During the latter part of 2000, around August, I stayed with believers in Irene, an old established suburb near
. Pretoria, South Africa
Aside from taking the lady of the house's brother's dog for a stroll every morning, I would, in the cool of the day, go for long walks to contemplate God's things and to pray and worship as I walked through the service lanes. I thoroughly enjoyed these regular daily walks through this very beautiful and old historical village.
Whenever the opportunity presented itself I would, as usual, testify about the reality of the Saviour Messiah. On one such occasion, as I walked back from the library, I bumped into a young black woman, called Ethel, who was on her way to the shops to buy her mother something, presumably for their evening meal.
She was a college student, sharing the servants' quarters with her mother who was working as a domestic servant for people living in the same street as my friends. Her home was only a block and a half away from my friend's rented house.
She wanted to know what I was doing for a living. "Oh just following Jesus," I replied. This was a concept foreign to her, so I tried to explain my walk with Him. This is a daunting task even with believers, let alone the unsaved, but it was a wonderful opportunity to tell her about Jesus of whom she has heard but had not yet met.
Having explained to her who Jesus is and what He came to do, I asked her if she believed that she was a sinner. "Yes," was her immediate response. I asked her if she would like to accept Jesus as her Saviour. Again the answer was given in a single word, "Yes." For some odd reason I felt she wasn't really serious about it or that there was no real conviction of sin; so I suggested that she think it over before she finally makes a commitment.
"If you honestly want Jesus in your life," I said, "I will pray with you." I suggested that she meet me sometime at the local cricket oval, where I usually took "Jakkals" (or Jackal, for those not familiar with Afrikaans), the bullmastiff, for his morning walk. It was near us both, only two blocks away or a pleasant walk from the respective homes.
The sun was about to set and I sensed that it would soon be too dangerous for her to walk to the shops on her own. The local train station, used by many construction and other workers from Centurion, a growing business park adjoining Irene, was directly behind the village stores to which she was headed.
That was the last I saw of her for days.
I felt terrible about everything that had happened. A few days ago she was ready to accept Jesus as her Saviour, now she didn't seem interested at all. I felt as if I had let both her and the Lord down. This had not been the first time that I had failed others. I was concerned not only about my insensitivity towards God's Spirit but also about my lack of comprehending the intricacies of His dealings with others.
After having read the Scriptures one morning, lying on my bed, I again thought about it all, particularly wondering if He had been "busy" with Ethel. I pondered if He had, contrary to what I had observed, been working in her life, drawing her to Himself, and so I said to Him, without thinking, in my head, "I am going to take a walk (this was around 11h00). If I walk past the house where she lives and if the (security) gate (in front of the house) opens, and she walks out, then I will know that You are "busy" with her."
So I got up and made my way down the road towards where this woman lives. Approaching the house there was no sign of life (I have actually never observed any life on the property before this day) and so I continued walking down the road, resolving that I had been right in my actions, that He was in fact not dealing with her.
Then, the very moment I walked past the post, into which the gate slides, I heard a "click" sound. It was the familiar sound of a security gate electronically being activated. I still could not see anyone, but since the gate was remotely slowly opening and since no one was on the road (besides me) trying to enter the property, it was clear that someone had activated the gate from within the house and was about to exit it.
Having stopped in my tracts, I now turned to face the house, watching to see who would exit. I "knew" what was unfolding before my very eyes. My God was responding to my "if this, then that" "prayer" (perhaps casual comment describes it more accurately). I expected to see Ethel emerge from somewhere—and so she did. She came into view from the side of the building. Seeing me standing there, observing it all, she appeared startled.
Acknowledging my presence, but not greeting me, she walked out the property, past the gate and me, and down the road, in the direction from which I had just come. For probably a hundred yards or so, without breaking her stride, she repeatedly turned around staring at me for prolonged periods of time. I wondered what was going on inside of her. In the end she disappeared from sight and I turned, continuing walking down the road, marvelling at how precisely God had answered my prayer.
I was astonished all over again at how the Creator of all the earth longs for us to be redeemed by the blood of His Son and that He would go through all these extraordinary measures, moving someone to act in line with my thoughts towards Him (for example), to reveal this to me.
Having marvelled at all of this for a few days I again walked down the road to Ethel. This time I rang the bell on Ethel's landlord's gate. When she responded via the intercom I asked her for a few moments of her time. She was busy studying for her year-end exams, hoping to pass seven subjects. The last time when I had bumped into her, prior to the aforementioned incident, her excuse for not meeting with me was her studies and the fact that she purported to have forgotten my physical address. This time I knew she could offer no such excuse.
I explained to her what had transpired, how I had asked God a question and how wonderfully He had answered me. All I could do, I said, was to urge her to resolve her situation with Him. I said that I was going to leave soon and that I could not make the decision on her behalf. It was a personal matter between her and the living God of the entire universe. Standing there I knew it was futile to ask her again to pray with me.
I marvelled at how blind we are as human beings. The Master of all of creation desired to reveal Himself to a sinner—and her wonderful destiny in Him—and all she could think of was passing a silly exam to try and carve out a life for herself in a fallen world—whilst missing Life Himself.
Think about what I had shared here for a moment. God knew I was thinking about this issue. He knew I was going to solicit his views on the matter. He knew what I was going to ask of Him. He knew she was going to leave the house (or did he stir her in so doing?). And he timed the activation of the gate to perfection. The mind boggles. I saw an omniscient, omnipresent God's in His Awesomeness. Ethel, on the other hand, had no idea what had unfolded.
Some believers have expressed the opinion to me that we cannot approach God with an "if his, then that" attitude to guidance, saying that they do not like to use “fleeces,” as Gideon did, in seeking His face. I have even heard some teach against this form of guidance. Clearly, from both the Scriptural accounts above, and my own encounters in Him, this is an erroneous contemporary view of His leading.
Can we always approach God like this? I don't know the answer to that. I suspect we may. Whether He will always respond to such approaches is another matter. He is Sovereign and answers us in the way He chooses that is always best for us. But of this we can be sure, if we ask Him and believe that He will respond to us, He will. Perhaps not in the manner we expect, but He will.
 The following are extracted from my personal notes on "Encountering God." It was primarily written for my own edification on hearing God speak to us via an "if this, then that" scenario as found, amongst others, in the following Scriptural accounts1 Sam 20.1, 4-7, 29-34; Gen 24.1-67; 1 Sam 1.1-20; 2 Ki 2.9-13; Jud 6.36-40 and 1 Sam 14.6-22.
 This is also how, I suspect, in accordance with Romans 13.1-2 He moves national leaders, especially those who do not know Him.