It has been quite an adventure. We have shared much with you but there is so much unshared. We underestimated the sheer magnitude of this move – for us, for our kids, for our families and that’s ok. To be honest, had we understood some of the struggles we would face, some of the hurts our kids would endure, some of the sorrow our family and friends would experience by our absence perhaps we would have hesitated in our yes but we are so glad that we are here.
Despite the cost, we would choose it again because we have seen God’s hand in it all. We have seen His wisdom and providence and Sovereignty in bringing us here. We have met the young men and women God has called us here to serve, our kids have met friends, we have met people who love and accept us and God has been in everything and over everything we have faced.
He has carried us through. He has carried our kids through. He has been enough.
We have so wanted to share every hurt, every struggle, every victory and triumph with you but it has been hard. We have learned that living in two places sometimes means that you never feel like you’re living in either place well. We have learned that, to start over, you have to commit, to invest and, while you’re doing that, you have to release the possibility that people at home are moving on. We have learned to release the state of our friendships to God and to rest in knowing that we will be able to pick up right where we left off with so many. That God is sovereign even over friendships. Imagine that. Once again, He’s enough and any illusion of control we once felt is gone but in a ‘praise God for freedom’ sort of way. It’s ok because He’s got us, He’s got our friends, our family and our kids. What a gift.
So, I want to share with you just a word from each month of our year here in PNG. Just a word that describes what we have been feeling throughout our year and, more than that, the ways that God has had us, this whole time.
When you read it, if you know God, would you pray for us? Would you pray for our kids? Would you pray for our families and more than anything, would you praise Him with us? Would you praise Him for the ways He has held us up and, as you do that, would you remember the ways He has held you up this year?
We have no doubt that you’ve had hard times this year. We have no doubt that many of you and your kids or families have faced things that have seemed impossible. We have no doubt that you have felt broken, weary and helpless. But, in faith and because of the God we serve we also have no doubt that God has been with you, whether you know Him or not, and that He is worthy of praise.
As you read this, let’s celebrate together in the kind-hearted, tender, long-suffering God we serve. He’s the God who loved us in Canada and who has met us here in PNG.
June – EXCITED. Hearts that wanted to serve and were passionately stirred to love the youth who are living in Papua New Guinea. A God who saw fit to form our hearts, our lives, our personalities, our strengths and weaknesses in a way that fit this calling.
July – BROKEN. Hearts that met immediate struggle, sickness and spiritual attack upon setting foot in this beautiful country. Hearts that were broken to see our kids hurting. Hearts that were broken to experience difficulties that made us feel inadequate for the task that lie ahead. A God who walked with us through it all. A God who walked beside us in the tears and triumphs. A God who sat with our kids in their hurts. A God who kept our passion for ministry alive when so many other things threatened to dampen the excitement that once poured out from our hearts.
August – WEARY. Hearts that felt like failures. Hearts that were tired and weary from struggling to hold it together when so many things seemed to be falling apart. Weary hearts that arrived at Ukarumpa out of time, out of place and tired. A God who saw fit to pull our weary hearts out of training at just the right time A God who knew our breaking point and kept us from reaching it. A God who had mercy on us and our children. A God whose timing is perfect.
September – LONELY. Hearts that felt unknown. Hearts that felt the weight of starting over. Hearts that felt unseen and unusable. Hearts that still had an ember of passion for ministry but were struggling to fan that passion back into a flame amidst the hurts and disappointments of the past months. A God who taught us to abide. A God who taught us to be patient. A God who saw fit to give our kids beautiful neighbors for friends. A God who was restoring our souls and who would not let our passion die out. A God who was enough.
October – PERSISTENT. Hearts that were persistent in pursuing friendship, pursuing ministry, pursuing new life here in PNG. A God who saw fit to put the right people in our paths. A God who gave us encouragement through new friendships, patient preschool teachers and caring administrators. A God who encouraged us in our persistence with His persistent love.
November – HOPEFUL. Hearts that were hopeful. Hearts that saw ministry opportunities unfold. Hearts that saw God’s timing in having us here to hold others up in their ministries. A God who was carrying our hearts back to a place of hope.
December – AFFIRMED. Hearts that were affirmed in our calling to PNG. Hearts that heard God’s voice of affirmation in the actions of youth that embraced us and welcomed us here. Hearts that felt God’s love in how He was carrying us through the heartaches of the past months. A God who was showing us that He never wastes anything – not our weaknesses, not our heartache, nothing.
January – HEARTBROKEN. Hearts that were broken for our kids and their hurts. Hearts that were met with a seemingly impossible decision for our oldest. Hearts that felt responsible for the pain of our children. A God who was walking alongside us and our son. A God who was making a way for something beautiful. A God who was showing us the power of prayer and the unmistakable protective, loving hold He has on our children’s hearts. A God who was showing us how to step forward in faith into something far better for our son than we could have ever asked or imagined. A God who was showing us how, sometimes, He even orchestrates the lives of others in such a way that they would be here in PNG to love on our kids and speak truth into their lives at just the right times.
February – ENCOURAGED. Hearts that were encouraged to see God work miracles in Ben’s life. Hearts that were still struggling with the hurts our kids have faced and the effects of those hurts but hearts that were reminded of God’s care in their lives and His mercy over our shortcomings. A God who was present in the hurt and the healing.
March – RENEWED & POURED OUT. Hearts that were ministered to by a visiting pastor. Hearts that were poured out in ministry in such a life-giving and calling-affirming way. Hearts that were reminded of why we are here. A God who saw fit to remind us of our calling and finally, in His timing, confirm to us why we are here.
April – CONTENT. Hearts that were content with life. Hearts that were still torn between our lives in Canada, our friendships and family in Canada and our lives and ministry here but hearts that were contentedly split, embracing both worlds. A God who showed Himself to be God over every part of our lives. A God who reminded us that He always has our hearts, no matter how torn they might be.
May – STIRRED. Hearts that were stirred to start asking God the tough questions. Hearts that were stirred to start praying over His plans for our lives with willing spirits. A God who reminded us that His ways are higher than our ways. A God who reminded us that there is no fear in love and that His perfect love drives out fear. A God who assured us that, whatever He’s calling us to, He calls us to in love, He will guide us through in love, He will reveal to us in love and He will cover us always in love.
June – PRAYERFUL. Hearts that are prayerful as we approach the one year mark of our time in PNG. Hearts that are reflective and thankful. Hearts that are prayerfully moving forward into another year of ministry. Hearts that are prayerfully moving forward in our strengths and our weaknesses. Hearts that are prayerfully asking for wisdom as we listen to His voice and His call. Hearts that are tired and weary but, by the grace of God, still excited.
We have been ministered to this year, in so many ways, by a God who loves us and who shows us over and over that He is enough. And, as we move forward into another year at Ukarumpa International School, please know that we think of you often. Please know that we miss you. Please know that we are trying to share life with you but that there may be times where we don’t have the words. Please know that we think of you and pray for you often and please know that we are more than a little excited about seeing you all next year. We love you and are thankful that God has used your prayers to strengthen our hearts and show us His love this year.
With all our love and with so much gratitude,
Anita & Jon
Psalm 33:4, ” For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.” (ESV)
Isaiah 46:3b-4, “You whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” (NIV)