Mike looked around the room, his eyes sparkling.
“I was intrigued at the way God had helped Gideon to think out of the box, so to speak. I left the class thinking, if God could help Gideon succeed with only three hundred men, he could probably help me to succeed in whatever he wanted me to do as well.
“I had never considered my thought patterns before, but I realised I too could think out of the box. I began to tinker around with ideas. I designed and made a few things for my mother to help her in the house. I can be innovative and progressive in my thinking. My father realised some of my inventions could be worth taking further. He contacted one of his cousins, Fynn, who headed up the development department of a growing electronics company. I spent a weekend with Fynn. He encouraged me to keep thinking, keep inventing and keep designing. He invited me to send him anything I came up with.
“I was thrilled, and I renewed my efforts. I sent him my bits and pieces as they came to mind. The company he worked for took notice. They liked my ideas and seemed to see potential in me. I am still amazed they offered me a scholarship – followed later by a job on their staff. I was termed an ‘innovator’. I accepted both offers as soon as I received them and have never looked back.
“I have just completed my doctorate in electronic development and now work as a consultant for several companies. I love what I do. Quite a few of my inventions are being used world-wide, to ease the daily challenges of life for people regarding water, communication, education and power supply.
“I am at peace with myself and with God.
“God found me on the day I heard Gideon’s story, and has not just inspired me, but instructed me in my work. My inventions have been used to help others. I have never doubted God’s presence in my life.
“Part of my portfolio now is to work in schools around the world, encouraging youngsters to do some out of the box thinking of their own. I try to incorporate God in all my lessons. I know the schools don’t always like it, but God is such an integral part of my story, he needs to be included. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.
“I think what I learned from Gideon was listen and trust. Listen for God’s voice. Trust him when you hear it. God can use even the least or the youngest of us. I am listening for him at the moment – for an answer to my prayer that I can find a way to bring water to people in the remotest, driest parts of the world. There are many obstacles, but with God’s help I believe there is a way around this one – and we will find it one day.
“There you go. An unconventional way to look at Gideon’s story, perhaps, but it was my way, and it has stood me in good stead. Thanks for listening.”
Mike, well known for his light-hearted teasing, leaned forward and grabbed the glass of whisky from the table in front of him, and swallowed it in one go. Simon and others gathered around, supporting him. He had found that telling his story had been a lot more difficult than he had imagined it would be, but he was glad he’d done it. People were moving around, some going to the bar to order a drink, others just stretching their legs. Dean sat and waited for the next story, which he knew was going to be told by Sandra.
People were making their way back to their chairs, chatting with one another. Dean, still shocked by the proceedings of the day, found himself envying them their friendships. It wasn’t easy growing old alone.
He watched Sandra as she got to her feet waiting for people to stop talking.
“Mary persuaded me to go with her for that first class we attended. I found it boring – sorry, Dean – it didn’t mean anything to me at all.”
Dean gave a rueful smile and nodded his head in acknowledgement. He had not been that impressed with it either. It was just another story.
“I come from a family where golf and tennis played an important part in my parents’ lives. My brother, Stan, is much older than me. He was away from home by the time I attended the classes. It was a relief. He got in my hair and cramped my style when he was home. He thought he was a third parent in my parents’ absence!
“Well, I had news for him.” She put her hands on her hips, like a rebellious teenager, and her listeners chuckled.
“I managed at school, and got reasonable marks, but I was lazy. It was all too much bother. My parents didn’t really show much interest. By the time I was a teenager they spent their evenings and weekends at the golf club. As long as I didn’t get in their way, they more or less ignored me.”
“I grew up brash, cocky and altogether rather unpleasant. Mary and I have often talked about our friendship because we are so different. Yet it has stood the test of time.”
Mary nodded in agreement and the two laughed together.
“When I saw the change that happened to Mary after the first story we heard you tell, Dean, I decided I needed to pay more attention in future. My shy, retiring friend had suddenly grown in confidence out of all proportion to anything I had seen before. I began to enjoy the stories. Until the day came when one of them spoke to me and changed my life.
“I often wonder where I’d be now if it hadn’t been for that story. Just a moment in time and a whole new path was laid out before me. Here’s my story.”