“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)
We’d been trying to raise support for our term as missionary disciples to Honduras for over two years, and we hadn’t even reached the halfway point to our goal. Over time, my prayers had changed. What had begun as: “Lord, when you’re ready…” had started to sound like the missionary equivalent of the whiney kid in the backseat on a long car ride: “Are we there yet, Dad?” By the time we gathered with my in-laws to celebrate all the February birthdays in the family, I was frustrated and heartbroken, and I had begun to question God’s call.
Most of my husband’s family live in the far northwest corner of Minnesota—a good six hours from where we made our home in the Twin Cities. Although close, we didn’t get together as much as we would have liked, and we talked on the telephone even less. That’s why it was a little strange to get a phone call from Steve’s parents just a few days after our gathering. Steve’s oldest brother, Dean, had suffered from a ruptured appendix on his way home and was recovering from surgery in the hospital. This would turn out to be the beginning of a year-long battle with carcinoid syndrome that eventually took his life.
We made several trips north that spring and summer to visit Dean and the rest of the family. We saw him beam with pride as he talked about becoming a grandpa for the first time and again when his daughter announced her engagement. At one particular visit, we were utterly shocked by the thin, exhausted, weak man who met us at the door. But he was still Steve’s big brother. When he heard about our car trouble, he instantly diagnosed the problem from his recliner and gave instructions that solved the issue.
We were in Minnesota with the entire family at Christmas when Dean made the decision to stop taking intravenous nutrition and begin hospice care. I was amazed at how he found enough energy and smiles to joke and play with his nieces and nephews between naps in his recliner. One evening, when Dean was at one his weakest points, the town gathered at the American Legion for a benefit dinner in his honor. We really shouldn’t have been so shocked when he rolled his wheelchair into the dining hall to loud cheers with his arms raised in victory.
When our son was little, he’d beg to get a new toy or to go to a friend’s house, and nearly always I would eventually give in. Thank goodness our Father in heaven is not so easy to sway when He hears our pitiful whining. His plans are perfect and His blessings are all-too-often not giving us what we ask for.
Dean went home to be with the Lord just two weeks before we left for our ministry in Honduras. God’s perfect timing allowed us to spend our last few days in the United States mourning together with our family.
PRAY: Are you trusting in God’s plan for your life? Take time to study Jeremiah 29:11 this week in your prayer time and ask God to give you faith to take the first steps in obedience.