A year ago, at the beginning of August, we began what we thought would be a short three-month tour of churches in East Tennessee to raise funds for our missionary call to Bulgaria. Well, this past week, after over a year, we finished that journey, but it has included trips from Colorado to Chicago. The journey wrapped up in Central Chicago District and it was an incredible conclusion to an incredible journey that has been defined by faith, extreme generosity, gratitude, and the movement of the Spirit.
Throughout our time on the Chicago Central District, we stayed at the missionary house on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University. What an incredible blessing to be able to come home after each day of services to comfortable beds, a washer and dryer, separate rooms for us and our children, a beautiful campus, and an overall home away from home. We are so incredibly grateful for the generosity of this great district and for the work that the district NMI president, Lynne Utter. As a former missionary herself, she knew exactly how to make us feel at home and prepared for our tour in the Chicago area.
We were also really excited and thankful for the time that we got to enjoy exploring the Chicago area as a family. We are thankful for the exploration and enjoyment of a great city, with great architecture, a great history, for great fountains to play in, for great food (I do not know if I can ever eat pizza the same again!), for great fellowship, for Great Lake beaches, and for the opportunity to see so much. Chicago is a beautiful place.
As we spoke to groups of seniors, middle high school students, and everything in between, we were overcome by the generosity of the Spirit of God and the spirit of the people of God. One evening, as we spoke to the teenagers of Manteno Church of the Nazarene, Katie felt led to call the students to complete surrender and to the realization that you are never too young to be incredible witnesses for Christ. She said, “God is calling each and every one of you to something incredible, and bigger than you, and maybe that is a bit scary. Guys, go tell somebody! Tell somebody because it is your little secret as long as you keep it to yourself, but when you tell somebody, it gets real, and it gets powerful, and it gets important, and somebody will hold you to it.” She wasn’t just speaking to those middle schoolers. She was speaking to me. The Spirit was speaking to me.
It has been a long journey. It has been a long year. If you have journeyed with us along the way then you have some idea, but there is really no way describe what it has been like to leave everything for a call, a passion, something bigger than you, something incredible, something a bit scary, but then to find that you are, in many ways, locked out it due to things beyond your control. As we finally near the time for our departure to Bulgaria, after a long year, I think more than ever we needed to tell somebody about what Christ has called us to, because every time we shared, from Oak Lawn and Hoopeston, to College Church, Manteno, Grace Community, and Chicago Calvary, it got more real, it got more powerful, it got more important, it got more urgent and we were surrounded by people who shared it, who will hold us to it, who encourage us in it.
Maybe more important than anything else, the Spirit of God has reaffirmed it over and over again. I had a brother in Christ come up to me after our service at Grace Community and say, “Joshua, hearing you guys speak, your energy, your passion…. I think God made your family for this didn’t He.” I was reminded of the call of Jeremiah. The LORD spoke to Jeremiah and said: “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born, I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations. “(Jer. 1:5) It was not an easy call for Jeremiah. As a matter of fact, our call has been a cake walk in comparison! Jeremiah faced delays, bad news, oppression, opposition, and trials of every kind. In fact, there came times when Jeremiah endeavor to stop up his own mouth and give it all up. But the LORD had made him. The LORD had made him for his calling. Jeremiah could only live accordingly, because in order to have live abundantly Jeremiah had to live the life the LORD created him for. Therefore, his calling was like a fire in his bones! He could in no way contain the call the LORD had placed on his life and over and again, as He declared it, his life and ministry continued to be a work, a response, of passion, of power, of importance; something scary and wonderful. We are feeling a bit like a family of Jeremiah’s these days.
I wonder what God is calling you to? God has a call for everyone, remember. Have you told somebody about it? Have you spoken to a friend, a pastor, your church, your small group, your parents, your spouse, about it? Give that call a chance to grow, to become real, to become powerful in your life, and give somebody the chance to encourage it, to hold you to it, and to affirm it. You can only have an abundant life it is the life God made you for. Don’t miss the mark.
Thanks be to God for the generosity of the Spirit of God, for the love of God, and for the love and generosity of the Spirit of God that we have discovered, from East Tennessee, to Colorado, Canada West, Oklahoma, and Great Britain, in the love and generosity of the people of the God! Sometimes, it seems strange that we would ask for any gift greater than what we have already received. So… no request this time. Just gratitude. We are thankful for the movement of God through the people of God!