If you are my age, you probably remember the moment when your music collection began to transition from cassette tape to CD. I remember when my parents bought me a "stereo" for Christmas my sophomore year in college. It had both a tape deck and a CD carousel, so that I could enjoy my complete collection. It also took up half of my half of dorm room shelf. Thank you Lord for Ipods!
I had all of the artists that a good Baptist college girl should: Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Sandy Patti, Amy Grant, and Twila Paris. Those songs still resonate in my head on a regular basis. My kids roll their eyes when, in the middle of a chaotic day I belt out with "My life is in your hands, my heart is in your keeping," from the Kathy Troccoli song that has helped me through some of my rougher seasons.
One of the songs that my heart has pulled up multiple times since we've lived here is the Twila Paris song called, "How Beautiful." One of the lines in there is referencing the beauty of the Body of Christ. I have always loved church, but this year, I have been more convinced than ever of the beauty of the church, which the Bible refers to as the "Body of Christ."
Our sending agency obviously understands how essential the Body of Christ is to the success of their personnel on the field. Before we arrived at our training, we were strongly encouraged to find 5 partner churches to support us. These churches were not expected to provide financial support, just commit to provide prayer support and encouragement. Finding 5 ended up being a bit of a challenge for us. Ryan had been on church staff for 10 years, so we weren't exactly diversified in our church attendance. The first 2 came easily, they were churches we had worked for. The next two came from friends in ministry whose churches agreed to remember us. But the 5th church, we. had. no. idea.
We prayed, we brainstormed, but we could not think of another church to invite to partner with us.
As time was ticking away and our training date approached, we resolved ourselves to the fact that we were only going to have 4 churches. We knew it wasn't a big deal, but we were still discouraged that we'd failed at this basic task, one of our very first.
We went to spend some time with Ryan's parents in Kentucky. They have a little hunting cabin on a bunch of land where we spent a relaxing few days. We always enjoy our time there catching crawdads, riding 4 wheelers, eating junk, and passing lazy hours. While we were there, Ryan chatted with the man who owns the land next to them and he was telling us about the little Baptist church that he attended and how he had shared with them about how we were going to go and be "real, live missionaries." The light bulb came on for Ryan and he asked this man if he thought their church might be interested in partnering with us. That conversation was followed by a phone call with the pastor and an agreement that they would be our 5th partner church.
Now, right here, I'm going to confess that I did not expect much out of that partnership. To me, it was a box checked and a 5th name on the list. We added their pastor to our update list and I never dreamed that it would go beyond that. I was so very wrong.
That little church in West Liberty, KY, the one that we have NEVER set foot in, has loved the daylights out of us. I can't even think about it without crying. They have sent us packages, they have made us cards, they have written us letters, and by golly, they have prayed. Ryan's parents called us one Sunday, after visiting that church this summer and they were amazed. They explained that every person in that church- young and old, wore a bracelet made by someone in the youth group as a reminder to pray for our family. Folks, that will mess you up. And humble you. And encourage you to put one foot in front of another. And make you realize that you are not alone. I can not wait until the day I can go and visit them and hug their precious necks. How beautiful, is the Body of Christ!
"But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." 1 Corinthians 12:24-26