It was February of 2001, and I was attending my first Metro One conference in New York City. Everything about the trip was new for me – my first time to visit that iconic city, go to Brooklyn Tabernacle, see a Broadway show (The Lion King), ride a subway, take a ferry ride, and meet a group of about 50 Ministers of Music from churches all over America.
To say I was a little intimidated is putting it mildly. For one thing, almost every experience was something I had never done before. For another, virtually every one of those leaders came from churches that had music ministries much larger than mine and were people I had respected and admired from a distance. I took my place at the table and wondered to myself what in the world I was doing in a room with all these giants.
Then I met Joel Allen.
Here was a guy from a great church with a ministry that was recording projects and breaking new ground in choir-led worship. I recognized his name immediately after he introduced himself. He sat down by me and with his “good ole boy” persona, broke through all of my insecurities and became my friend. No one could make me laugh like Joel Allen.
Early, last Thursday morning, February 15, Joel passed through the gates and saw Jesus face to face. It was the promised healing many had prayed for in his life. Interestingly, I was with the guys at Metro One when we all got the news.
For one reason or another, it had been quite a while since I had spoken with Joel. One planned trip to Dallas where I had arranged to go by for a visit last Fall was cancelled right at the last minute. I hated the conference cancelled. I hated even more my visit with Joel wasn’t going to happen. I’ll see him next time I go to Dallas, I thought.
Then, two weeks ago, sitting in my office at home and out of the blue, Joel called me – no, it was better than that, he Facetimed me. There he was, despite all of the physical challenges he was facing everyday, calling to visit with me.
He was funny, saying that the recent surgery to help him see better hadn’t made me any prettier. He was encouraging, telling me again as he had many, many times, what a great job he thought I was doing. He was purposeful, informing me of a family member moving to the Nashville area and wondering if I could connect with them.
He was Joel.
The call is something I cherish even more now. I realized when I heard the news of his healing that God had given to us one last visit knowing I needed Joel’s encouragement one more time. It was a small thing – a detail – in the grand scheme of what God was doing in Joel’s life and in mine and with the rest of the world.
But, God is a God of details. And, as Joel powerfully demonstrated in his life, we can trust our Father with every one of them along the way.
It’s early in the morning as I type this and I just checked and confirmed – His mercies were new again today and we can trust Him all day long.
God is in the details.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.