Dedicated to helping you purposefully live the life God planned for you
This story is one of a collection of many close calls that God has chosen to give me.
The dictionary describes a close call as “a narrow escape from danger or disaster.” God has shown me two other ways to experience a close call. The first example of a close call is when the Holy Spirit prompts me to share the good news of Jesus with someone on a bus or a plane or anywhere at a time when I think I’m either too busy or I’m afraid of being rejected. Or the prompt is to be a messenger of hope to someone who is already a follower of Jesus. At times like these I sometimes look for any excuse to get out of the calling. It’s a close call when I give in to the Spirit’s prompting and the person is either led to accept Jesus as their Savior or they are comforted because I listened to their heart ache and maybe shared a comforting message from the Holy Spirit.
The second example of a close call comes from the verse of scripture that led me to the friendship I have with Jesus. It was a Saturday morning when I was a young boy in our church youth group. For some reason I felt depressed and lonely that day. We were studying the 15th chapter of the gospel of John. When we read verse 13, it’s as if Jesus came back to earth and was sitting next to me. I don’t recall the bible translation we were reading. I recall hearing these words, “there is no greater love that a man can have than to give up his life for a friend.” Jesus was telling me he loved me so much that he gave up his life for me. At that time, I accepted Jesus as my Savior.
John 15:13 became my life verse. It told me I could show Jesus’ love to others by giving up my life for them. I soon came to understand that I could give up my life to others by giving my time to them. I started spending time with people who needed a friend or someone to listen to them. It started with older people on my paper route. An elderly couple sitting on their porch in the evening. An invalid lady in her last years of life. From there, I was called to volunteer to help mentally handicapped adults with fun activities like bowling. In all these instances, I was called to give up some of my time and let down my defenses and get close to others. It was a call to closeness. A “close call.”
The most spectacular close call came when I was called to give up my time, my heart, and my money so that God could care for the orphans and homeless widows of Our Father’s Home Ministry (OFHM) in Nayakampalli, a very poor city in the East Godavari region of Andhra Pradesh, India.
This close call started in 2018, when I was experiencing what seemed to be the pinnacle of success in my career. I was invited by the government of Dubai to speak at a multi-national conference on project management attended by over 5,000 people from 8 countries. God used that opportunity to to speak through me to the young man who arranged my travel. The young man was the son of a Christian minister in Dubai. He had walked away from his faith. God chose me because he knew I would attempt to love that young man the way Jesus loves me. The young man he told me no one had ever exemplified Jesus’ love to him like like I did. He told me when he is ready to take another look at Christianity, he would contact me.
Shortly after that trip, God sent me on a business trip to Pune India. Every day when I was in Pune, I was driven from my luxury hotel to my luxury office where I coached the employees of a multi-billion dollar company in the financial industry. Every day on the way to the office, we drove by an area where an old woman was sitting around a mud pit where brick slaves were making bricks to build a wall that would hide the slums from the cars driving on the street. As we drove by that area on my last day in Pune, I asked God, “Why have you given me so much and given her nothing?” A voice from within me said, “I haven’t given her nothing, I’ve given her you.” My heart ached because I was leaving town that day and didn’t have a way to help that poor homeless widow.
After I returned home, I didn’t think much of the poor widow or of my trip to India. About six weeks later, I received a message on LinkedIn from a paster named Salmon. Salmon is from a village called Nayakampalli in the East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh, India. Salmon said he felt he was supposed to reach out to me, but he did not know why. I told Salmon that in America we get lots of requests from people who are trying to scam us. I wasn’t going to fall for his attempt to take advantage of me. Salmon understood but felt he was supposed to tell me about his ministry anyway.
Over the course of three weeks, Salmon wrote to me through LinkedIn. Salmon told me how God revealed Himself to Salmon when he was about to enter school to become an Indian police officer. God told him he was going to plant churches in Salmon’s area and Salmon was going be God’s vessel to teach men who would lead those churches.
Salmon told me that while planting churches he would come across homeless widows and orphans. He didn’t feel right ignoring them, so Salmon, his wife Priyanka, and Salmon’s parents started taking them into their home. Eventually, they started OFHM in 2010.
OFHM is a ministry with a three-fold purpose. First, it is a church planting ministry in a predominantly Hindu and Muslim area where Salmon trains and disciples people to plant Christian churches. At that time, they had planted over 100 small churches. Second it exists to help homeless widows. Third, they run an orphanage with 55 children.
Salmon’s plea was for friendship, prayer, and financial support to help him evangelize and minister to the Christian converts, widows, and orphans in his area.
Every morning I received a message from Salmon. I responded politely that I didn’t think I was the person to help him. I told Salmon my wife and I are supporting other ministries and are not in a position to provide financial support to another ministry. For some reason, he thought I was someone he should continue to communicate with for friendship, prayer, and financial support.
He asked me to visit his ministry and consider being someone who would rally others in my area around their needs.
To ease my skepticism, Salmon offered to introduce me to several people in the United States who have visited him to prove his ministry is legitimate. But, like most Americans, I am skeptical of people who contact me online because of all the dishonest people trolling the Internet for handouts.
One day, I was about to tell him in a nice way that I’m not able to visit him and probably not the guy to rally the troops back home around him. But, as I was writing Salmon, the Lord reminded me of the words He spoke to me when I was driving by the homeless widow on the business trip I made to Pune. There wasn’t a convenient way for me to help her on that trip. I left Pune wishing there was something I could do to help her or others like her in India. On this morning when I was contemplating my response to Salmon, I asked myself if the introduction to Salmon might be God granting my wish. So, I said, Lord, if Salmon’s ministry is legitimate and he contacted me because of Your divine guidance, please show Jennifer and me how you want us to help.
After a couple of weeks of Salmon’s persistence, I asked God again to change my heart if Salmon was who he said he was. Then one morning Salmon asked me if we could have a video call. I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit to giving Salmon that level of access to me. But God had been starting to change my heart.
I asked God to speak clearly to me about how He wanted me to interact with Salmon. Then I opened my morning devotional which spoke as clear as if God had written the answer on a Big Chief notebook tablet.
The first scripture verse in my devotional was Ecclesiastes 11:6, “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.”
God reminded me that when I am doing business with people in India or China, I speak to them in the morning and in the evening. If I can do this for the people God uses to bring me financial blessings, it makes sense that I should do the same for the people God wants to bless through me.
So, I started to communicate with Salmon every morning. Sometimes we use text and sometimes we use video. The first time we used video, he introduced me to the orphans. They don’t speak English, but they were jumping up and down waving and saying hello Mr. Bollig. My heart was hooked.
Salmon has the most beautiful smile. He and the people God put under his care are considered to be of a lower cast than the rich Hindus who surround their neighborhoods. They live in conditions far worse than what we call poverty in America. Yet, they are more in love with the Lord than anyone I’ve ever seen in our Western churches. The Lord Jesus is all they have.
After getting to know Salmon and the children through video calls, I was confident God had shown me what he wants me to do with Salmon. I began searching for God to show me how.