Looking Back as We Looked Forward

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1

IMG_2650Three plus (cringe) years into our being back in the States, I came across this… Curt’s reflections on our final house church gathering as we prepared to leave SE Asia and return to America..Three years (sigh) in and I still get a lump in my throat when I remember this day, or when I do things like look at pictures of our life there or think about my house helper and beloved friend, Natalie. Curt’s pictures of us saying goodbye on our last day together still bring me to tears…

We’re in a season of “lasts” here right now. The days are passing all too quickly and we are realizing that the activities, places, and routines that have been so usual, so normal, for us over the last 3 years are quickly coming to an end. Our last visits with certain friends, our last team meeting together, our last trip to the beach, and so on are on the horizon. Ordinary activities in this extraordinary place have taken on an even greater significance and urgency.

So, while our arrival back in our home culture still seems a ways off, the reality is that our time here, in this place, is nearly over.

One such “lasts” happened on Sunday. Our house fellowship met for the last time with its full, current, membership. One of our other members is leaving this week to attend a wedding in the US and won’t return until my wife has already left. So, we spent some time reminiscing. Our membership has changed a lot over the last few years…our family is the final remaining founding members of our house church. As others have come and gone, we’ve remained the constant thread. We’ve had lots of goodbyes. Now it is our turn.

As the date of our departure(s) approaches, I admit to feeling a whole range of emotions…

Sadness. It is difficult for all of us to leave people and places that have become so much of our lives over the last several years. There is unfinished business here and it is difficult to admit that our direct role in that work has come to an end. Our departure is clearly hitting my wife the hardest. Her heart now has deep roots here and she’s established deep connections in many people’s lives.

Worry. What will our transition back to American culture be like? I know we’ll all struggle at times with the difference between the pace, depth, and intensity of life stateside compared to that which we’ve lived with for nearly 3 years. We’re returning to a country that has changed a lot since 2006…at the same time, we return very different people than the ones that left.

Happiness. I’m happy for our kids. They are different from many of the kids that have grown up in this type of work because the bulk of their lives have been spent in America and they are returning to the culture that is most familiar to them. They’ve grown and flourished here and matured in ways they never could have in the States and can now return with a greater appreciation for the wonderful things of our home culture and with the gift of an amazing perspective on the life before them.

Excitement. I’m thrilled to be able to return to a role that connects me to the work and task that burdens my heart. I’m amazed at how God pulled us out of our former lives, carried us across the globe for His service, and is now carrying us back to continue that service. We knew that God would not lead us back to a resumption of our former lifestyle and we’re incredibly blessed to be given the opportunity to serve Him in new and exciting ways.

As we sat and worshiped together with our house fellowship the other day, we were each asked what verses God was putting on our hearts during this time of transition. The responses my family gave blew me away…

My wife read Isaiah 26: 3-4, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.”

My son cited Jeremiah 17: 7-8, “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

My daughter chose Deuteronomy 10:12-13, “And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good.”

And I returned to the passage that has sustained me each day for the last 3 years, Proverbs 3: 5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

What an amazing testimony this is. Each passage that my family chose reflects an awareness of our daily need to trust Him who sustains us. We give Him all of our emotions and know that He will carry us through.

So, in this our “season of lasts” we all recognize that our foundation is a “life of Trust.”

Amen.

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