Life Seventh-day Adventist Church in Wenatchee, Washington as an effort to involve more members in ministry and to have more points of contact with the community. Our volunteer secretary, Amber Barber, told me they needed my signature to rent a post office box so we met at the post office one afternoon. Looking at the five sizes of boxes we decided to rent the second smallest size, and then waited in line for the first available clerk to help us.
When it was our turn to go to the counter a friendly man with the name “Emery” on his badge offered assistance. “Let me see what box numbers are available for that size box.”
Soon he returned with a list of about a dozen possibilities. Pointing at the first number on the list he said “Here’s one with some sevens in it.”
“P. O. Box 1774. That’s a good one,” I responded.
“Or you might be interested in this one.” He pointed to a number farther down his list.
The number jumped out at me. “How did you know we might want P. O. Box 1844*?” I asked amazed.
“I grew up in Loma Linda. My wife and I met in eighth grade at the church school. I used to work in the post office there. It was closed on Sabbaths.”
I noticed that he didn’t say “Saturdays.”
“Then I transferred to a different town.” He hung his head slightly, letting us both recognize what that meant.
“We’re starting a new Seventh-day Adventist Church and we want you back” I offered.
“I read about it in the newspaper. My wife still cooks vegetarian at home.”
I was overwhelmed. I realized that this was not a coincidence, it was a divine appointment. God had orchestrated so many things— when we would both be in the post office, which clerk would be available, what size box we would choose, and which numbers would be available. What if I hadn’t made the off-hand remark about a post office box with lots of sevens in it? What if he had not pointed to 1844? I felt humbled and very small.
“We meet every Saturday at 9:30 at Pioneer Middle School. Why don’t you come this Sabbath?”
He hesitated. “I work.” It seemed like he was almost ready to add “and I know that’s wrong to do.”
“We have lots of other activities during the week you can come to.” I mentioned several options.
“I’ll keep it in mind.”
Amber finished filling out the paperwork and I signed where I needed to. Once outside I turned to Amber and said “We have got to get our members praying for Emery. Do you realize what a miracle has just taken place?” We took a moment to pray right there on the sidewalk before going our separate directions.
The following evening I was at prayer meeting at the Wenatchee Seventh-day Adventist Church, the mother church that had planted the Abundant Life church. I told the group the story of what had happened the day before at the post office. Vivienne Evans, who I had re-baptized a year before said “Oh, I went to school with Emery and Andrea in Loma Linda a long time ago. Ever since I came back to the Seventh-day Adventist Church I’ve been praying for them.”
“Well it sounds to me like God has them surrounded,” I responded. “Let’s see what will happen.”
As word spread of the divine encounter more prayer warriors put Emery and Andrea Rockwell on their prayer lists. When they went to the post office, they would let others go ahead of them in line so they could be served by Emery and invite his family to various activities. A few months later a postcard arrived in P. O. Box 1844 addressed to the Abundant Life Seventh-day Adventist Church Family. “We’re on vacation and have been thinking about all of you. Thought we’d send you a card since we knew the address from memory! Love, Emery and Andrea.”
The prayers and invitations and friendship at the post office counter continued. A couple of years later I accepted a new ministry assignment and left the area. But I heard bits and pieces of what God was continuing to do. In August of 2008 Emery was baptized for the first time and Andrea transferred her membership from the Loma Linda Hill Church and joined the Abundant Life Seventh-day Adventist Church. A long lost 84 year old Aunt had moved to Wenatchee some years earlier and had encouraged him at his late mother’s request. She is now attending every Sabbath with Emery and Andrea.
The following summer I went back to the Wenatchee Valley for a weekend Bible Conference in one of the churches. I noticed a friendly, familiar face I had last seen six years before behind the counter of the post office. “Pastor Dan, thanks for sharing God’s word with us and encouraging us to share it with others. I’m now a member of the church board at Abundant Life and I’m in charge of the church newsletter.” Then he added, “When I noticed that P. O. Box number was available, I knew if I recommended it, my ‘cover’ would be blown, but it was just too good of a coincidence to pass up. I had made a promise to myself and to God that if a job came up with Sabbaths off, that I would bid it and start attending Church, and I finally had enough seniority to do just that. I was ready and had a longing to get back to my Adventist roots. God had my family surrounded. He sure knows what he is doing!”
Now it’s Emery’s turn to pass on to others the invitations he received. Here’s a recent one he sent to all of his Facebook friends, including me. “Our Church is going to have some very interesting meetings this week, beginning Saturday evening, June 13th, at 7:00 PM. There will be activities for the children while the Adults listen to topics such as, “Secrets of the Ancient Scrolls”, and many others. Please plan to attend Tomorrow night’s first meeting. There is another topic each night @ 7 PM, all week. You will be enlightened and amazed. This is something I’m sure you don’t want to miss. Call me with any questions @ 509-xxx-xxxx. See you there, Emery.”
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9.
Blessings to you,
* For the significance of the year 1844 see The Great Controversy, Chapters 20-24