Happy Birthday to us! Over the past month the Haun family has celebrated three of our four birthdays. Jude’s was on April 19th, Katie’s was on May 1st, and Joshua’s was on May 4th. Wow, a season of celebrated. But for me (Joshua) birthdays are also a time for reflection, for remembrance, for gratitude, for assessment. What about that last year? Katie and I took a night to ourselves and over ice-cream and coffee we talked about all that the last year has held, how it has shaped us, how we have responded, and what our hopes would be for the next year. I will not sugar coat it; this has been perhaps the most difficult year of our lives! I am sure that we are not the only people that would say this. Still, at the end of the year we found that this has done two things to us. First, it has made us into people who live in constant waiting, or expectation, and second, we have learned better to rely on our Lord as our provider.
When we were told how much we would need to try and raise for our missionary service in terms of financial support, during a global pandemic when many churches were not having services, we experienced the providence of God as we travelled from church to church without a single cancelled service. God provided the financial need in excess through the powerful and missional generosity of the church. Then, when we learned that the borders of Bulgaria would be closed for months due to the global pandemic the Lord provided family with homes that could house us and with hands and hearts of abundant generosity and hospitality that would welcome us. When we began to grow restless for a church with which to do life and ministry during our season of waiting God provided places to do just that: Crossroads, Blackman Community, Carthage, and Knoxville. It has not been easy but God has generously supplied every need and taught us to trust and lean on him.
Even as God has provided for our needs we have learned to live as people in constant expectation. Praying for open borders, reading news reports from Bulgaria, speaking with personal coordinators, writing emails to attorneys, and submitting document after document in preparation and anticipation of that day will Christ would open the doors to Bulgaria have become a daily ritual that leads us to daily expectation. Bulgaria will open. We will be able to get home to that place to which God has called us…. but when? We journeyed with new understanding through the expectation of advent, awaiting the birth of Christ, and the expectation of the wilderness in Lent, awaiting the resurrection. We know what it means to wait. The biblical word for, to wait, has its roots in a term that is at home in rope making. It means to twist and stretch, and of course through stretching and binding strands together, to make rope. We have been stretched in many ways. Yet, even in our stretching we have found ourselves being bound up with Christ! We are bound more tightly to our Lord now, in our waiting, than we have ever been before. We learned to wait, to be bound up with Christ, and to expect that the day would come when Bulgaria would open.
These are the thoughts that have consumed my birthday reflections as I journaled last night and pondered this morning. Waiting on the fact that God provides. On Katie’s birthday, May 1st, after six months of closed borders, Bulgaria’s Health Minister officially announced the opening of Bulgaria’s borders and extended an invitation specifically to those from the nation of the United States, as well as others. You can read about that here (https://sofiaglobe.com/2021/04/29/health-ministry-announces-rules-on-entry-to-bulgaria-as-of-may-1/)! Bulgaria’s border are open! Then, just after my scripture reading this morning, I checked my email and we had received a message from our attorney advocate in Bulgaria saying that, barring unforeseen issues, we should plan to complete the application and receive our visas 6-8 weeks from the first week of June! God is faithful! God is our provider! We have waited patiently on our LORD, and the LORD has turned to us and heard our cry! (Ps. 40:1)
Finally, we believe we are on the home stretch. Thank you so much for praying, for supporting, for encouraging, for housing, for believing with us! Thank you for being on the journey with us! Will you please continue to do so in the coming days? Will you pray for us as we journey through the stages of the visa process? Will you help us pray and wait for the LORD to provide visas for all of us, so that we can go home to that place, that ministry, that passion, God has given to us?
It is the week of Easter in Bulgaria, and so I think it is appropriate for me to end with this passage from a commentary by N.T. Wright, Acts for Everyone, that I am reading these days as a part of my own daily journey with Christ: “Wherever you go, whatever culture you come to, whatever situation of human need, sin exclusion, or oppression you may find, the message of Jesus as the one in whom all the promises of God find their ‘Yes!’ (2 Corinthians 1:20) is there to meet that need. And, among all the promises, the promise of the Servant through whose death the power of evil has been broken and its punishment exhausted, stands supreme, whether you are on a lonely road through the Gaza desert, in a great medieval chapel in Cambridge, or on your knees in the privacy of your room.”
Next year, on our birthdays, I will look back and remember today, sitting in a coffee shop in Lenoir City, celebrating the goodness of God, writing to you all about the struggle and joy of being bound up in waiting, of learning to trust that God is making all evil for good, in order to preserve a numerous people. He is doing today!