As I sat in the service, I couldn’t help but think of the many different blessings God has rained upon us this year. A few rows in front of me sits a family from Pakistan. They were living there in Gojra, a village that erupted in 2009 when Muslims attacked, burning eight people alive and injuring eighteen, because of a rumor that someone had desecrated a paper with Qur’an verses written on it. The father, a leader in the Christian community and quite vocal about apprehending the perpetrators, was then targeted with death threats. He and his family escaped to Thailand and then last year made their way to our church. They were sent here because a pastor there knew our pastor, and knew we had many members from other countries and so they would be welcomed. The three boys are now making up for lost time in high school, and their only girl is in elementary school.
A row over is a lady who is back at church after several weeks. She is fighting cancer. She is thin and wears a blue scarf on her head, but her face is bright and her smile is wide. She gives lots of great hugs after service.
Another young woman, not here today, just got her American citizenship. She is from Tajikistan; her husband is from Peru. Together they have two children of their own, and a couple years ago adopted her sister’s two young children after her husband beat her to death in a drug- and alcohol-induced rage. It took them over a year to adopt them and get visas to bring them home. Her own childhood was rough, being bounced from one home to another. She met Jesus when she left to find work in Kazakhstan, then God sent her to Montana, where she met her husband.
My oldest lives 45 minutes from here and attends a church that ministers to ten college campuses in Baltimore. (They had an “early” service on Easter—started at 11 instead of their normal 1:00. First rule of ministering to college kids: Don’t start at 9:30 on Sunday.) She attends their combined Sunday service and also a small group Bible study on campus taught by a young couple. She is earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts at an art college—almost by definition incredibly liberal—but she has held strong to her faith, and I'm sure this group has a lot to do with that.
My husband, my mom and my three children all go to church with me. Voluntarily. That alone is reason to be grateful. With three teenagers, life is never quiet, or easy, or remotely calm, but the blessings far outweigh the hassles. When I think of the hard work, money, time and reams of paper it took to bring these kids home, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I thank God for allowing us to share their lives every day, and I thank God for giving His Son for their souls.
Life is not always pretty, but God is always stronger. He always conquers, always wins, one way or another. There are struggles in my life, in my family, too, but for this morning, I choose to celebrate. I choose joy.
What's your joy story? Share your story, and be entered into our May gift-basket give-away!
One randomly chosen winner, selected from the comments left on all posts published from today to May 1st, will receive a copy of the following (some in print, others in ebook form.) Please note, the following is applicable to readers living in the continental US only. If a selected winner lives outside the continental US, they will receive ebooks, when available. Books that do not have e-versions will be placed back in the “gift-pot” to be sent to a randomly chosen runner-up living in the continental US.
They will receive a copy of:
Delivery by Diana Prusik, Jasmine by April McGowan, Hear No Evil by Mary Hamilton,Rodeo Hero and Rodeo Song by Shannan Taylor Vannatter, Angel Falls by Connie Mann, The Shepherd’s Song by Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers, Marriage Takes Three by G. E. Hamlin, and Worth the Wait by Laura Jackson.
Image credits: Emma Towriss; 123RTF stock photos--keeweeboy, gosphotodesign.