During "Graduation Week", we had the opportunity to sit before our fellow missionary trainees, the staff, and visiting family and friends and share (in 5 minutes) what the past 2 years have meant to us. While it is almost impossible to fully communicate what the past 2 years have meant for us, how we have been stretched, grown, learned, been challenged, strengthened, etc. we tried to put it into words that would somewhat communicate how blessed we have been by the opportunity to be at To Every Tribe and complete the 2 year Center for Pioneer Church Planting (CPCP) program. Here is what we shared:
The privilege of coming to To Every Tribe and the CPCP and being blessed to spend the past 2 years here has been an amazing journey. It has been one that is filled with mountaintops and valleys and while the "mountainpeaks" were awesome, some of the greatest lessons we learned came in the valleys. We left Alabama, a place where we were born, raised, married, and had our family and moved over 1,100 miles away to come to South Texas - a place we had never visited before we arrived here to live. We truly knew the Lord had called us here and we stepped out on complete faith to follow Him in this calling. We left North Alabama with only 3% support and much, much encouragement from David & Tommi Sitton to not let our lack of finances stop us from coming but to simply move down here and watch what God was going to do in our lives.
Having left behind our family and friends and not knowing anyone here at To Every Tribe, we were so amazed at how quickly we gained a new "family". It's amazing how the bond of Christ can quickly unite people and in no time flat, we felt like we had known our campus family for years. Friendships were quickly formed, our kids easily made new friends and sweet times of fellowship and praying together began. As the song says "blest be the tie that binds, our hearts in Christian love".
We got to experience God at work in our lives in ways we had never done before. We learned to fully depend upon Him and trust Him for everything in our lives. Even though we had always known God is the source of all our blessings, making this step of faith made it even more clear that the God we read about in the Bible and the promises of God are still true and at work today. He provided for us in ways we could never imagine and in ways that only He could orchestrate. We saw His hand of faithfulness and provision and we learned to depend on Him and trust Him in every aspect of our lives. Our support stayed very, very low the majority of the first year we were here but God always came through and provided and while we might not have had all our "wants", we never did without what we needed!
Let me share one example that stands out in our minds. When David left to go to Oaxaca, Mexico on Spring trip last year we had 63 cents in our checking account. He was going to be gone about 2 weeks and we were not going to get our monthly check from supporters until 4 days after he returned. We had no source of income and no idea what we were going to do for food while he was gone. As soon as we realized how little we would have left, we began praying as a family. You see, we have always been honest with our children about things because we want them to get to see God at work too. All 5 of us were praying for the Lord to provide for us while David was gone. 2 days after he left, we went to the mailbox and had a letter from a friend back home (mind you, this is someone who is not a monthly supporter) and there was a post-it note that read "The Lord has really laid your family on my heart lately and I have been praying for you. I am sending you a small gift to hopefully bless your family. Keep on keeping on!" Enclosed was a $150 check which sustained us the entire time David was gone to Oaxaca and got us through to the end of the month when we got our monthly support check. In God's wonderful, divine timing, the check had been written 4 days before David was scheduled to leave for his trip!
We have also had a lot of fun over the past 2 years. Being extroverted people from the South we love to have fun and to entertain. We enjoyed hosting "jam sessions" where everyone would bring their musical instruments over, or maybe just their voices and some would come just to listen and fellowship and we would sing and worship together. Sometimes we even played crazy music like "Laser Beams IceCream" or invite our friend Berger over to rap for us. We also played a few pranks throughout the years such as completely tin-foiling a staff member's office for their birthday, initiating a "Save Monica" campaign when word began to spread that our Mexico team might lose our precious translator Monica to another team, and decorating the single girls apartment until it looked like Christmas had thrown-up in there after one of them posted a video of "Where are you Christmas?" on their Facebook page. We've also learned that there actually are a few other sports and even different sports teams out there other than Alabama Crimson Tide football......although we will always bleed Crimson and shout "Roll Tide" every chance we get!
Another huge blessing has been the opportunity to serve the community of Los Fresnos. We thank God daily for the wonderful church He provided for us here at First Baptist Church of Los Fresnos. This church quickly embraced our family, began praying for us, supporting us, and allowed us to come alongside them and serve in various ministries within the church. With the encouragement and support of To Every Tribe, we have been able to be on the worship team, teach RA's & GA's, chaperone youth events, and this year we served in a volunteer capacity as the Children's Ministry Directors at church. Because of our involvement with the church here we have been able to make many wonderful friends right here in the Rio Grande Valley and had numerous opportunities to serve the people right here in our own community. The kids and I go with a few friends from church to the Atrium Nursing home each Thursday and sing praise/worship songs for the residents there. Our family enjoys going to the local skate park and letting the kids play while David & I walk around and talk to teenagers and families there at the park and we often have the opportunity to share the gospel with someone before we leave. We have served meals to people at a homeless shelter in Harlingen and have a very busy summer planned as we continue to serve here through Vacation Bible School, chaperoning the youth to Camp Zephyr and then we are taking 19 kids from our children's ministry to Camp Zephyr for a week in July. The need for missions here in the Rio Grande Valley is great and we praise God that He has given us many opportunities over the past 2 years to not only serve in Mexico but also reach the people of this community with the gospel as well.
We are so thankful for To Every Tribe and for all the staff who have poured into our lives, invested in our spiritual and personal growth, and helped prepare us to be better missionaries no matter where we end up in the world. We are thankful for each person here on campus who we are now blessed to call not only our brother or sister in Christ but also our friend. While time and distance may separate us soon, the goodbyes we will share this week only make heaven a little more sweeter. We are thankful that God can still use imperfect sinners and especially ones with a thick Southern accent and "redneck ways" to accomplish His will and purpose as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission. It is only because of God that we have been able to stay here and finish this wonderful training and we give Him all the praise and glory for what He has done in our lives the past 2 years.