(For parts 1-10 of this story, click here and scroll down.)
At the end of 2001, our family was living in Abilene after completing our training program with Continent of Great Cities, the group that was sending our mission team to Brazil. Even though we had finished our training, we still didn't have a sponsoring church who would be able to support our family. We had decided to stay in Abilene a while longer to follow up on some leads for a supporting congregation. We were supposed to be leaving for Porto Alegre in June of the following year.
The leads that we had been given for supporting churches were more or less in the Texas area. We followed up on these leads, but, as you may or may not know, decisions like this don't happen overnight in churches. Usually the process is very slow. Our other teammates who already had sponsoring churches had had these churches for over a year before leaving for the mission field.
By the end of February, it was pretty clear that none of these leads was going to pan out - or at least not in the timeframe that we needed. We asked ourselves why we were staying in Abilene, Texas if we were about to move to a foreign country and our families lived in Tennessee and Alabama. We decided to move back to Memphis and stay with Kevin's family until we left for Brazil in June. We still didn't have the financial support we needed, but we didn't change our plans about moving. At least now we would be able to see our families more and save some money. We took Bronwyn and Ansley out of school and I planned to homeschool them until the end of that school year.
Before we left for Tennessee, a good friend who is now an elder at Highland Church in Abilene, Jim Clark, took us to a prayer meeting that he had weekly with two ladies. Kevin and I went with him to this little chapel and these two ladies and Jim prayed over us. I remember that one of the ladies kept saying, "I feel like the Lord is telling me to say this: The battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities, powers, and spiritual forces of this dark world." (Ephesians 6:12) She repeated this several times in our time together, always saying that she felt that the Lord wanted her to emphasize this. I can say now that I know why He impressed that upon her. We have learned, through our mistakes and failures, that forming a group of committed believers (a church) is a spiritual work. It requires spiritual effort and depends on spiritual forces. Strategies, ideas, plans can be good and have a purpose, but if they become #1 - nothing happens.
Another thing that these two ladies said to us is that praise is a spiritual weapon. That when we are under attack, if we will praise God, the devil will flee. I have found this to be true, as well. Sometimes, when things may not be going like I think they should, I can get a feeling of sadness and depression, that I just can't shake. If, during those times, I make myself sing praises to God or praise him for His goodness and forgiveness and love, those feelings fade away, or are easier to deal with. I am so thankful for the messages that God gave us through these friends. We were extremely blessed by our short prayer time with them.
Another blessing that God gave us before we moved away was, again, from our small group. We all got together with them one night and they washed our feet. This is something that Jesus did to bless his disciples, and I don't know why we don't do it more in the church today. It was certainly a blessing for us as our friends prayed blessings and encouragement over each one of us as they washed our feet. We will never forget that.
God continued to take care of us, through these friends and in many more little ways. One "little" thing that happened is that Continent of Great Cities featured our mission team in a flyer that they sent our quarterly. This flyer made its way to the desk of our college friend from Harding, Andy Thomas. He had been Kevin's roommate and a friend of mine as well. We had lost touch with him and he knew nothing about what we were planning to do. He absent-mindedly picked up the flyer on his desk at work and saw our family in the picture. He sent us an e-mail out of the blue asking if we had all the support that we needed. Since we, obviously, didn't, he asked us to stop by his office in Dallas and talk to him about our plans to move to Brazil.
We didn't know it at the time, but God was working in lots of "little" ways, and little by little He would get us to Brazil. I'll describe this in more detail next time.