The phone rang with vibration as I fixed the evening meal for the children and me. My husband was away with his staff at a pastor’s conference in Southern California, and the evening interruption announced his nightly check in. The unusual separation between us made me eager to talk, but the enthusiasm in his own voice made me even more eager to listen.
“Joy, I just heard the most amazing speaker. He was incredible. I found someone that I want to be like when I get older.”
Such words of personal vision are rare gems coming from my husband. He continued by relaying a few of the inspirational stories that were shared. He was serious. This man Bob Goff had made quite the impact.
After ending our conversation, I googled the name. A few videos popped up and as I watched them, I too, became engaged in this man’s life.
He was different.
He was joyful.
He was courageous.
Even after Joel returned home from the conference, the name Bob Goff kept popping up everywhere: amongst our staff, on twitter, at dinner time conversation, on various blogs, and even in the publishing world.
Early one Sunday morning, during my quiet time alone in prayer and Bible reading, gratitude for what my husband had experienced of this man swelled and I felt compelled to write him an encouraging email stating so. At 7:00 am, I again googled “Bob Goff” and found his official website. I clicked on the “contact” button near the top, hoping for an email address I could use. Instead, I found myself with the form for booking a speaking engagement.
“Now wouldn’t that be fun,” I chuckled inside. “Ah, what the heck. Maybe I could get him to come speak at our church as a surprise for Joel’s 40th birthday.”
“Name of organization. Willamette Christian Church.” I began filling in the form.
“How many people does the facility seat? Um. 700.” It was my best guess.
“What dates?” I figured there wouldn’t be many people around in August for Joel’s actual birthday, and if Bob Goff really did come (yeah, right), then we would want as many people as possible to hear him. I wrote down six options geared for the fall season.
“How much can you pay?” Crud. I know that this man is worth paying a lot of money. No one at the church knows I am doing this, so I can’t commit too much of the church budget. But, I would be willing to help out. I wrote down a figure that I was sure was too little.
“Any comments?” I explained that I would love to have Bob come and speak to our church family as a surprise to their pastor (my husband) for his birthday. I used this comment field to explain that Bob was Joel’s mentor from afar, and that I so appreciated the example he had set before him.
“Email address.” I gave Joel’s work email. I figured that if on the off chance that Bob actually could come, any time Joel found out would be a surprise. An email from Bob would be a great way. Besides, I wanted him to know we were a legit church.
I filled out a few more details, and once the form was complete, hit the submit button and went back to my time of study and prayer.
Although it was a Sunday morning, my son was also in a basketball tournament and had a game. So at 9:00 am, while perusing my smart phone on the bleachers, I noted that I received a Face book friend request.
Stunned, I tapped the accept button. He messaged right away.
Only 2.5 hours after I had filled out a generic contact form, this international speaker agreed to come bless a young pastor he did not know. He was going to help me show love to my husband. I was floored. Pulsing with excitement, I quickly removed myself from the gymnasium and tried to connect with an executive staff member from church. I was going to need approval on this one!
Approval was granted, excitedly welcomed in fact, and the planning and scheming began. We kept a secret for 4.5 months: the kids, a few key staff, and myself. We met behind the church building, and up in unused children’s rooms. We covered up emails and caller IDs. We pulled Joel out of meetings and confiscated phones. We whispered and used code words. It was all quite fun. Over the summer, I read Bob’s book, Love Does. It was then that I realized why Bob had agreed to come: it’s just the kind of man he is, and he practices what he preaches.
The only major difficulty was that the date that Bob was set to come was a weekend that Joel had off to perform a wedding in Seattle, 3 hours away. It was going to be a trick to convince him to drive home at 9:00 pm (the wedding was at 6:00) on Saturday night to attend the early morning church service the next day. Our hotel had been payed for, a leisurely and romantic weekend played in his mind.
So we told him that he had to come back for his 5th year anniversary of being at the church, that the congregation wanted to honor him. He thought that was silly. 25 years? Maybe. 5 years? Come on.
But it was that best that we had, so it became our cover story.
And apparently it worked…..
More to come,
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