Day 15: The Promise Keeper
God is not man, one given to lies, and not a son of man changing his mind. Does he speak and not do what he says? Does he promise and not come through? Numbers 23:19
Happy Fifteenth Day of Thanks Everyone!!
I am so grateful to God for being a Promise Keeper and I give all thanks and gratitude today for that very facet of Him.
Have any of you ever had a promise that had to contend with a problem(s) before you received it? While you waited for the promise, there was pressure all around, it seemed liked you were in the 11th hour of a deadline or the last quarter of a basketball game with about 20 seconds left on the clock and you were down one point, and something needed to happen fast so that you could accomplish the goal, win the victory, or get the promise. In the moment, your adrenaline is racing; your heart is pounding so hard that you can feel it in your chest and hear it in your ear drums; your palms are sweating. Doubt is trying to slowly creep into your mind that “it” won’t happen—the person won’t come through, the money will still be too short, the door of opportunity will not arrive. You have done all you can concerning what you needed to do and all you could do was wait to see if God would come through for you.
I have had more of those experiences than I can count. In the beginning of my senior year of college, God told me that I was going to medical school. Since being a physician was the goal since I was five years old, that was a real Promise to me. There I was a few months before my college graduation. I had applied to several medical schools in the US; I received tons of rejection letters in the mail and was waiting to hear from a few others. I was waitlisted for one US school. It seemed as if there was no possibility that it was going to happen. (The first Problem!)
A few weeks later, I had a dream. In the dream, I was standing in a small auditorium like classroom wearing a short-sleeved white medical coat with two other students teaching them biochemistry IN SPANISH! To the right of me, there were these weird open windows that had a metal-like type of venetian blind on them. Outside of the window, I saw the bluest ocean, one huge palm tree, and the hugest yellow sun that I had ever seen in my life. I woke up from that dream questioning God. “What was that? Should I be changing my career choice to become a Spanish science teacher? Are you trying to tell me to forget about medical school this year because it is not going to work out? I am so confused!”
A few days later another set of rejection letters came. My confidence was low, especially when everyone started asking about my plans after college. I turned down opportunities to nice-paying research job offers and hadn’t made any other plans because my word from the Lord was clear. “You are going to medical school right after college.” But, the reality of that promise was looking real bleak at that moment. Doubt was seriously creeping in. I was starting to question if I had heard God correctly or if I had made that promise up according to what I wanted to hear and not what God had really said. I was starting to look real side-eyed at God, especially now that I was having dreams about teaching biochemistry in Spanish. For full disclosure, teaching was something that I thought about as a back-up career option when I was in high-school because Mommy Mendelssohn said that one should always take a few education courses so that teaching could always be an option. I thought to myself, “You forgot and hadn’t even listened to that advice and you are about to be screwed!”
A few days later, I get a call from a friend at the time. She says, “Do you still want to go to medical school in a Spanish-speaking country?” (How I had arrived to the desire of wanting to go to a Spanish-speaking country for medical school is another story for another time.) My reply was, “Yes!” She continues, “I think I have the perfect medical school for you but there are a few catches.” She tells me the catches. “This medical school is six years instead of four.” I reply, “That’s not a catch; most international medical schools are five years.” She says, “It’s in Cuba.” I get excited replying, “You know they have one of the best medical system in the world and train some of the best doctors, right? That’s not a catch.” She continues, “the application deadline is today. See what you can do with this contact number and email.”
In an instant, I remembered the dream with the ocean and the palm tree. My adrenaline started pumping. I went into fight or flight mode and started dialing the number. No one picked up but I left a message. I sent an email. No response. I did not leave my dorm room but stayed at my post and dialed that number at least 15 times that day and left a message each time until I could leave no more messages. The messages said something like, “Hi, my name is Melissa Barber. I just heard about your opportunity for medical school in Cuba today at 11 am this morning. I also discovered that your deadline is today. I hope it is still not too late to talk to somebody. I know that this is the medical school for me and I would just like to speak to someone about why I am the best candidate for this school and why I should be given this opportunity. Please call me back as soon as possible.” I left my phone number and an email on the voicemail.
I finally received a call at 3:00 pm that afternoon. The voice on the other end said, “I see, that you are a very persistent person and that you left a ton of messages for me today.” As polite as he was, I knew his message translated into you are the most annoying pest in the world and I am calling you back so that you can stop inundating my voicemail. He said, “So, you’re interested in the medical school, hunh?” I told him yes. He began to ask me questions about myself, my community work, my vision for the future and asked me to tell him why I was the best candidate for the opportunity. We talked, we laughed and we shared for almost three hours. When I was done talking, he said, “You didn’t know this but that was your interview and you nailed it with flying colors! Since you just found out about the scholarship program today and today is the deadline, I’ll give you until the end of the week to get me the required documents and essays. When I asked him what the required documents were, he mentioned them in list form and I burst out laughing. In that moment, he probably thought I was insane for laughing. He asked, “why are you laughing?” I replied, “Because God is so amazing! The last time I went home on a school break, God told me to bring the packet within which I keep all of my important documents. When I questioned the Lord and said, ‘but you know I never take these documents to school with me so they won’t get lost.’ He told me to take them with me anyway. I took them. Every document you just named are the ones I have in my packet in my desk draw. I can overnight everything to you by UPS or Fedex tomorrow morning since the college mail is already closed for the day.” We both started chuckling about the irony of everything. I sent everything out the next morning and it got to the office the following day.
Little did I know that God had the biggest plans from that conversation. Not only did I get accepted into medical school, The Latin American School of Medicine in Havana, Cuba, and was going right after college, I met one of my next great mentors, the late Reverend Lucius Walker Jr. I also got to stand in my dream in real time about 1 year later and remembered the déjà vu moment. I was in the same mini-auditorium like classroom for biochemistry class in Spanish with my bata (white medical coat) on and looked out the window and saw the sun, the ocean and the palm tree. God reminded me in that moment, “See, I always keep my promise.”
Indeed, God’s promise was fulfilled!
Today as we give thanks for the Promise Keeper, I want you to remember a promise that you were given by the Lord in the past and how He fulfilled it. Now, I want you to think about a promise that you are waiting on. Read the verse Numbers 29:13 and focus on the part where it says “does he promise and then not come through?” Do you really think God will let you down this time, when you have a history with Him where you can actively see and bank on the fact that He has come through for you over and over again? No matter what that situation looked like or felt like, at the end of it, God always showed Himself strong. Yes, waiting for the promise is excruciatingly painful, frustrating and sometimes plain ole wearisome. Sometimes, the wait is just too long, in my personal opinion. But, we have to remember if God promised it, He will always come through. God is a promise keeper!
I also invite you to donate your money to the organization IFCO/Pastors for Peace (www.ifconews.org/donate), which facilitates a medical school scholarship program that allows people of color, who are also US citizens, to attend medical school, The Latin American School of Medicine, in Havana, Cuba, The scholarship comes with free medical school tuition, room and board, books and uniforms. The students applying must have a commitment to serve medically-underserved communities here in the US and must be willing to undergo the US medical licensing process once they complete the medical school.
Have a great day of Thanks!