This holiday season is a real milestone for Trina and I because we have been present in The USA for consecutive holiday seasons for the first time in many years. When we first left South Africa in September of 2019, the plan was to visit people and fundraise before heading off to England in March of 2020. When we got off the plane from California in the early part of this year, we were curious why a handful of people were wearing masks? Very soon after seeing this, it became clear that our original plan was going to be altered significantly.
When we first learned that our long term stay in the UK would be delayed, our tired souls breathed a sigh of relief. We can’t wait to be in England, but because this won’t be our first post in a foreign country, we are not naive about the challenges such a move entails. The job of a missionary living abroad requires a tremendous amount of physical and emotional energy just to get settled in and started. While the opportunity to rest after the years in Africa wasn’t expected, in hindsight it has become a cherished blessing over the course of this year. We are far more physically fit, emotionally full and spiritually encouraged than we were in March. It has become abundantly clear that resting was part of God’s plan to prepare us for our next season and it is wonderful that He gave it to us when we didn’t really understand how much we needed it!
Regular time with our families has been one of the greatest sources of refreshment! Over the years we became accustomed to being limited to rare visits with our children and grandchildren when we came to the USA. Because of our opportunity to live near most of our family, we have consistent time with many of them. Just being around them has been an indescribable blessing and with every encounter God has regularly used all of them to show us His Love. After our recent experience, it is more obvious to me why The Lord wants us to guard our families and why the enemy is so determined to tear them apart!
As this year has progressed, we have slowly become more involved in ministry from the USA. It has been great have more direct participation in the churches, ministries, and lives of the people that we are connected to in The USA. We have also continued to work abroad with Christians in Africa and The UK through online portals like Zoom & Google Hangouts. Unsurprisingly, we have seen fear and discouragement attacking individuals and churches as a whole during this time. These are timeless, spiritual challenges that The Bible clearly indicates are potentially debilitating if left unchallenged.
We have been led to encourage Christians with the famous scripture, John 3:16 NASB:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
While this Scripture is widely used as a tool for witnessing to nonchristians, it is less common for existing Christians to meditate on it’s personal ramifications after they have been saved. Take a moment to consider the implications of how this ultimate sacrifice might impact your present state of mind. It is a serious offering for a caring, feeling God to allow what happened to Jesus at the cross. This is especially the case when you consider that it is just for the chance that people would recognize the love that He has for them. I have asked, far and wide, who would be willing to sacrifice their child for the benefit of others and no one has agreed that they would. Whenever you feel alone, afraid or discouraged, step back and reflect on the act of love present in Christ’s sacrifice. When you realize what The Lord has already done on your behalf, it is difficult to remain vulnerable to discouragement about a particular situation or life in general.
We also have been encouraging Christians to be deliberate about building one another up in a very specific way. 1 Peter 4:10-11 NASB says,
As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.  Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Every person who has a relationship with Christ, each one as this scripture states, has a spiritual gift bestowed upon them by The Lord. It isn’t the exclusive province of a recognized pastor, priest or rector to exercise spiritual gifting. It is the privilege and duty of all believers to identify how they are gifted (see 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 or Romans 12:4-8 for an introduction to this topic) & to take every opportunity that God provides to use those gifts for the benefit of others! There are countless examples in scripture where the proper use of spiritual gifts gives faith to the fearful or encourages the downtrodden.
Please listen to this sermon as you consider the personal blessings of The Lord in your own life & how you are called to remind others of the same things: