The illustration was not original to my father; it was first used, figuratively, by those men who stood behind missionary William Carey as he departed for India in the year 1793. But on July 16, 2006 it was our home church in Lapeer, Michigan which stood behind our young family as we prepared to depart first for one year of language school in south Texas, and then on to the country of Chile. The yellow rope my father held was long and strong, soon to be cut into foot-sized lengths for those who wished to participate in this symbolic farewell.
The commitment by our sending church was to "hold the rope" for us as we headed to Chile, remembering that we were an extension of their ministry around the world. In its original context, the idea was that of a few men "going into a deep, unexplored mine" and doing so with confidence in the commitment of those left behind to never let go of the rope that held them. At our commissioning service, many made that commitment to us as well. Their length of rope was to serve as a visual reminder to pray and support our family across the miles and years.
Truthfully, I had all but forgotten these details until I had the privilege of speaking to the ladies at our home church last week as we began our furlough ministry. One of the women organizing the tea had enthusiastically told me to watch for something I would remember. As our time together began, she held up her length of yellow rope and shared the story of my father's challenge to the church. What a humbling moment to hear from her and others that they had faithfully "held the rope" and prayed for our family these past eleven years.
This post is my attempt to express the deep gratitude we feel for a home church whose support
has faithfully gone the extra mile in the face of every need our family has encountered in life and ministry.
All those years ago, their support was prayerful, financial and physical. We still remember how in our final days of packing and sorting, labeling and storing, many families watched our children for long hours and provided meals at the end of tiring days. When we came back to the States for our first furlough in 2012, we were welcomed to a home that had been lovingly furnished by our home church with all that our family could need - from beds and toys to a pantry stocked with weeks' (if not months') worth of food. When our return to Chile the following year coincided with a difficult time in the life of the church in Iquique, our home church sent us reinforcements (literally!) by funding a three-month visit by Pedro's parents to support and encourage us in the ministry.
I know that my husband personally has been blessed by our home church pastor's availability and openness to talk through situations we faced in our last term on the field, and especially his concern for our needs as we anticipated returning for our second furlough this year. There was no hesitation on our pastor's part when we relayed our desire to live near my parents in Pennsylvania in response to my dad's health concerns, even though this meant our time with our home church in Michigan would be incredibly short. He graciously made our needs known to the congregation and as a result we were blessed with a year-long loan of an eight-passenger vehicle by one family and the use of a beautiful home by another family during our weeks in Lapeer. Once again we were greeted with overwhelming generosity through an overflowing pantry and gift cards to anticipate anything our family might lack.
Now our few short weeks here have flown by, but they have been so rich in friendship and fellowship. It has been a joy to share meals and special moments with so many families and friends both old and new, and we are forever grateful. Thank you, First Baptist Church of Lapeer, for being a home church that is truly a "home" for our family. We rejoice to see God using your ministry locally and around the world, and we consider it a tremendous privilege to be counted as one of your own. Thank you for loving us long and loving us well. Thank you for faithfully continuing to "hold the rope" for us!