Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Beauty for Ashes

In 2016, Michael and Alex went on a mission trip with our church to Dubno, Ukraine.  It was Alex's first mission trip and her heart at the time was pretty hardened to missions.  Imagine how amazed I was when Michael would call home and tell me how wonderful she was doing in ministry and how much she was enjoying the trip!  She called at one point tearfully telling me "This feels like home." For a military brat who feels no roots anywhere we go, that was a huge statement from her.  God had softened her heart because she was simply obedient to His call to "go.

The following year she was super excited to go back to Ukraine, but the church we were with was not going to be returning to that particular location.  Alex was heartbroken as she had promised all the kids and friends she met at the camp that she was definitely going to return the following summer.  Others told her to go to other locations, but she had her heart set on getting back to Dubno, Ukraine. We decided we would go "rogue" and return on our own, but the timing of the trip in 2017 just wasn't working out because Michael had started a new job and he had not accrued vacation time to take off on a mission trip.  We began to prayerfully walk in the direction God had placed on Michael and Alex's heart to return to Dubno.  We decided our whole family would go in 2018 and began working on the language and even gathering a team that Michael would lead.  We felt strongly in our spirit that a return trip was going to happen in 2018.

Then Michael was laid off from his job in December 2017.  We knew if we wanted cheap international plane tickets those would have to be purchased January/February time frame.  But being unemployed, that was simply not an option.  It seemed our world at that time was beginning to implode.  There were other things in our life in which we thought we had totally misunderstood God.  God had moved us away from the church we had been attending for 4 years and put us into a new body of believers; He was building a ministry in our hearts, we had a house we were setting up to use for this ministry, and now we felt we were about to lose our house due to the job loss.  The desire He had placed in Alex's heart that was so strong to return to Ukraine seemed to be in jeopardy.  Our faith was rocked to the core as we thought we were losing our minds!

But God.

In April 2018, a wonderfully generous man hired Michael after he had pursued him for about a month.  Pieces of what started to implode began to fall back into place.  His new boss was perfectly fine with him leaving for 2 weeks in July for a mission trip (and his boss is not even a believer). Being so close to the wire at this point, there was no time to assemble a team for the trip and plane tickets were going to be astronomical, so we just prayed that if it be God's will and if what we felt in our spirits was correct, that it would be God's bill to pay.

Part of Michael's job contract is that he receives a bonus each month if the company meets its financial goals.  The month of May far exceeded its goals, because Michael is so great at his job of detecting and correcting financial loss in companies, and his bonus was just enough to cover 2 plane tickets for Ukraine.  That was God answering the "who" was to go to Ukraine.  Michael and Alex would return and I would take on the task of fundraising.  Alex graduated high school in May and committed all her graduation money to be used for the mission trip.  In my bible study in Exodus, chapter 35 spoke loudly to me about how God stirred in the people's hearts for them to give contributions to the building of the Tabernacle. "Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the Lord's contribution..." Exodus 35:5. So I prayed for God to stir in the hearts of His people to generously contribute to our trip. And He did. God guided every aspect of our fundraising and His people's hearts were stirred.

Isaiah 61:3 "...He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair."

God can bring something out of nothing.  I was reading in Psalm 33:6-9 today, "By the word of the Lord, the heavens were made...for He spoke and it came to be." He created ex nihilo, "out of nothing". Our bank account was empty (and our faith was nearing empty, as well) after our period of unemployment and job loss.  But God created funds for a trip He had fashioned in the hearts of obedient believers. He has fashioned the trip into exactly what He wants it to look like and Michael and Alex are just going along for the ride.   A ride of faith straight to Dubno, Ukraine.  We are excited beyond words for what God is going to do over there!  Faith is restored, hope is secured, blessings abound, our cups runneth over....and over....and over.....

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