We finally splashed the boat on the 17th and left Puerto Penasco on the 20th. We’ve been alternating between calm 1-2 day sails and hiding from 20-40 knot northerly winds for 3-4 days. We’re taking advantage of the next calm weather window and heading to Puerto Escondido (Loreto) today. We’ll be postponing New Year’s and pretending tomorrow is December 31st so we can celebrate after we arrive.
This year has been full of so many wonderful surprises and unplanned events – a few not so great, but it’s been wonderful to see how God turned them around.
We are thankful for our families and friends who are like family – all those who opened their homes and their hearts for a weekend or a month, made us delicious meals, loaned us nerf guns for necessary battles, let us borrow cars, were our personal post office (our amazon account has literally almost 2 dozen addresses where we have shipped things this year), provided amazing conversations, prayers, and financial support of this ministry God has given us.
We are thankful for missionaries around the world – we were able to meet so many this year in unexpected places. We’re thankful for what they do and the love of Jesus that they show to others.
May your 2019 be blessed beyond anything you can ask or imagine.
Well, we’re still in Puerto Peñasco, at the top of the Sea of Cortez (but not for much longer). *We* thought we’d be heading south in early November (when we left the boat in mid-May we actually planned to be back in mid-October). Between boat prep, lots of small jobs that didn’t go so smoothly, broken bolts, delays in solar panel installation, and the routine engine maintenance that turned into unexpected fuel injector pump and lift pump replacements to the tune of almost $3k, we just haven’t been able to leave.
We’ve been trying to figure out exactly why God still has us here. What’s the benefit in our delay? We have missionaries waiting for us further south in Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.
A couple of weeks ago, our missionary friends in La Paz reached out to us. They have an annual retreat in mid-January for all the members of their missions agency in the area. The leaders for the youth group can no longer attend. They actually asked us last April if we would consider leading the youth, but we told them we couldn’t as we’d be far south by that point. Hahaha! After some brief discussions and prayer, we’ve decided this is exactly why (at least one of the reasons) that God chose to keep us around here for so long. The retreat is less than a quarter mile from the marina we stayed at in late 2016/early 2017. We’ll be able to stay on our boat while serving the missionary families (specifically the teens) at the retreat at the nearby hotel. This is EXACTLY the kind of thing we strive to do for missionaries. We’re so excited to serve these families! The kids are looking forward to being with “old” friends again.
Since we were waiting on the new engine parts, we decided to visit our friends in Phoenix for Caleb’s 14th birthday. I’m so glad we did! We attended Bethany Bible Church with our friends, and we were reminded that we aren’t the only ones that experience a change of plans. Two thousand years ago, a young girl named Mary was betrothed to one of the best men in town (I’m making an assumption here because God would want only the best in an adopted father for His Son). Mary had her whole life ahead of her and I’m sure she had made some plans of her own. Then one day, an angel comes and tells her she will have a baby, but not just any baby, God’s Son. Wow, talk about change of plans! What will everyone say? How’s she supposed to tell Joseph?! Will he still even want to marry her?
And Joseph, he’s engaged to marry the most thoughtful, caring and beautiful girl in Nazareth (again, making an assumption here). He’s building a house for them (Jewish custom). And then he finds out that Mary is pregnant and he knows it’s not his child. Mary has some unbelievable story about an angel. All of his plans and expectations are gone. But then an angel comes to him too. Joseph decides to go ahead and take Mary as his wife, and become the earthly father to the Son of God!
If this wasn’t enough change, just before Mary reaches the end of her pregnancy, they find out that they must travel to Bethlehem for a census. That’s 100 miles away! I think it would be easy at this point to call out to God and say, “ Uh, remember us? We thought this was going to be easy when we said yes. What’s going on?!”
Now Mary knows she won’t get to have the baby at home, surrounded by her mother, sisters, midwives. She’ll be in a strange town. But Mary goes into labor before they even arrive! Joseph goes door to door, possibly even carrying Mary, begging for a place to stay. They’re finally offered an area in the stable, next to the animals. And no one is there to help. Jesus, the Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords, was born in a barn! Not what we would expect at all, but absolutely part of God’s plan. Jesus came to the world to be available to all people. From the shepherds to the Magi and everyone in between. Jesus is the Savior for all!
God’s plans never changed. This was all part of His plan, prophesied many years before. Sometimes it takes major events for our plans to line up with God’s plans. And just because it’s God’s plan, it doesn’t mean it will be easy.
We’ll still get to head south eventually and spend time with the other missionaries we are looking forward to meeting in person. We’re trusting that God knows better than we. God hasn’t failed us yet. We all could benefit from a little more faith and trust, and this is exactly how we build it, one step at a time along the path He sets before us.
Side note: If you haven’t watched the movie The Nativity Story, I recommend it this Christmas season. Yes, some theatrical liberties were taken, but I felt it gave me a better sense of the struggles and realities of Jesus’ birth so long ago.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.
Psalm 18:1-3 (ESV)
When it seems like the world is in ruins and everything is falling apart around us, we are reminded that there is a place of security and strength to which we can run. Even if we are far away, there is a beacon of hope, a lighthouse in the storm. The Lord stands strong in the midst of our struggles and battles. We can run to safety at his side and trust him to fight against the enemy that would destroy us.
While this summer did not look anything like we expected it to (see Brandy’s posts – France, Switzerland), it has been educational. We were able to visit with a number of missionaries in Europe, which was what we hoped for. We were also able to visit Normandy, France as well as Mont Saint Michel (definitely marked off a couple of lifelong “to-do’s”). One of the most amazing things about our travels this summer was the number of castles we have seen. The vast majority are ruins, but some have been restored or are in the process of restoration.
I found myself looking at these structures wondering about their history, about who used to live there and what their lives were like. Wondering why they abandoned such a seeming ideal structure. Had there been a family tragedy? A war? Financial ruin? Legal troubles? A move for a job that paid better than farming?
When we visited Nomandy, we saw many structures that had been rebuilt after being bombed and blown up in World War II. The reason for their destruction was obvious, but the fact that they, from their Humpty Dumpty state, had been put back together was remarkable. Restoration is an extensive and expensive process. Undoing years of neglect sometimes involves completely tearing down and rebuilding, often with the original materials. Sometimes, rather than rebuilding, the structures are scavenged for building materials for other structures, such as the Roman aqueduct at Pont du Gard near Avignon, France, the largest standing aqueduct that was contemporary with Jesus Christ.
Why are some structures maintained, some rebuilt, others repurposed and still others abandoned? The difference is in the level to which someone cared about and for them. In a Genesis 3 world, it takes time and effort to maintain anything. Everything is moving toward destruction, degradation or death. This is both a law of physics and a spiritual reality.
The state of Christianity in Europe can be seen literally and symbolically in the bones of churches strewn across the landscape.
Many churches have been “re-purposed” as shops, pubs and museums. I guess I am glad that some of the architecture and art has been maintained, but it is a stark reminder that it is a gravesite of a once worshipping body of Christ.
These stone and wood structures suffered the ravages of years of neglect. As I pondered the history, I imagined the process of decay. Except for cases like Normandy and the rapid decay brought on by explosive forces, the ruins were the result of small things left unchecked. Water, the universal solvent, leaking through a bit of thatched roof. If the occupants noticed and fixed the leak, further damage was prevented. Uncorrected, water gets into the walls and either begins to wash away plaster or nature begins to encroach. Soon, a stone comes loose allowing in more water or animals seeking a safe home. Fast forward a hundred years and you stand before a ruin.
Spiritually, there are many who have neglected their Christian walk and are little more than crumbled walls where once stood a beautiful cathedral. As the proverb says, “a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” (Proverbs 6:10-11) That is not to say that rest is inappropriate, but extended periods of laziness are.
In our spiritual lives, it looks like skipping our time in the Word once in a while so we can catch up on some sleep, followed soon after by sleeping in every morning with the intent to spend our lunch time with the Lord. Then we only read the Bible on Sundays at church, then we forget to take our Bible to church (we have it on our phone after all). Before long we are looking on Amazon because the sermon is boring and it is better to stay awake not listening than fall asleep piously.
So it goes with neglecting prayer, fellowship, giving, evangelism, etc. “Little” sins like a wandering eye, a grumpy attitude, looking out for one’s own interest grow into lust, anger and selfishness. We should not be surprised when our love for the Lord begins to wane and our faith begins to feel stale.
We need not despair when we see cracks in the walls or leaks in the roof. It does not mean that all is lost, it is a prompting from the Lord that we should attend to our house, that we need to pay attention to areas that have been neglected.
Maybe there is someone in your circle that used to be a strong Christ-follower. Have you ever wondered about their history? What happened in their lives that left their faith in ruins? What seeped into a small hole and created a crevice? A broken relationship? Lost job? Some “small” sin? When things don’t go the way we planned sometimes we assume that God is either powerless, unloving or absent. Discouragement and frustration become footholds that the enemy uses to weaken our faith and eventually breach the walls of our fortress.
Perhaps it isn’t someone else whose faith-walls are crumbling. Many Christians have lost some of the zeal and excitement of their early walk with the Lord. While everyone has days where they are anxious or discouraged, when we notice that we are having more bad days than good that is a prompting from God. When we notice that leak has made a stain, that the stain has developed into a crack, that the crack has become a gap, the Holy Spirit is giving us a glimpse of reality, a moment of clarity.
Unlike all those neglected church buildings reduced to ruins, our God cares enough for us that he will never abandon or forsake us. “I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) We can run from God, or rather inch away from God, at the risk of ruining our earthly lives, but we have the promise that God will complete his work in us, working all things (including our rebellion) together for his glory and demonstrating his love for us.