As we sat in the airport waiting for our flight to take off from Tegus & head back to the States for the first time in close to 11 months, Kelly was walking Ezra around when I began to reflect on this past year; How fast it went, the highs & lows, and all we learned as first year full-time missionaries. We had been trying to decide what this end of the year newsletter should share because so much has been happening with the school, rec center, and our bible studies coming to a close until the new year. Yet as Kelly & Ezra returned to where I was sitting, I looked at Kelly & just said "Oh, what a year!" So we decided a perfect wrap up would really be to share with you not just more of what we have been doing, but how God has taken this year of our lives to mold us, guide us, & teach us to renew our minds to see how to fully live for Him. Are we there yet? Absolutely NOT. Yet this year, God has really revealed things about Himself, about our selves (things that were not so good), & began to mold us into what He wants us to be. And we want to share this with you all in hopes it helps you to grow as well and bring glory to God.
So here are the top 3 things that we have experienced through the power of Christ transforming us:
We have really seen that God's heart is for us to have great faith in Him. And active faith at that - when you have to take a step out in faith that God will guide. There will be times when you are anxious, want to try & fix a problem yourself, or feel totally overwhelmed. But God is bigger than all these things & will always be there for you. Chapter 11 of Hebrews is what God used to reveal this truth to me. All the major players in the Bible first took a step of faith & truly trusted in God before God moved. God waits for us, saying "Are you going to trust me?" & when we say Yes by taking that leap of faith, He is always there ready to catch us, protect us, & be with us. But that leap is what brings us closer to Him. We experienced this time & time again this year. We never lacked. We never had serious illness or injury. We were always safe & protected. *Disclaimer* Were there difficult times? Times the enemy was fighting hard? Times where we wanted to be home back in our own culture? Yes, there were. But we put our trust in Him & because of that, He always showed us His love & faithfulness. Because we continued to step out in faith, even when it was uncomfortable, we were able to experience God in ways that are difficult to explain. Miracles of salvations, perfect timings, people totally changing & growing in Christ; Where if we would have given up we would never experience God in such a way.
There are many books & strategies on discipleship, yet what we learned this year is that God & people do not fit a formula or strategy. We learned that people are so different & that each person's relationship with Christ, or experiences in life, with religion, pasts, etc. are all so unique that discipleship with people will look different every time. That is why it is so important to take the time to focus on getting to know a person; their joys & hurts, the good & the bad, to better lead them to what God's Word says, and to build their trust by always being there to listen and challenge them. Prayer is also key - and to quote our friend and mentor Sandi Burgess - "In discipleship, you spend most of your time on your face. Because all you can do sometimes is point them to the Word and pray."
Discipleship at times can be the most rewarding, exciting, and emotionally charging thing in the world. When you see people beginning to understand & grow in Christ, there is truly nothing better. Yet, on the other side of that it is also difficult. People trip up, disappoint, bail on you, or even worse leave you or break trust. We learned that we not only need to prepare for those things, but can not let those things hinder us on the mission God has for our family. No matter what, we need to keep on sharing, growing, & most importantly stay connected to God to be able to walk with people & help them grow in Christ. For better or worse. We have been looking at & reading about Jesus' relationship with his disciples - how first they were so different from each other, all different walks of life, & how Jesus had to have special time with all of them & treat them the same, yet different. They all had their own issues & backgrounds. And they all fell & they were not perfect. Yet Jesus continued to work with them, no matter the difficulties or lack of understanding they showed. He did it to bring glory to His Father, and that's what we must do.
Christ died for us knowing that we could never give him anything back in return. God has been showing us that true love is doing things for others, knowing that we will not receive anything back in return. We realized this doesn't just include material things, but also personal recognition or even a pat on the back. It involves selfless giving, and sharing love & time even when you're tired & want to be alone. Sometimes when you give your heart or things to others, you may get taken advantage of - Yet, you do it because Christ loves us, and as we continue on we learn to be more discerning but we focus on loving the way Christ has told us to & know our reward is not in material things or recognition, but will be when we get to praise Him in eternity.
Oh, what a year it has been! We praise & thank God for teaching us so many things this year. We thank Him for placing many people in our lives to help us along the way, guardian angels to lead us as we move forward on our mission. We praise Him, the King of Kings who has shown us hundreds declare Jesus as their Lord and Savior, for those who have changed their lives because they have decided to surrender it all to Christ, the thousands of answered prayers, the partners who pray & help support the ministry, and so much more that if we list you probably would never read it all. lol
Now we are blessed to spend time with family & friends here in the States, to relax & refresh, as well as look back on this great year and pray all the more for our Great God to continue to move in such a powerful way in 2019.
Scroll over the pictures above to see the special caption for each one!
- God's continued guidance and protection
- A blessed year, full of God's goodness!
- Time to spend with family and friends during the holidays
- For us to stay connected to those we are discipling while we are away
- Continued growth in team unity for the upcoming year
- Traveling mercies as we drive to visit NC next month
- God's provision for an increase in new monthly partners in 2019
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