It is official, December is here. As I am writing this blog, I am going to claim to be the first one to wish you Merry Christmas on the first day of the last month of the year. Where did 2023 go? My grandfather told me once before leaving this physical earth, “Son, it sure does go fast.” I remember the the first day of the last month of the year 1993, when as a 14 year old, the days seemed to endure forever, especially as I anticipated with great hope the arrival of Christmas day. Now, thirty years later, as I reflect on 2023 the days, weeks, years, seem to have flown by, and the hope that fuels my anticipation of Christmas Day has drastically changed.
In February our team was blessed by a visit from an organization called The Oaks. The Oaks Ministry team came to host a retreat for our field based team over the theme of grief. To be honest, I was not excited about the theme, but I was curious about what the Lord was going to say through this amazing ministry team. During one of our sessions, one of the leaders from The Oaks spoke on the effect “transitions” have one each one of us. Little did I know how important that session on dealing with transitions was going to be.
Transition is the word that comes to mind when I think about his year. My personal life, my family life, my 61 Isaiah life, and my spiritual life seem to all have experienced some type of transition. This year, Edith, Josh, Abigail, Nelsy, Jason, Paul, Taylor, and Javier have all transitioned from 61 Isaiah Ministries and our lives to the next journey God has called them to. These individuals are very dear to me, each in their own ways. We have been walking with them anywhere from 3-10 years, depending on when and how each one came into our lives. I was saddened and still grieve the loss of what they added to our ministry and to my personal and spiritual life.
I miss and grieve the rides up the mountains, sitting and discussing Scripture, retreating with them, walking with them, praying with them, laughing with them… I miss them. I am grateful for the memories and will cherish them like the memories I have of students hanging at our house (some trying to vandalize our house) in Bluff Dale or road trips to camps and events on the “Big Bus” with the students at Teague. Yet while I process this transition in grief, at the same time I am so happy for each one of them.
Edith graduated flight attendant school, Josh and Abigail continue to teach and minister in Mount Pleasant, Nelsy and Jason are thriving in Kansas, Paul and Taylor will join a church staff soon, and Javier is off to a new adventure with World Vision. Despite grieving the transition, I am so excited for my dearly loved and cherished friends.
The transition of staff has also been amongst those who continue to have a calling to Honduras and to walk with 61 Isaiah Ministries. As former 61 Isaiah staff have transitioned to other jobs and callings, our current 61 Isaiah have transitioned in roles and responsibilities. The Holloways have transitioned to a new role, leading the way to develop a 61 Isaiah Stateside Ministry team that will help with fundraising and training mission groups coming in 2024. Mauricio, Kylie, and Allan have all transitioned to take on heavier roles in the village ministry. Micah and Lindsey’s life has already begun transition with much more to come. Micah has transformed the farm and the lives of those who have been working with him through many transitions this year. There has been transition as new staff members have joined the team. Jaaziel (Jazz) joined the staff in June to help with administrative duties. Jackie and Lauren joined the staff in August to help Kristi at the school. Kristi transitioned in her role at ALCS. All of these transitions and additions to the ministry will and already have resulted in transitions in daily ministry activities.
We have seen transitions in the lives of the people we walk with here in Honduras. We have seen many transition from death to life as they heard and accepted the Gospel this year. I have witnessed complete changes in pastors, leaders, students, teachers, friends, and mission group members as they have took steps of faith and actions of growth in their spiritual lives. Yesterday we celebrated Oscar Felipe transitioning from a high school student to a working professional as he graduated. Our partnership with Ellis Baptist Association reached a transitional point this year as they officially passed the baton of Radio Rio de Dios to Ministerio Viviendo en el Reino de Dios. Additionally, other ministry partnerships have transitioned and are in the process of transitioning. We have seen transition in the churches God has called us to walk with this year and in Abundant Life Christian School.
All of transitions seem to be overshadowed by the biggest transition of they year, the departure of our middle daughter Emma. We had adjusted to the transition of Tyler going to college, and even had some idea of what to expect when Emma transitioned. However, Emma’s transition was different. It was not harder or easier, just different. That overall loss and transition seemed double as now Kristi and I transition to two children in University, two children on their own, two children amongst other students trying to find their way, two children far enough away that a text message or video chat is not sufficient to fill the place each of them filled for the past 21 years.
While processing this transition we are so grateful that both Tyler and Emma are at the same university, in the same dormitory, and living only four doors away from each other. I am especially thankful Emma has her brother near by for backup when any naive, overzealous, overconfident, young boys in the middle of their own transitions from home to university, attempt to hit on Emma. Like the other transitions we have experienced this year, while difficult, this one is necessary and part of life.
I guess the great transition this year has been in my walk with Christ. My Half Price Books shopping buddy and one of my closest friends purchased a classic called Simply Jesus, written by N.T. Wright. The book really challenged the readers and me personally, about the expectations we have of Jesus. Wright proposes that Jesus came not just to teach us how to be good so that we can get to heaven, but that through forgiveness, healing, celebration, and the renovation of the Temple, we can participate in the process of heaven and earth coming together. The book caused me to reflect on what do I expect from Jesus and what do I expect from others.
Transitions are so hard because they involve change. They involve a loss; a loss often times of our own expectations, dreams, and hopes we have for others and even ourselves. This year has taught me that after my best work, attempts to participate in the Great Commission, hours of listening, thousands of words attempting to counsel and guide, or no matter how many sleepless nights and hours of prayers… My greatest hopes, dreams, expectations, and desires (for me, others, and even Jesus) are so small in comparison to those of Jesus.
What seems to make sense, just is not complete enough and deep enough for what Jesus wants to do. So it brings me back to what Wright said about Jesus, he came to forgive, heal, celebrate, and renovate the Temple. So for those transitions that have not gone smooth, I choose to forgive. For those transitions that hurt and still hurt, I choose to be healed by Christ. For all the transitions, I celebrate the change and I celebrate the opportunities for my dearly loved and cherished friends. For me personally, I want to be the temple as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:19, where the presence and power of God resides through his Holy Spirit. I choose to be the mobile not stationary Temple where others can see Jesus through me and find his love, healing, forgiveness. I choose to be a Temple of celebration. I choose to trust that as the year comes to a close, as I celebrate the birth of Jesus with a different perspective this year, I trust, I hope, I believe, that I will enter the new year with different expectations despite the transitions.