I guess several days have passed since my last entry. We've stayed pretty busy with Alabama Teen Camp last week and the ABA meeting this week. God has added two more churches to partner financially with our ministry, and I have learned of two churches who chose us as their missionary for VBS.
This week we've had a difficult time getting together with a good friend of ours. Every time we try to meet up, something seems to happen. Today, we were supposed to meet and sit with one another at the World Missions Focus, but I didn't see him when I walked in and actually got trapped on the other side of the room. I took a seat and sent a text message to see where he was, and then the meeting started. I decided to wait for the opportune moment of silence and make my way down the row. The opportunity came, I got ready to excuse myself, and an entire family began walking towards me. Blocked again. Ok, I'll just sit here then. I listened to three very good messages on faith, but the missionary booths were opening up at 4:00pm, and I needed to get upstairs. There was only one problem: I couldn't move! Even if I decided to make my way down the isle and say "Excuse me, pardon me, excuse me, pardon me" 50 times, those rows were way too close together for things not to get awkward really quick. I was like the children of Israel: hemmed in on all sides, and the seas weren't parting. There was one more speaker left, and it was already past 4. I sent a text to my wife, "Sorry. You're going to have to take care of the booth for a while. I'm stuck here."
Then, for the next 15 minutes or so, I heard one of the most beautiful testimonies I've ever heard. Not only was I physically rubbing shoulders with the guys next to me, I was doing all I could not to start crying on their shoulders. I remember thinking, "Thanks a lot man! Not only have you made me stay here against my will, now you've made me cry! Congratulations!!!"
When the message was over, I realized that this wasn't an accident. I would have totally made an early escape if I had found a seat anywhere else in that room, but it was the fourth message that I needed to hear today. God reminded me although the ministry He has given us is HUGE, we need to start looking at things from a different perspective. We can't approach our ministry by measuring how small we are against how large our task is. We need to measure our large task against the enormity of our infinite God. That is not a direct quote from the speaker, but it's the best I can remember. There was an invitation given at the end. I would have walked up to the front to pray, but...you get the picture.
Probably the most difficult part of deputation so far has been not having a home. The missionary housing we're staying in right now has become familiar enough that we catch ourselves every once in a while saying, "When we get home, we'll do such and such." Or Niki and I will tell the kids, "Wait until we get home, then you can have this or that." Then that sinking feeling comes back: this isn't home. In a few weeks, we won't even be living here. We have no place to call home. We're missionaries to France who still live in the States. We're strangers. Foreigners. Nomads.
Last night, I was thinking briefly about how strange it is to not have a permanent place of residence. Then I remembered that, Biblically, we're not to think of this world as home. As citizens of Heaven, any where we live is only temporary. One day we'll go home, but until then we're all just resident foreigners who are left here as ambassadors of God's Kingdom until we're called home. It made me feel better to remember that.
This morning during my quiet time, I read in Matthew 8 where Jesus was healing people left and right. Multitudes were coming to Him for His miracles. Souls were being saved. Lives were being changed. Incredible reports were being spread all over Israel about Jesus and His incredible ministry. Some decided that they wanted to get on board with the glamorous life of this great new teacher. One man rushed to Jesus in the midst of all this excitement and professed His undying devotion. "Lord, I'll follow you wherever you go!" Then Jesus looked at Him and said, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head."
Then, it hit me. Jesus had no home. God always provided a place for Jesus to sleep. He would often stay as a guest with local believers. Sometimes, He just slept under the stars. By referring to the foxes' dens and the birds' nests
Quite a bit has happened since our survey trip in March. Here's the quick version.
The Sunday after returning from our Survey Trip, the church called Steve Rutherford to be the new pastor of Calvary Baptist Church. God has worked wonders in both of our lives. He was able to find a house and get moved in within following week or so. The way he got that house is a story all to itself.
I turned the pastorate over to him in the morning service on April 9, and then on the evening of April 16 (Easter Sunday), Calvary voted to become our sending church. We were able to make a couple of appointments in April to share the work in France. Then, on April 30, the church sent us out on full time deputation.
Throughout the month of May, God has led two churches to partner with us monthly, and has provided nearly half of the money needed for language school. I look forward to seeing how God continues to provide as we prepare to go to France.