I can’t believe what a miracle it is that people are still visiting this blog every day! Can we view my irregular posting habits as evidence of positive character traits like self-respect, feeling of responsibility, and pride (or not). The truth is, by the time I’ve finished with all the other priorities on any given day, I’ve barely been able to put two grammatically correct sentences together, let alone write anything of value. My brother calls it a “word quota”; meaning that by the end of the day, if you’ve used up your word allowance in a 24-hour cycle, you can’t effectively speak anymore. He used to tell me on the drive home from college that he’d used up his word quota for the day. The problem is, I didn’t think I had this limitation. So, either I’m more introverted these days than I was or God is doing too much now to adequately describe in words. As Job puts it, “This is just the beginning of all that he does, merely a whisper of his power. Who, then, can comprehend the thunder of his power?” (Job 26:14)
The events of the past two months have my head in a tornado and my adrenaline pumping non-stop (as if trips back-and-forth to Asia wasn’t doing that already). Life has been a dead run with a few surprise obstacles thrown in the path every few steps and no immediate finish line in view. Upon returning to the United States this summer from two months in Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Indonesia, my parents were receiving disturbing news from the church where my dad grew up, the same church my grandpa pastored for 40 years before he retired. The new pastor was trying to sell the building and close the church this year! Long-time family friends were calling us immediately when we got home from Asia; the phone lines burned for a couple weeks with, not only troubling information, but cries for help. Many of the older people of the church have been like grandparents to me since I was a baby and most have been to every important event in the life of my family, including my parents’ wedding 29 years ago. We prayed and asked God for wisdom as we loving spoke with people day after day, even while we toured the east coast Vietnamese churches and camps early in the summer. Finally, my dad met with friends from the church to pray and offered that our family would help in whatever way the people wanted or needed.
Flash-forward to the present, the former pastor stepped-down, and operation church resuscitation began. Our family’s involvement in a ministry needing critical-care obviously wasn’t on our bucket list but it consumed every second of our summer. We’re not receiving financial compensation but the spiritual rewards have far surpassed any remuneration we could have hoped for. My dad has been the acting senior and music pastor, Brook and Bryson have been heading up the new children’s program, my mom teaches Foundations of Family on Sundays, and Brent and I have taken on TNT (Truth & Transformation) youth and 20-somethings. We’ve had one-to-three events per week, baseball games, youth lock-ins, movies, kids clubs, youth camp, cook-outs, outreaches, concerts, theme parks, etc. It has been a marathon. In addition, all the church’s old publicity materials have been thrown out and I’ve had a plate full of graphic overhaul projects, putting the real mission and hope of the church on paper in living color.
We’ve seen dramatic transformation at First Grace, beginning with the mindset of the formerly “dying” church. They’d been fed poison for so long that they had actually begun to believe they were dying; it was a message straight from hell (like the burgers I talk about here). Praise God He’s still all about miracles. In two months time, First Grace has become a growing church exploding with powerful vision (“beauty from ashes” Isaiah 61:3). New believers have accepted Christ at an altar that was empty for 10 years; half of the youth group was baptized two weeks ago; and the children and youth ministry have grown 100%. Hope carries in the air around this place like the scent of spring and sunshine every Sunday as the littlest children of the church stand by the door and greet grandmas and grandpas with warm hugs and handshakes. Two months ago, no one would have believed this was even possible. I have so many wonderful memories of this church from when I was really young; it’s been amazing to see those memories come to life again as if no time has passed.
Although the positive aspects of this summer have outnumbered the negatives 10 to 1, the same question has been put to us a hundred times in the past two months; will we be staying at First Grace? It was difficult to know how to answer at first. We’re very attached and obviously very involved in everything here but we also have responsibilities overseas. We’re booked for two months in Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Singapore this coming October and November. So the question we’ve been asking God every day is “can we do both?”
It’s been amazing to watch God answer our prayers by bringing teammates alongside us that share our hearts and vision in a BIG way. There’s also potential for more this coming week. I’ll be making a trip to a local Christian University to interview pastoral interns. We’re in deep and sometimes we don’t get enough sleep because our contacts in Asia require communication during the night even while we’re busy preparing for the next outreach at First Grace during the day. We’ve had some tense moments but we live for this; the ministry opportunities continue to come like a flood. In spite of it all, we can hardly believe how clearly God has orchestrated every move we’ve made. It’s been like a complicated dance choreographed by Tyce Diorio. Difficulty level: 10.
How do you know if something is God’s will for your life? You know it’s God’s will when it’s not yours. If you’re stretched to the breaking point because you’re doing what you know is right, “wait on the Lord” a little bit longer, like a friend waits on the pace of their running partner. God has promised renewed strength, a soaring second wind, and razor-sharp wisdom as the reward for enduring the experience alongside Him. (Isaiah 40:31) Any runner will tell you, unless you keep running, even though you’re exhausted, you’re not really living.