(For parts 1-9 of this story, click here and scroll down.)
After our difficult adventure of a survey trip, we continued on in our internship and training in Abilene which was to end in December. Our greatest obstacle to actually making it to Brazil was still our lack of a supporting congregation. We were still hopeful and we continued to follow up on leads that were given to us.
Sometime that fall, we visited a church in Fort Worth, Texas who was interested in supporting a missionary family. We LOVED this church. It's like the church was made for our family. We loved the mission committee, the worship service, the way they prayed over us and blessed us. From everything they said and did, it seemed like they loved us, too. Finally God was providing what we needed in a sponsoring church. We left our weekend visit with them feeling like they would support us financially, we just didn't know how much. They were to have some meetings and get in touch with us.
We went back to Abilene and carried on with our lives. We didn't turn away any other leads for supporting churches, but we felt confident that this church in Ft. Worth would be "the one". It seemed like we waited forever for them to call us. Then one Sunday afternoon, two of the guys from the mission committee called us. They were sad to tell us that their elders had decided that they wanted to focus on local evangelism that year and they would not be able to support us AT ALL. We couldn't believe it. We were devastated.
That night we had been invited to participate in a small group meeting of our friends, the Zellers. So soon after we received our sad news from the Ft. Worth church we set off with our kids for this small group meeting. I remember that on the way to the meeting I was totally not wanting to go. I was so discouraged that I didn't know how I could think of hanging out with other couples and families that I didn't really know and try to put on a happy face. But we went anyway.
We got to the Highland Church building where the meeting was to happen. All the kids from this group (and there were a bunch of them) were playing basketball in the gym. Our kids joined right it. The adults went into a classroom and started a devotional.
This particular devotional was centered around the Lord's Supper. We passed around the bread, and as each person picked up a piece, he or she confessed something that had been a struggle for him or her. Then, instead of eating the bread, we put it back on the plate. At the end, we passed the bread plate again and each person picked up a piece of bread that another person had broken off. We ate their piece and that represented us bearing one another's burdens. In drinking the juice, we shared a praise for something that God had done in our lives.
Besides the Zellers, we didn't know anyone in this small group. There were about 6 couples. As we passed around the bread, I listened to them share struggles that they were dealing with - things like career frustrations, money problems, children with serious physical problems, etc. There were no barriers - everyone was open. So of course when it was my turn, I just completely lost it. I shared my frustrations that God would make it so clear that we were to join this mission team, only to have us give up "everything", and then not provide us with what we needed. Why did He do this? If He wanted us to go to Brazil, why wouldn't He give us the church we needed to get us there?? I was a blubbering mess.
I can't remember the specifics of all that happened that night. I know there were tears from many people, not just me. Laughter, hugs, support, prayers and encouragement. This small group just literally "took us in". They adopted us. We became part of them and as I look back now, I see that this exactly what we needed at that time. These people became our friends and our support. Several of them began supporting us financially, but more importantly they supported us with their friendship and their love. I wouldn't trade any amount of money that a huge sponsoring church would give us for the relationships that I have with people in that group.
Years later when the Highland church encouraged all of their members to visit and help missionaries, several families from this small group came to Porto Alegre to visit us. We continue our friendship with them until this day and always try to fit in a visit to Abilene on our furloughs. Hopefully we can see these folks a lot more now that Bronwyn will be going to college at ACU in the fall. It feels good to know that she has "family" there waiting for her.
Again, God had provided for our family. Not in the way we had wanted or expected. But in a better way. Instead of giving us a supporting congregation who would provide us with money, he gave us supporting friends who would provide us with something money couldn't buy. And it was enough to keep us going.
Our internship ended in December. We "graduated" from our training program, but we still didn't have what we needed financially to move to Brazil in June. When our teammates moved away to spend time with their supporting churches before the move to Brazil, we decided to stay in Abilene. We had a few small leads on churches and we decided to stay put until we knew how or if God would provide what we needed.
We wondered how and when we would ever have security that we were where God wanted us to be and doing what He wanted us to do.