I must have sat in this church a thousand times before, but today is different. Today, our family and friends are commissioning us for our first term of service as CMS missionaries in Chile. The December air is sticky and I can hear kookaburras calling as Isaiah is read.
A lot has happened to bring us to this point. First we sold most of our stuff and packed the rest into our car. Then we drove to Melbourne and spent the first five months of 2017 in missionary training. And since arriving back in Sydney we’ve spent the last six months on home assignment, visiting our link churches. Throw into the mix the birth of our third child, now 6 weeks old! We named him Nathanael; gift from God.
Our family is privileged to partner with five churches across Sydney and [one in] Orange. These churches are responsible for sending us out and supporting us while we serve in Chile. We’re so thankful for this time and feel greatly loved and encouraged. I wanted to use this chance to try to describe some of the gifts God has lavished upon us through these brothers and sisters.
We have received incredible hospitality wherever we’ve travelled. One friend had us stay for a week despite her three kids and hubby being wiped out with the flu. Other friends still grieve the loss of a child, but opened their home anyway.
Each time we’ve returned from visiting a church we’ve arrived home to more hospitality. A friend from church provided us with housing for the duration of our home assignment. We’ve been living downstairs, coming and going, and enjoying the borrowed toys. Meanwhile, upstairs, a wife nursed her husband through cancer and watched him pass into glory. She’s powerfully modelled steadfast faith during grief and become a dear friend. We will not forget her hospitality.
What a privilege to be prayed for by hundreds of people!
A number of times I’d meet someone for the first time and they’d share that they’d been praying for us. As we face learning a new language and settling our kids into a Spanish-speaking school, what a comfort to know that others are bringing us continually before the Lord. We thank the churches for their faithful kindness in prayer.
It can be hard to ask for people’s money. But there is no way that we could travel to Chile and stay long-term without the ongoing financial support of our partners. Thanks to them, CMS is able to fund our flights, accommodation, language tuition, education and healthcare. How encouraging it is to see people’s generosity when it comes to the ministry of the Word!
Love & Letting go.
I don’t even have space to list the other many and varied ways in which we have been loved. People have used their words to build us up through conversations, letters and cards. Others have used their time and talents to provide meals, birthday presents, a newborn hamper and even home-made jam. In these ways and many more we have felt at once welcomed into our partner churches and encouraged to go out.
Perhaps the greatest gift of all is that our family is letting us go. Although there is great sorrow in saying goodbye and anticipating the years we will spend apart, our family sends us with their blessing. This makes leaving just that tiny bit easier, but it doesn’t remove the lump in my throat.
For all of these gifts I am thankful and entirely unworthy. Of course a partnership goes both ways. Our joy has been to build people up in their faith and encourage them in their local mission. We love receiving church emails and newsletters so that we can be praying regularly. But we know that we get the most out of these relationships; the churches are our better half. There is no way that our family of five can possibly repay the hundreds of people who uphold us in their prayers. We are indebted.
I could feel guilty about all this, but I don’t. Why? Because I’m used to being the unworthy recipient of the Great Gift-Giver. Your gifts, dear churches, remind me of the greatest gift of all, the gift of God’s son. And as we spent our last Christmas with family we did feel sad, but we remember the baby in the manger and the man upon the cross. And now we set our minds to the task of sharing this gospel of grace in another place.