Dear lovely family and friends,
I hope that you are all well and enjoying the recent sunny weather we have been having. I am currently sat among boxes and piles of belongings as I pack up my life and sort through various possessions in preparation for my pending move to Guatemala.
Some days I have to pinch myself and check that it is real, that God really has called me to this incredible life. I am often in awe of his goodness as I consider where he has taken me in life so far and as I sit and let where he is about to take me sink in. I feel both wonderfully inadequate and deeply privileged.
However, some days I have to seek comfort and strength as I say farewell to another dear friend or cuddle my young nephews and niece and have to let them go. It is days like that when I am encouraged and strengthened by the knowledge that it is not about me. What I mean by that is that I take heed and remember all those who have discerned with me this call on my life, all those who have confirmed that God is leading me to full time overseas mission and ministry. I look back and see God’s guiding hand, often gentle but occasionally more like a nudge, leading me and preparing me. I have been exploring this call for almost 10 years now and have been to some amazing places and met so many incredible people along the way. When fear or doubts start to creep in, it is in the knowledge that God has brought me safe this far that reassures me that I can continue.
One of my favourite passages is 1 John 4:18-19: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.” Because he first loved, that is my motivation for everything, all I am able to do and all I am able to be is because he first loved.
I have found such encouragement recently as I have visited link churches and met people who are supporting and praying for me. I just want to share a few stories with you all now from some of these church visits and I hope that they speak to you as much as they have done me.
Firstly, a fun tale of how we are all connected to one another as members of God’s family. I was having dinner with a vicar and his family and, as we were chatting, we realised that he had once been the curate at the church where my family later attended. However, our paths had never crossed because the dates did not overlap… or so we thought!
I then remembered that I had attended the playgroup of that same church as a toddler when he was there, in toddler group with his eldest son. The next thing I know, a tea towel was produced and there in the top right corner was my tiny handprint. We laughed and joked about how next we would find out that we were related. Of course, as far as we know, we are not actually related; however, we are members of the wider family of God and I for one am pleased about that. I have always said that no matter where I go, I never feel alone because I can always find Christian brothers and sisters who make me feel at home. What a joy it is to be part of such a diverse, global family!
Secondly, I will share a little challenge about the need to be risk takers for the Lord. On another church visit I was taken on an evening stroll to see the parish and my host was telling me about how, as Christians, we should stop saying “take care” to each other. A bit bemused I asked why and he said because God calls us to take risks for him.
I recently learned a bit about risk tolerance and risk taking on some training I did with International Location Safety, and I think it is safe to say that we all have different ideas about risk. I’m sure people think that I must have quite a high-risk tolerance to do what I am doing. Perhaps I do, but I think the challenge is for us all to maybe ask God what “risks” we can take for him. It could be taking that risk and inviting that friend to an Alpha Course or to a Sunday service, or maybe it is taking that trip we have dreamed about, or maybe it is volunteering to help at that group or serve on that committee. We can all take “risks” for God and know that he never gives us more than we can handle. I certainly take comfort in that fact, increasingly so these days.
My final short story is a call to thankfulness for the most unlikely things. I was sat with my host and we were enjoying our evening together, sharing stories and having fellowship. She told me of a time in her life when she was living overseas in a warzone. Sleeping in a warzone is no easy task; however she managed to sleep through the loud bangs and crashes. She told me her secret – she had limited hearing in one ear and so she simply turned over. She buried her good ear in the pillow and left her other ear, with limited hearing, exposed. It meant that she could sleep soundly. She found herself thankful for her hearing loss, which really challenged and encouraged me. I wonder if there is anything in our life that we would not expect to be thankful for but actually is a blessing in disguise. Or maybe there is something that in some ways limits you but in others has a silver lining.
Food for thought
I have thoroughly enjoyed my church visits and have found it a real blessing to spend time with new people and share meals and time together. It has been a really encouraging experience for me and I hope for the churches too. I have left each visit feeling uplifted and upheld. So a big thank you to all my hosts and link churches. I still have some churches left to visit over the next few weeks and then, on 26 July, I board a plane that will take me to Guatemala and on to new adventures and challenges.
Thank you all for your continued love, prayers and support.