(Written March 11th, 2019)
When I woke up this morning, joy seemed to evade me, and worry and discontentment embraced me. However, through friendships, music, ministry opportunities, and constant conversation with the Lord, I understood what it meant for God to be near and I experienced the most unforgettable ministry I’ve had in Romania. Him being near does not mean we have a complete understanding. It means we can receive guidance for the questions He wants to answer, and we can trust and love Him more in the questions that He doesn’t want to answer at this time. Him being near also means that He does not only exist in the past in Biblical times, nor does He only exist in the future in heaven. He is actively working in us and through us today. The lyrics I am holding near to my heart are “I am counting every blessing, letting go and trusting when I cannot see, I am counting every blessing, surely every season You are good to me.”
Just when you think ministry is going to get old and the newness of being across the world is going to wear away, God reminds you how creative He is. He creates new opportunities every day. We visited three villages today and God brought strength to all of them. From a church packed with children, to a church with only a handful of children, God showed us how important each one is to Him.
There are a few memories in particular that I want to highlight.
In our final village of the day, I had the privilege of watching Dustin love the few children who came. Even when people were less motivated for ministry to such a small group, he showed them he was delighted that the few were there. His dancing may have been a little frightening, but it was encouraging to see him share the Gospel and give a bracelet to a little girl who showed up late and missed the bracelet presentation. She was not in a big group of people, but it was still so worthwhile to share God’s love for her, even if her ears were the only pair that heard it. It is a reminder of how personal God’s care is for us. It is a reminder to take the opportunity to share the Gospel with people, not just when we’re told “it is time to do ministry”, or when we stand in front of a large group of people.
Although I had previously been unusually nervous singing “Lord, I need You” in Romanian, in the village full of children I found myself totally enjoying it and taking in the moment. As I took joy in what God had given, I found the song much easier to play.
I also had the best home visit I’ve ever had. What was encouraging was how God freed me to love and share the Gospel. I did not hold back at all and was able to put my full heart into it. I was inspired by our village guide’s love for his family. When taking our small group to visit someone’s home, I noticed he had taken us into an empty home with just one woman in it. It turns out this was his house and he brought us there so that we could pray for him and his family. I also found out that he is a deacon in the local church. How humbling it is to think that he took our visit so seriously that he brought us into his own home to pray for him. May God bless him for serving Him in this village.
While there are many more blessings to speak of, such as coffee with friends, laughter on bus rides, and ministry from other team members, there was one final gift from God that He used to remind me to just enjoy His gifts and willingly jump into opportunities He provides. These opportunities are not provided because we have earned them, which is why we should feel all the more free to serve how God wants us to. When the opportunity to deliver the message was offered to me, while it was unexpected, I almost didn’t feel surprised. It seems just like God to offer such a gift after desperately asking for His hand in my life. Normally it would make me nervous to speak to a group of people having had no preparation. I would normally want to put hours in prep work for an opportunity like this. However, all I had was a short bus ride, a Bible, and a notebook. No commentaries, no class notes, no Google, no YouTube, just Him. Yet, He provided. I don’t even remember searching for a passage to speak on, it just came. I’m sure it wasn’t the best sermon ever preached, or anywhere close, but boy am I grateful that God provided us with the gift to share His Word, despite being broken vessels. This is amazing grace and is Christ in us! As I stood on the stage, I remember a moment where I strongly felt what it meant to have no condemnation in Christ, something I often seek to understand. I felt God’s grace as I enjoyed such a great gift that I in no way earned. I truly consider it one of the greatest honors of my life to have shared the pulpit with Dustin, as well as Timmy and Chris from earlier villages. I won’t forget the first time I got to share a message in Romania and I am so thankful for the love of teammates who allow me to join them in service.
As I started my day, I asked God for the grace to enjoy it and for Him to make Himself known. I am so thankful to all of the Thomas’s, Dustin, and every person on this team that has allowed me to serve with them and has loved me along the way, all graceful gifts that I don’t deserve. As I go to bed, I am counting every blessing and am reminded of my absolute need for Him every hour. He is my strength and my hope for tomorrow, I’ve been blessed beyond all measure.