Happy New Year from Temperance, Michigan! It is Monday, January 2, and we are just 9 days from our scheduled return to the Philippines. We have been in the States for just under 4 months, and we are so ready to go home! Please pray for our trip; it’s a very long itinerary, but all things considered, it’s one of the better itineraries we’ve had. For the first time in our 12 years as missionaries to the Philippines, we are flying around the world to the east instead of the west. On Wednesday, January 11, we will fly out of Detroit at 7:25 p.m., headed for New York. In New York we will have a 2½-hour layover, and from there we will fly 9½ hours to Istanbul, Turkey, where we will spend 13 hours. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do—spend 13 hours in an unfamiliar country with my wife and 4 tired, irritable children! Now, I’ll be able to cross that off my bucket list! 😊 Thankfully, Turkish Airlines has a policy to provide a hotel for anyone with a layover of more than 12 hours. We’ll take it! 😊 From Istanbul, we will fly another 10½ hours to Manila, where we will spend the night in another hotel. Finally, on Saturday morning at 7:25, we will make a final flight down to Dipolog, where one of our men will pick us up in the church jeepney for the 20-minute drive home. In all seriousness, Hannah will be just 2 months old by that time. Please pray that God will give us a smooth and uneventful trip.
By the time we get home to Dapitan, we will have been out of the country for just over four months. During our absence, God gave us two wonderful couples to oversee our ministry. The Bolton family oversaw the ministry for the first couple of months, and then the Cook family came to replace them for the remainder of our furlough. It is amazing to me how God works things out when we are following His will! Before this furlough, I really didn’t know the Boltons or the Cooks, but God knew that they were exactly what our church would need while we were away! They both did such a great job! They kept our church stable in our absence; and, most importantly, they loved our people. You have no idea what that means to me as a pastor who has been away from his people for so long. We are going home to a ministry that is just as strong as when we left, and probably even stronger. We and our church owe both couples a great debt of gratitude.
Thank you so much for your prayers and faithful support during our furlough. It has been a good time for our family, a time of rest and healing, but now we are ready to get back and get going! Please pray that God will bless us with a smooth transition as we step back into the work that God has called us to do.
Dividends on Your Investment
One of the most extraordinary things about our God is His incredible creativity in setting up divine appointments. I will never get used to it! The extent to which God is willing to go to bring the Gospel to a lost soul is amazing! I saw another example of this on Monday, December 12. A package from Amazon had been delivered to my parents’ house in spite of the fact that neither my parents’ names nor address were on the package. In fact, the address on the package did not exist, so I decided to walk around to some of the neighbors and see if I could figure out who it belonged to. I went to the neighbor’s house on our right side and rang the doorbell, and a man who appeared to be close to my age came to the door. The first thing I noticed was that he was wearing an Ohio State cap. Being an Ohio State fan myself, I took this to be a good sign. (Dear Michigan churches, please don’t drop our support! 😊) I introduced myself and found out that his name was also Mike—another good sign! 😊 I showed him the package and explained the situation, only to discover that he didn’t know anything about it. However, as we continued to talk, the Holy Spirit began nudging me to try to witness to him. After a little while, I turned the conversation to the Gospel and asked Mike the million-dollar question, “If you were to die today, are you 100% sure that you would go to Heaven?” He thought for a moment and said that he wasn’t sure that anyone could know that. He then went on to talk about an experience that God had given him many years before when his father passed away. He said that when they decided to “pull the plug,” he knew that as the oldest child, the whole family would be looking to him for leadership. He said that he had prayed for help and strength and immediately felt God’s presence and peace. As I listened to his story, I wrestled with how to respond. I knew I couldn’t just push it aside as irrelevant. I needed God to give me the right answer . . . and He did! After Mike finished telling his story, I looked at him and said, “Mike, the Bible teaches that when God gives a person light, if he accepts that light, then God will give him more light.” I went on, “When your father died, God revealed Himself to you in a special way, and you accepted that light.” Then I paused, looked him in the eye, and said, “And maybe that’s why I’m here. You’ve accepted the light that God gave you, and now He wants to give you more light.” I went on to ask him if I could show him what the Bible teaches about how to be saved, and he agreed. I took out my phone, opened the Bible app, and began going through the Gospel. As I neared the conclusion, I showed and explained to him Acts 16:31, and then he said something that I have never heard in my nearly 24 years of winning souls. He said, “I’m 43 years old, and for the first time in my life, I understand what it means to believe in Jesus Christ.” I about lost it right there! Now, Mike didn’t pray with me there on the porch; he promised that he would do it himself as soon as he went inside. But I’ll tell you what I think: I believe he got saved the moment he made that statement!