Friday, March 14, 2014

Not Home Yet...

In all our travels to and fro in South America back and forth from the United States...with all the path in between... I feel more deeply than ever that this place is not our home.  We have uprooted more times than is probably good for a family in such a short space of time and I know my heart has searched for that spot God would allow us to sink in, but in His goodness and perfection He had something different in mind.  I believe our souls have been altered - reshaped so that they better reflect Christ.

So here we are, settling down again in Porterville and waiting for the day that it feels like home again, realizing that perhaps God's plan for us isn't that we should settle for a sense of home or belonging.  Perhaps He is more glorified through our longing for Him and the way it tends to set our eyes far above the challenges and even blessings life brings.  I am not sure if "home" means quite the same thing to me anymore.  I think "home" is peace in Christ...not that I always fully experience that, or even believe it is what I need in one moment or another...but no amount of stuff, warmth, familiarity or safety can truly give a heart the total belonging that we find alone in the presence of God.  Don't get me wrong, our love for California, our church, our friends and family is stronger than ever...but HOME is at the feet of Jesus no matter where on the earth my feet tread.

We are readjusting and slowly considering how God is leading us to serve Him.  The layers of feelings and experiences are harder to sort out than I thought they might be...but we've only been home for a week or so now, and I look forward to some sense of normal, maybe.  God is good and He has all the time He needs to sort us out, to make us what He wants us to be, to use our humble selves to be a precious blessing to himself.  We are made to be strong and courageous and so we continue in the courage and strength that comes from Him remembering that we aren't home yet.  And for those who have a longing for home but haven't found it yet, we are going to love them into the kingdom...send them into the arms of the God who sees...  
"She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me." Genesis 16.13
When I find myself trying to define all the terms of my life, our missionary journey, my identity as a believer I have to stop and imagine Christ there listening to me and telling me I (we) don't see as He sees or love as He loves...not even ourselves.   For some reason it is hard for us to separate our performance, achievements, possessions, and physical self from our lovability.  I guess I see some things a little differently now and see all the pressure we put ourselves under to be worthy, to give some definition to ourselves and lives... We need to remember who we serve and who among all others truly loves and knows us... We love because He first loved us.  He is literally the alpha and omega... we musn't live only mildly acknowledging that.  I wish I were worthy of His crazy love for me, but I am glad I don't have to be.  I am thankful that he is the best at loving, providing and peace... full of grace and justice.  He is the BEST!  And He isn't done with us yet!

***Check out our PHOTOS! I have uploaded a ton more, including the first service at the Ibarra church plant!

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Road to and from Ibarra

Many of you know a few details about our road to Ibarra... one housing complication after another that are still as of yet unresolved completely... and the night before we had planned to finally enter Ibarra as a team, Reese had a medical emergency delaying our family further. Late Saturday night on January 4th, Reese began seizing for the first time ever.  At first we were not totally worried, knowing that seizures are common and not typically dangerous.  After a couple of minutes we realized she was not stopping and we ran for help.  Thankfully, also on the Work and Witness grounds there happened to be a doctor with a short-term group that gave Reese a half pill of Xanex to relax her convulsions as Jon Fischer drove us to the emergency room.  The entire time we were with the doctor on the grounds and the 15+ minute drive to the hospital, Reese was like a beautiful broken little doll with an electrical glitch.  In all, her seizure lasted more than 20 minutes.  We cried, we prayed, and all I could think or say to God was that our desire is to be obedient whatever he calls us to, wherever the road leads, and we trust in His plan for our daughter.  Cole carried her into the Emergency Room and stayed with her all night.  At that point they just stabilized her and made plans for tests.  Sunday night she had an MRI and Monday afternoon she had an EEG, both of which had no signs of anything abnormal.  We have no idea what caused her seizure.  She had no fever, no prior seizures, no obvious predisposition.  The doctor that treated her here in Quito, prescribed her an anti-seizure medication and said it was likely she would have another seizure, possibly prolonged again, in the next 6-12 months and if so she would need to be immediately brought to the emergency room to stop the seizure if it does not stop on its own.  In addition, she requires regular monitoring under the care of a neurologist.  Reese, in all ways seems quite back to normal.  She had no recollection of the seizure when she woke up Sunday morning and actually seemed to find the hospital a funny sort of vacation with her own TV : )

Our family traveled up to Ibarra to be with the team with the idea that they really needed us to just get there and start dealing with the housing issue, take care of the weekly finances, food, transport...all the daily logistics of the team so they could focus on making contacts, finding a location for the church, and developing each of their individual ministry responsibilities.  Meanwhile, right around the time all of this was happening, the developing Manta team was having some set-backs of its own.  A confirmed 4040 dropped out, leaving the team too small to deploy on-time.  The decision was made to combine the Manta and Ibarra clusters to form a complete team of 10.  So our team will be welcoming 3-4 additional young men in May after they finish up language training in Quito.  This however left the Manta Cluster Coordinators without a cluster.  All things considered, in light of Reese's new medical concern and need for care that is unavailable in Ibarra, our family has stepped down from the Cluster Coordinator position for the city of Ibarra and the Strunk family will be replacing us.  We will continue to serve in Quito with the Extreme headquarters office over the next months.

There is nothing about this Jesus Adventure of ours that has been predictable.  This marathon we are running sure feels like a relay at times... in one moment we receive the baton and in another we are passing it on.
"What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building." 1 Cor 3:5-9
We are humble co-workers in God's service, taking no credit for anything that is meant to bring glory to God alone.  We each are assigned to a task... Each step along this path, we have felt God's guidance, encouragement and strength carrying us through and it has been a more blessed adventure than I could have possibly imagined...and more unexpected bits than I might have been prepared for, but in all things I trust in Christ.  I trust where he has lead our family.  I trust in Him alone for what is to come.

We look forward to this next chapter in our missionary journey and will keep you all posted about the details of our new roles and opportunities there may be to continue supporting the church planting effort with us in Ibarra, Quito and Ambato, Ecuador.  Just around the corner is Love Extreme taking place in both Ambato and Ibarra in July of this year and later in October the church building project is planned for the Ambato church plant.

We appreciate your support and prayers as always.  Please keep Reese in your prayers as we continue to watch over and care for her precious little self.   Please also continue praying for the city of Ibarra and the team of Extreme missionaries carrying the torch there.

Grace and Peace, 
The Williams Family