We had a song in our wedding called “Come and Listen” by David Crowder. It simply says, “Come and listen. Come and listen to what He has done.” Another part of the song says, “Let me tell you what He has done for me.”
That is what I want to do right now. I want you to come and listen so I can tell you what He has done for me and my family.
First, I must start by saying Jesus is so very GOOD. In 2015 we felt as though we were kind of put through the ringer. But in the midst of it ALL He was still so very good to us. I have said this before and I will keep saying it: Jesus is more concerned with our day to day walk with Him than He is about our end goal, whatever that goal may be. These days, my goal, the place where unfortunately my eyes get fixed, is the goal of getting to Tanzania. However, He is patient and gently reminds me that HE is my goal.
The year started out with a bang. Our whole family was very sick and we didn’t have a home. We had just moved back to Virginia after finishing a year and a half of missionary training out in Missouri. Although it didn’t make sense at the time, we felt as though the Lord was leading our family to begin full-time partnership development. This is when He started whispering to us “Trust me. Do you trust me?” Reluctantly, we said, “Yes, Jesus, we will trust you, even though this doesn’t make sense.”
Jesus’ first sign of provision was though our good friend, Melody. She graciously opened up her basement apartment to us to stay in until mid-February. We were thankful to have a place to find our bearings. At this point I was 7 months pregnant. I remember how Chandler and I would quietly (because we were all staying in the same room) wake up each morning, start the coffee and spend time with Jesus. As we sat and spent time with Him we would beg Him to show Himself, beg Him to come through like He said He would. And you know what? He did, but not in ways that we would have thought. In that first month we watched Him slowly begin to grow our ministry team, but more than that, we began to watch Him grow our hearts and our trust in Him. It was also during those quiet mornings that Jesus confirmed that Tanzania would be the country where we would serve.
At the time, I was wishing those days away. All I really wanted was a place to call our own, a permanent place to live until leaving for Tanzania. The funny thing is that now I look back at those days with such fond memories and sometimes I even wish I could get them back. It was there that we were desperate to see the Lord at work. There is nothing that quite compares to being desperate for Him.
From there God opened up the door for us to stay with Mitch and Betty, an older couple who has a heart for missions. Our good friends, the Alban’s, helped us to make this connection, and boy where we thankful for that! Mitch and Betty not only opened their home to complete strangers, but poured out amazing love to us in the process. They took us in like family and were there when we welcomed Gideon into this world. The memories we made there were priceless. Again, at the time I was just longing for a place to call our own, however God was at work. Even today I find myself looking back on those days with such nostalgia.
After another month and a half we packed up our van and made our way to spend most of April in Morehead City, NC. God just so happened to work out the details for us to be involved in a missions conference at Parkview Baptist Church and spend the rest of the time meeting with individuals about partnership. Chandler’s Uncle Albert and Aunt Deanna opened up their home to us and again, many memories were made and we continued to watch Him slowly grow our ministry team.
At the end of April we drove to Charlottesville, VA to have Gideon seen by an urologist at UVA. Five weeks before He was born we were told he did not have a right kidney. When he was born we were told he did have a right kidney, but it was covered with cysts and not functioning. However, at this follow-up appointment we were told that his kidney was actually functioning, but minimally. The plan at that point was remove it and also have a procedure done to repair the wall of his bladder (which was also affected during development). This was a lot for us to take in, but Jesus kept asking us to trust Him. So we tried the best we could.
Our next stop was Lynchburg, VA. Only this time, we really didn’t have a home. The few leads we had on housing just weren’t working out. First we stayed a few days with the Williams’, an old co-worker of Chandler’s and then we went to our church’s children’s director’s home. Our 2-3 day stay turned into a 2 week stay. Martha and Victor were so gracious to us and poured out so much love to our family. I would say this is where I kind of hit rock-bottom. I really questioned what God was doing and why. But still, He continued to ask us to trust Him.
After that our friends, the Beisser’s, asked us to house sit for 5 days. They have the most gorgeous view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Chandler and I would wake up early, drink our coffee and be reminded of the greatness of our God, even when He didn’t make sense. That was a healing time for me. A place where my confidence in Him was beginning to grow again.
By this time it was the 3rd week in May, which happened to be our anniversary. Chandler’s mom was gracious to watch our kids for a night and we were able to slip away for our first overnight. It was refreshing to get a full nights rest and to just have some time to ourselves.
From there, our good friends the Speights welcomed up their home to us because they were headed to Florida. One day while we were there we drove around to check out a few places to rent that we found online. During that drive the Lord brought to mind a place that we had called on back when we were still in Missouri, a little apartment above an old general store on a farm. We were able to locate the number and we called right away. Joe answered and with an hour we were there. The rent was in our budget and there was enough space for our family of 5. Right away we said we would take the place – there truly were no other options. God had provided and He still continued to ask us to trust Him.
Within days we moved onto the farm. Life was different there. We had no phone or internet there, that’s how remote we were. We learned to live simply and were blessed with wonderful neighbors. We even had a creek that ran right by the apartment. Many mornings I would just go and sit and listen to the handiwork of the Lord. He remained faithful.
During our stay at the farm we made a trip to Florida in June. Just before the trip we were notified by Liberty University that Chandler was not chosen for the Loan Repayment Program. We reached another low, yet I felt like the Lord had been preparing me for this. I felt like He was asking me if I would still trust Him, even if Chandler did not get this. I said I would trust Him, yet I still felt like giving up. But, reluctantly we chose to push forward.
Our trip to Florida turned out really well. We watched the Lord fill our days with meetings with individuals and churches and we even got to visit some good friends along the way. What a blessing this was. As the months continued we watched the Lord meet every one of our needs. And slowly our team kept growing…and our faith as well.
In September we watched the Lord bless our family in a big way. Chamblissburg Baptist Church, a church we had been in contact with for several months, invited our family to come and stay in their 4 bedroom parsonage until we left for Tanzania in August. This home was fully furnished, down to the linens and towels. We were blown away and beyond grateful. For months, we were sojourners and we were then able to watch the Lord open up the floodgates and give us a place to call home until we left the country.
Shortly after moving into the parsonage we made another trip up to UVA for Gideon to have a laparoscopic surgery to repair his bladder wall. The results of this procedure were much different than we expected (you can read more about that here) and we watched the Lord heal Gideon in a strange, but amazing way. God was beginning to remove big hurdles between us and Tanzania. We praise Him and give Him all the glory for this.
We have taken a few trips since living here in the parsonage – each one filled with special blessings and awesome opportunities to share about what God is doing in Tanzania. Our faith continues to grow and we have the honor of watching the Lord continually show us that He is fighting for us. We are watching Him wipe out student debt, another one of the big hurdles standing between us and Tanzania. We have also seen Him provide all the money we will need for airfare and set up costs. Wow. Just wow!
It’s funny, because even after witnessing all that He has done, I still find myself slipping into slumps of doubt. I guess I am human. But the amazing part is that Jesus is so faithful and so patient with me. I am in awe of the journey He has allowed us to be on. Yes, our goal is to get to Tanzania in August, but as you have read, it is evident that Jesus is after my heart and is more concerned with my day to day walk with Him. I am so thankful that I serve a God who cares so deeply about an intimate relationship with each of His children. He is good.
Thanks for taking the time to recount this past year with me. Would you take a minute and praise the Lord for His faithfulness. May you be reminded of His great love for you, as I am sure you have a story of your very own.
Making Him Known,