Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
Boy, this post is long overdue.
<insert all our excuses here>
Where to start? The hymn above came to my mind this morning as I was looking through pictures from the past few months. This past summer was certainly a new experience for us. How do you “do” travel back to the United States when you no longer have a home, a vehicle, or anything to really call your own? How do you do it “well”?
And, how do you get used to paying this
<—–when you are used to paying $1.03 for diesel or $1.48 for regular??
While we reflect back on what went right and what we could improve on, I find I have one big regret from our summer in the US…I’m sad that I didn’t take more pictures of each and every sharing time we had with friends and family. I would have loved to now look back and see every person we were blessed to come in contact with. But, we did have a summer of strengthening relationships and intentional fellowship which was a gift in itself. Our time was filled with binding our hearts with others, and, now, as we are back in Ecuador, I cherish the memories and time of encouragement we experienced even more.
The kids were able to connect with friends and cousins…it’s pretty much a dream summer when you have the “yes” parents who let you see all your friends as much as you possibly can. Josh and Tess were welcomed into the families of their friends, and Jacob rejoined his baseball team, with team parents who graciously shared hotel rooms and their cars to help us out when we couldn’t attend tournaments and games. They also had the opportunity to speak to their youth group about what has been happening in Ecuador and how they each have been finding a way to use their gifts to serve others.
Before our Father’s throne,
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
Our comforts, and our cares.
Probably about eight years ago, Brad was asked to take a position as deacon of our church. His first impulse was to say no, feeling totally unqualified and certainly too busy to take on this role. Interestingly enough, through a lot of prayer and searching, “no” became “yes” through obedience and Brad stepping out in faith. His only condition was that he would never have to stand in front of church and lead a service or speak. So, of course, as God would have it, Brad was asked to share the message at our home church one Sunday over the summer. He did a fabulous job of sharing how God is faithful and we only need to cling to the Rocks and the Roots – his promises! Take a listen…(you may need to allow time for it to buffer and feel free to click on the HD in the bottom right corner to reduce the quality slightly to allow it to load faster)
I was also blessed to be able to be a part of a special women’s retreat put on by my home church, held just days before we left to return to Ecuador. I can’t describe the feeling of standing before these ladies who have been such a vital and important part of my life for the past years. While the theme of the event was Invisible: When Only God Sees, I can tell you that these special people are seen by me. I see women who have been hurt, wounded, stretched, bound, persecuted…but know and trust they have been released and redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. What an encouragement for me to be with these godly women and challenge them to exercise gratitude on a daily basis to change their life and to affect the lives of those around them. My soul was plumb filled up to venture forth for another year without them. We serve in different places, but we serve the same Master.
We share our mutual woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.
Over the course of this past year, we had been praying for so many people from our family, our friends, our church…while we were home, we once again were able to celebrate joys and share in the sorrows of those we love. Our dear friends were finally able to bring home their twins from Haiti after delays, heartache, and obstacles. In God’s perfect timing, we were able to share in the special homecoming and rejoice with the arrival of Judah and Elijah.
We continue to pray for our brother-in-law, Gary, who lost his best friend to an aneurysm while we were together over the 4th of July. We were blessed to have met Matt Stefan on many occasions and know he had an eternal impact on those around him. Once again, the shortness of life brings our focus back to the urgency of sharing the gospel and living for Jesus.
When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.
Coming back to Ecuador felt a bit different this year than last. While we were excited to return, the excitement of the unknown had diminished and we knew more of what we’d be facing. We had the whirlwind summer of being with friends and family, deepening relationships that would be now again separated by time and distance. As the hymn states, it gives us inward pain, but we have the assurance of being united again, if not physically, then in heaven. This is the promise we cling to and we claim.
We’ll share more in the upcoming days on what has changed, our challenges, our hopes, and how we are trying to continue to be intentional with sharing the gospel. There are may exciting changes and challenges ahead, but we are looking to the One who is faithful to guide and direct our paths.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV