The season of thankfulness is fast upon us. It is the time of year that we gather to remember the blessings of the past year. Reflection is an important aspect of thankfulness. In it we find the things that give us reason to look to the future. But what if the future we are staring at does not seem to reflect the blessings of the past we have experienced? What if the circumstances we are confronted with take us to a place we do not want to go?
As I write this I have just returned from a place that I reflect on fondly. A place overflowing with friends and family, convenience and beauty. It is a place I miss dearly and a place where life was good. But I would be mistaken if my gratefulness were tied only to how similar my future looks to my past. I know this is true, as I look at those around me who are truly grateful. At the heart of their thankfulness is a past that looks vastly different than their future. In their stories can be found hardships and sufferings that should have derailed a thankful heart. But yet the evidence of their thankfulness can be seen by their generosity and love for others. What could make a person so thankful when they have lost so much?
As I look at each of these people, the one thing that becomes clear is that their joy was being made complete from these tragedies in their lives. Out of the toughest circumstances came a heart of gratitude that chose to identify with the One who suffered on their behalf. They have recognized that the outcome of this testing is that Jesus has been revealed to them in a way that makes other things fade away. They now move forward boldly into the future, confident that Jesus will make everything right. The testing of their faith has revealed a genuine faith that cannot help but give praise, honor and glory to the Lamb that suffered for them.
So that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
I Peter 1:7
Christ gives us reason to be thankful this season. Regardless of the tragic events of our past He is making all things new. He is making us joyful. May we be people that gain new hope from our darkest hours and respond by bringing praise to the Lamb that was slain on our behalf.
We started a new outreach this past month. As we have begun building relationships with individuals and families in the refugee communities we are working in, we have been looking for a natural bridge from building personal relationships to redemptive relationships. Out of this was born a new monthly project we are calling the Open Table where we bring refugees together from across different communities for an evening of food and fellowship. We will be starting some topics next month that will hopefully open doors for discipleship. Please pray for wisdom and like-mindedness from those involved as we get this outreach off the ground.
We had a great group of men from our church in our house this past month for our men’s prayer breakfast. It was encouraging to see so many men from our church participating and coming together to encourage each other. Our teen group continues to grow as well. We have focused on topics this fall that we hope will give confidence to these teens to live out their faith.
We made a short visit to Greenville, SC this past month over the girls’ fall break. We were able to spend time with our family and this time was tremendously encouraging and refilling for our family. We have missed them dearly and my parents reminded us of what it looks like to serve others by their constant giving of themselves for us. I had the opportunity to speak to a group of gap year students during our last week there. Talking through our ministry with these students was an unexpected blessing as it gave opportunity to reflect on what God has done since we arrived 16 months ago. We were thankful for the opportunity to step out of ministry for an opportunity to evaluate and plan for the future. We are excited to be back and have a renewed focus and vision for how we can use our gifts to best glorify Christ in the place He has us.
Just this past weekend we had our church’s annual international Thanksgiving dinner. Our little fellowship hall was bursting at the seams with people from all over the world. What a blessing to see our church family come together and welcome Germans and foreigners in a gracious and abundant way. Please pray for our church staff as they continue to guide our church toward understanding how we are called to welcome and love the hurting God has placed in our lives.
Please also pray as we seem to have doors opening in a camp near our church and also alongside a new Arabic church to help reach local communities. Both new opportunities would be working directly with Arabic men. We are excited about this opportunity because we know the way forward for reaching refugees requires we reach the men in these communities if we are going to see families come to Christ.
Our month was filled with blessings being with family this past month. We were able to spend a week at the beach with family and our girls loved running and playing all day until they fell exhausted in their beds each night. They enjoyed being with old friends from church as did Cherry and I. We returned on November 10th with hearts full and thankful for those who encourage us on from afar and joyful to be back with our family here in Berlin.
We do not take lightly the privilege it is to be surrounded by those who love us. We recognize any advance on our part is made possible by you and your continual and consistent investment in us. Please continue to pray for us and the advance of the gospel in Berlin. Your prayers are evident in our lives and your gifts are a sweet savor that continually remind us of God’s faithfulness to us. We continue to give thanks to God for how He has perfectly provided through you for every need that we have encountered. As we approach the end of the year we would greatly appreciate your consideration if you have any plans for year-end giving. Thank you again for helping us support the local church and seek the growth of the gospel in refugee communities in this strategic place.
Pray for a new opportunity in our local community with a new refugee home that has opened. The staff is specifically asking for someone to work with the men by using soccer.
Pray for a new opportunity to come alongside a new Arabic church plant in the city and help them engage young men through soccer.
Pray for our upcoming Thanksgiving Dinner and the opportunities it presents to invite families into our church community.
Continue to pray for our Kindergeld application (German Child Credit). We are eligible for this benefit in Germany and just need wisdom in getting our application processed properly.
Pray for our family in Greenville in our absence this time of year.