So I know that it is already 2016 and I am supposed to be looking forward. Somehow, I just couldn’t do that without looking back one more time with gratitude for all that God did in 2015. There are some years that have been more memorable than others in my life and they seem to happen when the year ends in 5. In 1985, I met my wife. In 1995, we decided to become missionaries with CLC. In 2005, I was elected as the U.S. Director for CLC. This past year was no exception and I thought I would share some surprising ways that God moved in my life and ministry.
The year started with a startling Facebook message from my brother. I was on a date with my wife when I got this urgent message to call him. After panicking for a minute or two thinking that a member of my family might have died, I learned that this was all about an airline ticket. He had found an incredibly low price for a round trip ticket to Panama where he lived and wanted Deb and I to come for a visit. Not one to make spur of the moment decisions, I took a couple of days to decide what to do. Ultimately, Deb was not able to go, but I was able to take my younger son Mike and we had the trip of a lifetime. That unexpected call turned into a delightful spring break where I had many new experiences including learning to ride a horse for the first time.
Shortly after I got back from Panama I got the kind of news that no one likes to hear. One of my dear colleagues had died very suddenly. How could this be? She had seemed so healthy the last time that I had seen her and her husband was the one that had been ill for many years. In God’s providential timing she died like she had lived – serving God in the CLC bookstore in Port of Spain, Trinidad. I had the privilege of attending her funeral service and appreciating the impact of a life well lived. This sudden death left a big hole on the local team, but God filled that hole pretty quickly with a good friend of the ministry who had been CLC’s accountant for many years. Sandra Robinson is now leading the CLC Trinidad into a new season of growth and possibility.
In August, I went to Thailand for a couple of weeks to help with a huge book table and to facilitate the launching of a new American missionary couple who are joining the local CLC Thailand team. This was my second time to travel to this country and I was not really looking forward to the trip. Besides the 16 hour flight and over 24 hour travel time one way, I was also not excited about the spiritual climate I was heading into. On my last trip, I had visited Bangkok and was overwhelmed by the darkness of the spiritual warfare taking place all around me. The prevalence of sexual perversion and the ever present evidence of the sex slave trade made it a disheartening experience. This time around, I visited Chiang Mia and was blown away by the differences between the two cities. It was quickly evident that God is on the march in Thailand too and that his servants are active in the battle.
Earlier in the summer, I had been approached by one of my team members about a possible change in the way that we were dealing with prayer as a team. He suggested a radical new method for doing our prayer times and I was not completely on board with his idea. After some prayer and discussion, the Lord changed my heart and we presented to the idea to our Executive Team. In August we disbanded our old methods and began praying for 15 minutes each day as a team before the work day began and instituted a weekly hour long chapel service. This change was exactly the “fresh wind and fresh fire” that we needed and the weekly chapel services were soon enhanced by the addition of a volunteer worship leader. These services are now the highlight of my week and have been a catalyst for team development.
In October, I helped to host a huge book table for Pastor Eric Mason’s Thriving Conference. During the weekend, I met the videographer who was responsible for all the videotaping going on during the conference. She approached me about what CLC was doing and how much she appreciated our work. As a result of the conversation, God began working in her heart and she and her husband began connecting with us on a deeper level. This talented couple are now in the process of applying to serve with CLC as missionaries and have been a huge asset to us this fall. Who knew how a random conversation about our work would lead to a new path for this couple.
So many other great things have happened as well that it would take several more blog posts to cover it all. Whether it was a Korean church approaching us about using our auditorium on a weekly basis and bringing new life to our dormant facilities or the “gifting” of another not-for-profit ministry to CLC USA, one thing was clearly evident this past year. God is in control. His timing may not be my timing, but it is always perfect. As I head into 2016, I can be confident that this same God has plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future.