I will forever remember that moment. The morning that we were leaving to board a plane back to Portugal. We were in our temporary room, gathering the last of our things. Suddenly, I see tears filling Hodge’s eyes as you walks towards me and takes me in his arms. My worry quickly subsides as he explains his sudden reaction. “It is happening,” he said. And with those three words, I knew exactly what was taking place in his heart and in his mind, because the same thing was taking place in my own heart and mind.
To explain this, I give you the following. Something that I wrote a few hours after this occurrence, which echo his words but expand on the emotions:
"It is happening. As I write, we are sitting on the plane that is taking us back to Portugal. For the past 8 and a half months, we have been displaced in the States, a place that we used to call home. It is beyond difficult to really put into words the time that we have spent there. Difficult. Wonderful. Busy. Encouraging. Exhausting. Sweet. While those are just a few simple words that run through my mind, the could never fully encapsulate just what happened in those months.
We have come a LONG way. We don't deserve the love, support, and encouragement that we have received from so many, and we certainly don't deserve to be where we are at. 495 days ago, we were sitting in our living room in Portugal, crying our hearts and our eyes out as we had just been told that we could no longer continue to be a part of the organization that we had spent many years worth of work to be a part of. This is the organization that brought us to the country of Portugal and afforded us the opportunity to realize our passion and our calling. We have come a LONG way. We don't deserve the love, support, and encouragement that we have received from so many, and we certainly don't deserve to be where we are at.
And today, we cried again.
We cried because it is absolutely unbelievable to see where the Lord has brought us. I could sit here and write about how hard we worked to get here. I could write about the days when we didn’t know how to move forward or what to do next because of some new obstacle or the moments that we wanted to give up because the road seemed too difficult. I could write about how we have been hurt by close friends and family who have been unwilling to get behind us because they don't trust us when we say that this is our calling. I could say that we deserve to be where we are because we worked really hard and we sacrificed much. But the truth is, I just can't. This story that we are living isn't even about us or what we have done. It's about Him and what He has done and continues to do. It is about a God who gave the ultimate sacrifice when He came to this earth as a man to show us just how much He loves us, and it is about a God who continues to work in lives and hearts today.
It is because of Him that we are moving back. He planted within us a passion and a desire which bred forth into diligence. He gave us guidance and wisdom through advice from others on how to raise funds. He moved in the hearts of people to partner with us.
Our tears, on both occasions, have been an expression of our weakness in the midst of God’s strength. And that is because we have experienced what Paul speaks about in 2 Corinthians: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Raising financial support to continue the work in Portugal has brought us to a place where we get to trust the Lord in profound ways. While we do not care to relive that moment 495 days ago, we would not want to change the path."
Well, my friends, that is it. We are beyond grateful for the opportunity to be back in Portugal. What's more, the reason for our gratitude is why we are even doing this. And by this I mean, we lugged our two kids and most everything we own with us, we left behind family gatherings and Friday night dinners with friends, and we moved to a country in which, while we consider it home for now, we will always be foreigners. But we have done it because God has given us a passion not only for people to hear about the kind of love and guidance that we read about in the Bible and which we have experienced in two-fold over the past months, but He has given us a passion for the Portuguese people.
In the book of Romans, you will find some of my favorite verses, which I believe give almost perfect voice to our recent journeys. And it is with them which I leave you.
"Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (12:1-2)