Thankful. Grateful. Blessed.
Yes, ’tis the season. The season to reflect on giving thanks for all we’ve been given, and to prepare our hearts and our lives for the holiday season! Looking back at this year in our lives, many images come to mind. Our move to Missouri in early January, marking the official beginning of a new season of ministry and life for our family. Shad’s first visit with his new Epileptologist in Columbia, Missouri. Our return to the church where we were married twelve years ago, where “old” friendships have been rekindled and new ones fostered as we plug in to ministry there. Spring was a blur of grief and joy as we returned to our corner of Asia for a month to pack our house and say our goodbyes, officially closing that chapter of our lives for now. We praise the Lord for the opportunity to go as a family and “end well.” Summer brought healing, with many good memories of camping as a family and enjoying the beauty Missouri has to offer. Summer and Fall brought a slew of doctors appointments and tests in preparation for Shad’s brain surgery. In August, Braden and Brice began a new chapter in Public School, entering Fifth and Second Grades. We are so blessed by the amazing teachers and staff at both Oak Ridge and Dogwood schools, and we are reminded that God always goes before, preparing the way ahead of us! Fall also brought a new batch of missionary candidates to our training center, bringing with them opportunities to pour in to their lives. We have had the privilege of being part of a discipleship group of five families and three singles, as well as taking part in individual discipleship with one other family. Sitting in on classes has given us a chance to connect with the 34 students who arrived in August to begin their first semester here at the Training Center. Little did we know how God would use this group to encourage us during these few months!! During Shad’s surgery, this group prepared meals, provided transportation to the hospital for our family (a 3 hour round trip!), and gave of themselves in encouraging us and praying for us daily. What a gift they have been to us!! And speaking of surgery, September brought with it ten days in the hospital and two brain surgeries. God worked in so many miraculous ways during those ten days! Shorter than expected, no complications, and the best possible outcome- a resection of the seizure focus for Shad! October brought with it the aftermath of surgery, including residual pain, removal of stitches, a scary run-in with Pink Eye (that thankfully turned out to be unrelated to surgery!), and the start of Occupational and Speech Therapy. To be honest, we had no way of predicting all the adjustments we’d have to make as a family post-surgery. It will be a long road for us, but we praise God that He has promised to give us all that we need for TODAY.
And here we are in November already! Shad celebrated his 45th birthday on the eighth, and Braden celebrated his 11th just six days later. We celebrated both with a Father-Son Minute-to-Win-It pizza party and enjoyed an evening with several staff and student families. If Shad was a believer in birthday candle wishes, I’m sure his wish would have been that he could once again think and speak clearly. To be able to remember names. To visit with people again without the current fuzziness that comes with having part of your brain removed. Needless to say, our God works in ways far beyond birthday candle wishes! As we pray for complete restoration and healing for Shad’s brain, we remind ourselves that He is Sovereign. He could restore those neurons with one word from His mouth, as he did with so many in the Gospels. Yet in His Sovereignty, He is also good. And the good He is working is to make us more like Himself. To grow us through the trial and the waiting.
So how is Shad doing today? There have been improvements. Shad has officially graduated from his Occupational Therapy, where he was given exercises to improve the peripheral vision that was lost in surgery. We are so thankful for the improvement he’s seen in this area! He continues to go to Speech Therapy twice a week, where his brain is stretched by listing synonyms, writing sentences with words in different contexts, and playing with word order in sentences. He is speaking more freely every week, but still struggles with finding words. It’s like his brain quits on him mid-sentence, randomly and without warning. Please pray for Shad as he plugs away with these sessions and completes homework daily to increase his abilities. The nature of therapy is to push your body to do things it struggles with, and thus, hates.
Up until the past few weeks, Shad had pushed himself to continue to sit in on classes here at the Training Center. We have found that this has actually made recovery more difficult and overwhelming. After praying about it and talking with our Department Head here, we have accepted an offer for Shad to work temporarily on the Maintenance Team. His work will be a great help to this Department, and we are thankful for this answer from the Lord for Shad to use his skills and take his time to recover well. I will continue to sit in on classes, and Shad and I will both continue to be formally involved in discipleship with our small group and individually with one other family. Unofficially, I have been humbled and amazed at how God has used this struggle in our lives to open doors to connect with students here! It has been such an honor to meet for coffee, chat after class, or sit in a home with ladies here, listening, sharing, and encouraging them with the truths that God is teaching me in this time. They, too, have encouraged my heart and challenged me to keep looking to the Lord through it all. What a precious gift that God has given in the middle of the battle!
Thank you for your prayers for the boys! They are adjusting well to Public School, and are progressing well academically and socially. Please continue to pray for their hearts as they come in contact with worldy thinking and ideas. Pray that they will cling to truth, show God’s love, and stand for what is right. Thanks for your prayers for Shad as he continues with therapy and recovery. Pray that he would have patience with himself and realistic expectations of his own limits. And thanks for your prayers for me as I wrestle with the extra roles of “main driver,” “word filler-innner,” and “short term memory booster.” I wish I could report that I am always the patient, loving wife, but this is not the case! I desperately need God’s help to be the wife Shad needs and, perhaps more importantly, the woman who honors God in her attitudes and in her heart.
We truly are blessed. One update cannot even begin to contain all that we are grateful for! And when we count our blessings, know that YOU are on that list! Thank you so much for your prayers, support, encouragement, and love! It’s been quite the journey, and it’s not over yet! Thanks for standing with us through thick and thin, for having our backs, for refreshing our souls, for believing that God is working in us and through us for His glory! Thanks so much for being part of His provision for us!
Yes, it’s true. We are so grateful, thankful, and blessed. Have a blessed Thanksgiving!!
Shad, Sarah, Braden, and Brice Deal
Serving at the Missionary Training Center of Ethnos360