I have been a little “blog shy” these past few weeks. I am not sure why, but probably something to do with putting a piece of your heart out there, being a little intimidating and all. 🙂 I considered, for a few weeks, not writing anymore and then May 13th rolled around and I was in a bit of a quandary. As I enjoyed my first cup of coffee on Tuesday morning, thoughts of the past weeks, months and years, since May 13th 2004 came flooding back. I can hardly believe that it has been 10 years since we flew from San Francisco (on our two-for-the-price-of-one tickets) and landed in Manila. We had our lives packed into 4 large suitcases, and I can still recall details about that day as if it were yesterday.
We arrived in the middle of the afternoon, with the heat and humidity hitting our faces like a furnace. I had wondered would I have a constant tan in the years ahead? (Cos I am deep like that) I remember the noise and the chaos in the car park, the traffic on the streets, the huge billboards in English and the crowds of people walking everywhere. It was astounding to me, but obviously not to the missionary who was driving us to the New Tribes guesthouse. He had talked the entire time and seemed totally oblivious to the massive amount of cars that were within inches of us, as we battled through the traffic. I can recall the new faces we met that day and how I had sat in the “sala” listening to them all slipping in and out of different languages as easily as changing shoes. I remember Danny carrying our bags to room number 24, and upon seeing the size of the room, I had suddenly felt that bringing four suitcases was probably extravagant for a new missionary couple. I noticed the welcome basket with the hand written card, and there was a distinct smell, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Yes, May 13, 2004 had been a momentous day for us, a day that we had prayed for, waited for, trained for and been so excited for, as we looked forward to beginning our lives together on the mission field. However, the thing I remember most vividly about that day, are the feelings that had flooded my heart, as I sat on the edge of the bed, in room number 24, trying to be brave; and all I had wanted to do was cry. I held it together that first day; there would be days ahead for tears.
Like the night, just a few weeks later, when we moved into a little house in the middle of the huge city of Manila. Those same four suitcases we carried with us, now felt like we had nothing with which to make a new home, and in the early hours of the morning I had sat on the top stair of a house, that had bars on the windows, and cried like a baby. Homesick, lonely, afraid.
The day, a few weeks after that, when I had come home from our first few days of classes to learn a new language, and I had cried tears of frustration that I would probably never learn this language.
The day we received the most terrible of phone calls from our missionary co workers asking us to rush two little sisters in a taxi to try to make it in time to say a final goodbye to their 7 year old brother. We made it to the hospital in time to hold our dear friends as they sobbed in a hospital corridor, but not in time to say goodbye to a little boy named Nekoda, who we all loved very much.
The night before we flew into a remote village in the jungle of the Philippines, where we would finally start our “real ministry,” and I had sat outside looking up at the stars, crying out to God to take away this fear that was in the very pit of my stomach. Not a fear of snakes or isolation or sickness, a fear that I was not worthy of the calling to bring the message of salvation to a group of people living in darkness.
And many days and nights in this little house in the jungle, there have been lots of private tears that only the Lord will ever know about. But friends, as I write tonight, you may wonder why I was sitting this past Tuesday morning thinking over the hardships, the difficult days, the tears, the failures and the frustrations of this past 10 years.
I wasn’t; I was thinking over the grace of God.
The grace of God that met me there on the edge of that bed in Room number 24 and reminded me of a verse that was precious to us in the months before we traveled, “Faithful is He who calleth you, who also will do it.” I believed the truth of that verse then, like I had never believed it before, and treasured it all the more.
The grace of God that wrapped around us as we stood heart broken in a hospital corridor. The moment will forever be etched upon my heart due to the words of a father, who turned to his two little daughters just minutes after losing his only son, and said; “Remember, God is always good.” With tears running down my face, I had never experienced it to be more true. I understood more about the sovereignty of God in that minute, than I ever had in my lifetime before.
The grace of God that lead me to one of the most familiar Psalms as I sat looking up at the stars the night before we moved to a tribal village, and I read Psalm 23 as if for the first time. God breathed His Word into my heart in the tenderest of ways, and it restored my soul. I tucked that Psalm into my memory and quoted it often in the years to come. I preached truth to myself as I sat on the edge of grass hut floors, attending to sick babies, walking along trails to make in-roads with a group of people that I had become so burdened for. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” I knew He would meet my greatest needs, I had no doubt. And then the day a box of toilet paper was sent from America, (costing $83 dollars to post) and it arrived the very week we needed toilet paper. It had been sent two months before we knew we even had a need, and we still don’t know who sent it. I had stared at the box on my kitchen table and laughed out loud at how ridiculous it was, and yet been more convinced than ever, that God cares about my smallest needs too. He sees, He knows and I was learning to trust Him more and more.
God’s glorious grace has been woven through each and every day of these past 10 years, and I am so grateful. Grateful to have been allowed to have any part in sharing the gospel and the precious name of Jesus with a group of people who live far from the eyes of the world and yet in the constant gaze of the Lord. He has seen their need, just like He has seen my need and He has led many of them to Himself. As I write, the verse that comes afresh to my mind is Psalm 126:5 “They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy.” Yes, there have been tears, we knew there would be, but the peace that comes from knowing Jesus and His grace upon grace in our lives has given more joy than my words could ever tell you. Joy in watching a body of believers spring up and grow, joy to welcome our two little loves into this world and joy to walk through each day knowing that we walk with the Creator of the world, who cares for us. He cared enough about me, to ask me to follow Him to a foreign land so I could know and understand more of His marvelous grace. I came to give, to share and to sacrifice, I could never have imagined how much I would receive. It humbles me to look back, it encourages me as I remember and it puts a longing within my soul for others to know Him, too.
That day, in room number 24, I got up off the edge of the bed and trusted in the Lord to just get me through the first day. As I sit here writing, the song that just happens to be playing in the background is this: “Tis, so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His word.” Tears well up again, because I could never have imagined that day just how sweet it would be to trust in Jesus, one day at a time.
The hardest part about writing this post today, is trying to keep it short (fail). However, I couldn’t let this 10 year mark pass without acknowledging the amazing grace of God in our lives. There have been many of you who have prayed for us and supported us, from the very beginning. There are others whose paths we have crossed along the way. To all of you, we say thank you. Thank you for your partnership with us in this gospel of grace. God has been faithful to His Word, over and over again, and we give Him all the praise.
Grateful for His grace,