Thursday December 13, 2018
Four months and one day have passed since Paula and I dropped off Luke at Lubbock Christian University, the day after we flew home from the Philippines. I cannot quite find the words to express the impact that trip has had us. In one way, it is clearer that the sheer number of people who need to be touched by the Gospel is ponderous. In another way, the world seems somehow much smaller than it ever did before, and the possibilities at the level of the individual now appear much greater in regard to their potential impact.
An important fact we now face is that we have friends who are literally on the opposite side of the world, and I miss them. What a family we are blessed to have in Christ! One of the brothers, of the several I met who I found my heart especially knit to, wrote me after we returned, saying:
“Just seeing you brethren is edifying. For just a short span of time as if we already know each other for a long time. I guess that’s what church should be. We hope to see you soon if God wills. God bless you and your family brother.”
Our trip was very blessed – and full of joy. I watched Luke go all in on eating whatever was put before him – from fish heads, to all sorts of new fruits, to the cartilage of an ox knee. And I watched him go all in on every activity of the entire trip. From his one-on-one conversations, to leading a group of 60 teens in exercises designed to help them grow their friendships with one another, Luke was present and focused on what we were doing. As a father, I could not have been more pleased at his maturity and enthusiasm, which were apparent to all. We remained healthy and safe throughout the trip. However, Luke became viciously ill with a noro-virus he picked up in the Tapei airport on the return leg of our trip; but, thankfully, his symptoms did not fully appear until we were already in Lubbock. In a way, I suspect the enforced downtime for him that week was in itself another blessing in preparing him for his first college semester.
We began our trip in Manila, where Bryan and I joined Ken in delivering a set of lessons over two nights on the Restoration movement and the principles which guide it. We did this again in Aguinaldo, where we were able to go into even more detail, having a full Sunday after the early morning worship services to do so. There we finished about 9pm, and closed the day’s services and lectures. Then, a group of us continued to visit late into the evening – sharing concerns, encouraging one another, playing games, and laughing while we took turns playing guitars and singing under the stars.
We had an opportunity to speak as well in the Bible Study Center in Diffun to some college age students, and shared a meal with them in the evening. Luke and Jake were very effective here as they presented lessons which they wrote in the afternoon – both being eager to take the opportunity when it was offered to them. We also traveled and spoke with members of a couple of different congregations doing outreach work in the Isabella province that afternoon. One woman shared with us the story of how she became a Christian while working in Saudi Arabia. Following that, they served us refreshments of white bread which we dipped in soy coffee. I cannot overstate how touching this show of fellowship was to me, because I knew it was a real sacrifice on their part in which they wanted to show us the best hospitality they could afford – I do not believe I have ever had better.
In Cebu, we were able to spend time with so many of the missionary families we love and support. There, Luke and Jake handed out 400 Bible tracts to young people passing down the road by the Bible Study Center.
Of course, this letter is insufficient in its design in that I cannot possibly share everything. I have tried to highlight some of the “major” events which were easy to example as part of the experience, and which I know you might have expected to hear about. But, it’s unfortunate that I have no way in this letter of even sharing all of the activities that we did – much less to say something about so many of the countless “little” things which make up so much importance – an incalculable value in the makeup of a life as it touches on others by God’s mercy.
I know that Bryan, Jake, Luke, and myself have not ceased our thankfulness for the opportunity we had to go. It was an intensely packed fifteen days (and part of a sixteenth as we arrived home sometime after 2am in College Station). In them, Luke traveled by plane for the first time, but by the time we made the tenth flight on the last leg home, the mystery of international travel was no longer existent for either of us. We did our best to remain consistently “tough, flexible, and optimistic,” just like we were instructed by Wilkey. Most of all, we forged many relationships, and had doors of opportunity opened for us throughout our travels there that I pray will continue to bring dividends in the Lord’s Kingdom as the years progress, and as He gives us the life and strength to work and serve by His care.
Over the last four months, I have been blessed to continue to have opportunities to preach, and have devoted as much time as possible to continue my studies. An invitation was extended to me to come back to Manila in November to speak, but I did not feel I could justify the cost for the amount of time I would have been able to take off work at that time to travel. However, I do pray that I am able to return sometime soon when I can devote more time to serving there, and that hope played a significant factor in allaying the pain of the decision to delay it in November.
Luke has now finished his first semester of college as a preaching major at LCU. Somehow he also found time to run on their cross-country team, sing in their choir, and be elected and serve on their senate as well. Please pray for him as he continues in his studies, and prepares to serve as a minister or missionary after college. I do not expect you to always remember us in your prayers, but please pray for us when you receive this letter, that God might use us as He sees fit in His kingdom, in a way which causes others to glorify and give thanksgiving to Him. As Paula and I look at having our twins, Sam and Maddy, graduate high school this year, we are wondering about the next stage of life, which we can just now start to catch a glimpse of (Philip will be in 8th grade next year and our only child at home). We are considering where and how we can be most useful in the future.
I have said all of this in order that I might tell you with as much effectiveness as I am able to make possible – thank you. Thank you for your outpouring of love towards us in helping us to make this trip a possibility. It would not have been a possibility for Luke and I otherwise. The love and generosity we were shown was both humbling and awe-inspiring. I cannot express how precious the experience has been to me personally, and how much of an impact I believe it had on Luke – cementing his faith even further as he begins now to live it outside of the confines of home. Thank you dear ones. We love you from before the reaches of your gift, we thank God for your gift, and pray that we were as good at being faithful stewards of the gift as might have met our intentions of doing so.
What a blessing it is that we are all counted worthy of service, and may we remember that the need is great, the opportunities are boundless, and the yoke is light. Like so many other paradoxes in life, what might seem like difficult service without God becomes the very thing which bears us on like wings. As we are reminded in 2 Corinthians 4:17, it is “producing for us an eternal weight of glory.” My prayer is that we will never forget to see it as we strive onward together.
With deepest love in Christ,
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