God has shown our family His protection the past two months. In November, Sarah went for a routine check-up. She was 8 months pregnant and had some unusual pain that morning. They discovered she had appendicitis, and the next day she had surgery to remove her appendix before it ruptured. The surgery caused her to start going into labor, but they were able to slow her contractions enough for the baby to stay in the womb a few more weeks. Thankfully, just after 2 AM on December 5th, Lucas Benjamin Booth was born, strong and healthy. He is a meek and mild little guy, and all of us are delighted with him. Our hearts are filled with gratitude for this good gift.
This time of year always leads me to reflect on what has happened (or not) in the year gone by. As a missionary, I would like to think that the work we do is a steady movement forward of, “More people reached with the gospel! Goals achieved! Lives changed! Churches established!” But this year feels like we have done everything possible just to maintain where we are. Some people have fallen away. Others have faced great hardships leaving them drained and discouraged. Not having camps, mission teams, or many other activities that we normally would have throughout the year has affected the spiritual vitality of many of the deaf, as well as teens and kids. Even something as simple as having a church potluck is missed. I used to think it was just one more activity to prepare and to take up my time. And yet now I see how much we miss these moments of fellowship, of rubbing shoulders, and sharing food. Our spiritual lives depend so much upon being together with other people who love Jesus.
But the story of missions throughout the ages is filled with setbacks and challenges. The apostle Paul could have resented the years he spent in prison when he could have been out planting churches. William Carey could have quit when his print shop burned down and his life’s work was lost. There are countless other stories of loss and hardship like these. However, the key is to press on, and that is what we will do by God’s grace. He continues to be at work, and great opportunities lie ahead. Even (especially) in a hard year, God’s grace is evident. Here are some recent highlights:
Reaching new people. Susana went through some challenging times this year. She reached out to a Christian friend of hers that lives in France. This friend suggested that Susana begin attending church. Her friend searched for a church online and found ours. At first Susana just watched the services online, but then eventually she began coming and has come to every service and Bible study since September.
Giving. The church here in Montijo has given far more money to missions and benevolence this year than ever before. It has been encouraging to see a spirit of generosity grow. This is not just the case financially. After Sarah’s surgery left her out of commission for a while, for ten straight days, families in our church brought us meals and helped us with many different tasks. They even delivered a giant box of gifts to our door as a surprise baby shower. Normally, we feel like we are the ones giving and coordinating these things. How encouraging and refreshing it was to see so many people spring into action in our time of need.
Opportunities to share the gospel. Back in March, I began volunteering at a local non-profit helping organize and distribute food parcels to needy families in our community. Besides being a great way to meet new people, it has also opened good conversations about the gospel.
You. God knows what we need, and all of you that pray for us, care for us, and give to make it possible for us to serve the Lord here, are a marvelous gift and blessing to us. We love you all, and are grateful to serve the Lord together with you. May God bless and strengthen you as we begin this new year.