Yes! We’ve made it to Togo! We live in West Africa! We have been truly encouraged by our missions family here in Togo; they gave us a warm welcome and helped to prepare our house long before we arrived. We love our new home and our new neighbors (some of whom were already dear friends!). We did not have time for a break after our exams in France, so we are taking some time to rest here before jumping into work and school. We were able to go for a quick swim on Christmas day and then were hosted for Christmas dinner by our friends. We celebrated Christmas as a family on the 26th and had a nice family night on New Year’s Eve. The children have been enjoying the warm weather and have spent much of their Christmas break playing outdoors with friends and getting acquainted with the neighbor’s pet monkey.
So here we are. It’s 2017 and we’ve arrived! Is that it? We’re here in Africa. We obeyed. The hard part is over, right? Moving here was one single act of obedience. It took us only two days to physically move here. What now? Yes, there is work to be done and there are many things to learn, but our mission today is largely the same as it was in France and in Michigan: daily obedience to God. That, in sum, is to know Him and to make Him known. We hope and expect to grow, but our location does not transform us and neither does our proximity to a ministry. We must endeavor to seek the face of Jesus no matter where we are or who we are with. Perhaps I’ll even say that it’s our New Year’s resolution to be intentional about our time spent in prayer and in the Word of God, just as it should be each year. I hope the same for you. Growth and transformation into Christ can be hard. I read an excellent quote from Elisabeth Elliot that goes:
"Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering. The love of God did not protect His own Son. He will not necessarily protect us - not from anything it takes to make us like His Son. A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process."
May we abandon anything that distracts us from our Savior and chase fervently after anything that puts us at the center of His will.
A couple of the doctors working in our hospital have taken on an extra workload to allow me to settle in and rest. This is another example of the kindness and love that has been shown toward our family since our coming. We have used this time to unpack and organize our home. We have some shopping to get done, but I hope to otherwise spend some time reviewing a few of my medical texts. It has been more than a year since I’ve practiced medicine (other than looking at a few ears and adjusting some backs and necks - you know who you are). I am truly tempted to be fearful regarding my own insufficiency. I was reflecting with Rebecca over all the years of preparation for coming to this place and this time, but I wondered aloud if even that was enough. She encouraged me with this quote by I. Lilias Trotter taken from Gold Cord by Amy Carmichael:
"So many questions lie ahead concerning the work, and a great comforting came this morning in the chapter in Job (Job 28) about 'the way' of wisdom and 'the place thereof' (verse 23). It tells how God finds the way for the wind and the water and the lightning, and it came with a blessed power what those ways are. The way for the wind is the region of the greatest emptiness, the way for the water is to the place of the lowest depth, the way for the lightning, as science proves, is along the line of the greatest weakness. 'If any man lack.' There is God’s condition for His inflow of the spiritual understanding. Praise be to His name."
May we be empty of all that is not Him so that He may fill us up and may we rely on His grace which we know is sufficient for us.
I have been encouraged during this time of still before busyness. This is similar to only a few weeks ago, on the night before our weeklong French exams started, I was feeling very anxious and I lay awake in bed praying when I was suddenly overwhelmed by peace and even joy. I knew that this was from the Lord, but that the feeling would not likely last. I held on to the knowledge of that peace and joy throughout the following week. I often remember a line by V. Raymond Edman that goes "Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light." It’s important to hold on to our knowledge of God’s presence and His promises because our emotions waver and our senses are deceitful while the truth of His Word is unfaltering and eternal. That’s what He is giving me now. I am excited, at peace, joyful, and content. It’s not always going to feel this way, yet pray that I will hold on to the knowledge of His presence in the coming months.
May we seek truth in His word daily that we would be able to present ourselves as holy, acceptable, living sacrifices by the renewing of our minds.
We do have some exciting news to share. We are expecting our 5th child at the end of July! We hope to have the baby here in Togo. Rebecca has been in good health and we certainly appreciate your prayers for a healthy baby and mama. The three older children want a boy, but Gwyn is holding out for a little sister. I’m voting for twins….
At this juncture, we wish you all a very blessed New Year. We pray that you each choose to daily turn yourselves toward Christ and His will for your lives.
Be praying for:
Our health as a family.
Continued progression in French (slightly different French now that we are here).
Our spiritual well-being and that we would daily choose to live in obedience.
Clear direction in ministry for us and for our team here in Togo.
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." - John 14:27