It’s hard to believe it’s already been 6 weeks since we left our Chicago home and moved to small town Ohio.
Our lives have changed so drastically. I’ve gone from relishing in the broad smiles and happy “Ms. Tello!” greetings from my students on the South side to walking across the house to good-morning greetings from my mom and brother. From walking a block for groceries to Wal-Mart runs in the car. From spending 3 hours a day on CTA traveling to work and school to stepping out of bed into my office. From seeing skyscrapers in the horizon to fields of sweet corn. From spending just a couple hours with Jon when he gets home from work to spending all day in the same room as we work together and fight over what should play on the IPod. 🙂 From doing life with friends at small group gatherings to being here for family events and get-togethers.
It has been a relief to take off several hats (student, intern, counselor, housekeeper etc) and focus on just wearing one: partner raising. That is, spending countless hours prepping, packaging, and presenting to others the vision God has given us for our lives and ministry. It means sharing our heart with people and presenting the opportunity for them to be involved and invest through prayer and finances in what God is doing.
It’s been a bit like starting a business in a lot of ways, but my favorite part of our job right now is meeting with people. It is such a privilege to meet with couples, individuals, and families, often in their homes. We love catching up on life and loving on them in whatever way we can. And we get to describe the details about what God has done to get us to this place and what we anticipate He will do in the future. It’s a huge encouragement to see the light in their eyes as they begin to grasp how art ministry can speak to souls, the realization of what is at stake when they hear that there are 4 times as many occult leaders in Italy than Catholic priests, and the conviction they have about our calling. What an exciting opportunity to invite people to broaden their view of what God is doing for eternity and how they can get in on it! And how humbling it is to watch God raise up those He has already led to partner with us prayerfully and financially! What an incredible blessing it is when people come alongside us in this journey of faith!
Truthfully, some days the hat feels more uncomfortable than others. Not because of the work that’s required (though it is at times more stressful and tiring than our previous places of employment), but because we forget to trust God or truly can’t understand how to. We have been working diligently, often into the early morning hours, to do everything we can to reach 100% of our support goal in time for our proposed departure date. But there are lots of moments when it seems utterly impossible. We are confident God will provide all the partners we need for this ministry to happen, but will He do it in the timeframe we’ve been challenged to meet? No matter how hard we work, it’s not humanly possible. Of course God can do it. But for me, finding the tension between working hard and trusting God to do it in His time and in His way, is a daily struggle. He IS faithful. He has proved that to us countless times in the past (not that he owed that to us) and He continues to remind us of that in little ways here and there. But He also continues to challenges us to have faith. As I write, I am reminded of a verse that has been a touchstone in other times in my life, Hebrews 11:6. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is (..faithful, compassionate, sovereign…) and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” I could go on about what that verse means to me but that is for another entry.
The passage that has been most precious to me lately is James 5:7-11. It’s so fitting not only for our stage of life right now but because the illustration in it is about farming and there are lots of farms in this town!
It talks about how the farmer works very hard to plant and care for his crop but then he has to wait. There is only so much he can do and then he has to “be patient…for the precious fruit of the earth…until it receives the early and the late rains”. In a similar way, you and I can till the ground (relatively speaking), fertilize and irrigate the land, and protect our crop from the elements all day and night, but only God gives life to what is planted and enables it to bear fruit. Ultimately, we can do nothing apart from Him and the good things we do have are because of Him (James 1:17).
And so His word encourages us, “you also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand”. No matter what the trial, I have You, God, and the promise of Your salvation. I can’t put my hope in my efforts, but I can and should establish my heart in You and who You are.
And while waiting, You tell me, “do not grumble against one another” (James 5:8-9)! Does God know us or what? When I’m tired of waiting on Him, but can’t do anything about it, I grumble, against Jon mostly (sorry babe!) and sometimes against God. If I have to wait can I at least grumble a little? Complain about my worries before I give them to You? We all know that doesn’t actually help anything, so I’m trying to learn from Job and admit, Abba, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).
If you want us in Italy by mid August, we’ll be there with all the prayer and financial partners we need. But I will keep my hands open, trusting that You know the best time and the best way. Believing that we can perfectly communicate our passion for this ministry to others, but you must move their hearts and cause them to get involved. Praying for continual patience as I wait to be amazed when You cultivate the seeds You’ve called us to plant.