Monday, December 12, 2011

Letter for the Larson's

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Larson,

It has been on my heart for some time to sit down and write you both. Even now, I backspace and rewrite not knowing exactly what to say but knowing there is much to be said. It is impossible for me to make right the events of last year, but I hope that the journey that Mandy and I, with our children, have set out on with Christ offers some comfort in seeing His plan beginning to unfold.

In the days, weeks and months following the accident I was baffled at the love that your family extended to mine. From hospital visits to the phone call you made that day to me, Juanita, I just wouldn’t let myself believe that people could really possess the ability to love like you did and do. I thank you both for being an unwavering example of Christ’s love. Your actions affected my life in indescribable ways and I will forever speak of how I experienced Christ first hand through you.

After some time, I decided to sit down and begin to read the book of Nehemiah. This decision was made entirely based on the fact that Nathan’s middle name was Nehemiah and that he, himself, was reading this before the Lord took him home. Begrudgingly I began to read without expectation and clear intent. By the end of the book I had renewed hope in learning that God uses the man that prays. Nehemiah wasn’t extraordinary except for that he prayed diligently, daily and without ceasing. My new hope came from knowing that if nothing else, I could pray.

After finishing Nehemiah I began to read the book of Daniel because that is my middle name. All the while praying fervently for answers as to why. Daniel taught me that God chooses when to refine our faith, how He will do it and why. This knowledge led me to begin praying very differently. I didn’t need to know the why anymore but rather what next. I will forever regret that it took an act as catastrophic as your son’s life being lost for the Lord to get my attention, but it is important that you know that when Nathan’s faith was perfected, mine was refined and it was not in vain. After God led me to this knowledge and faith, in His purpose, I began a journey seeking what was next in His will. I was afraid to do anything but read my bible and pray for fear of missing anything that would lead me off the path that God had put me on. I had no idea what was next but I was searching.

Days after the accident, a friend began asking me what would turn into multiple times if I would go with him on a mission trip to Korea and Malaysia. The clear answer was NO. I was in no shape emotionally, physically or spiritually to accompany him and his Mother and Father-in-law to the grocery store much less the other side of the world. The last time he asked me was 4 weeks before it was time to leave. This time it was different. This time I considered it and wondered if this was the next step to healing and more importantly finding purpose in God’s will. I came home that day ready to propose what seemed like a ridiculous adventure, to my wife. To my great surprise she was on board, 100%, without a second thought. In less than 4 weeks God raised $2500. This small task for Jesus made it possible for me to experience the Lord in such a foreign, real and amazing way. The experiences afforded to me on this 1-week trip are a letter in itself, but I am able to look back now knowing that God’s will was done and I was right where I should have been. God proved to me, yet again, that I can not lean on my own understanding, yet rather stand firm in Him trusting Him to provide for all my needs whether they be physical, emotional or spiritual.

Having returned back to “normal” life after an amazing experience over nine months ago, I am just as sure today, as I was then, that we have a future in missions. This spring will be my last semester before finishing my degree in Secondary Art Education at the University of Idaho. We have applied to student teach in Katy, Texas before searching for an international position teaching. My wife as well as I look forward to seeing what God will do with my new education and our new hearts turned passionately towards His will.

While nothing compares to the heartache you have experienced over the last year, I want you to know that not a single day has passed that my wife and I haven’t thought of your son, your family and the catastrophe that God allowed in an effort, we believe, to get our attention. I teeter between sorrow for my stubbornness, in reference to the Lord in years passed, and gratefulness that God saw fit to allow me the opportunity to correct the error of my way. Because of God’s son I have the opportunity to see heaven and because of your son, I will forever be daily closer to the man that God intended me to be.

Your family will forever be in our daily thoughts and prayers; we will forever speak of your great love as we share what has become our testimony; and we pray that you will find comfort that only the Lord can provide until you are reunited with Nathan.

In Christ’s love,
Joel, Mandy, Maggi, Léni & Jackson Holmes

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Repurposed in the Palouse

During this last summer I experienced the overwhelming feeling that we were supposed to leave Real Life on the Palouse. Worshipping at Athol Baptist before we moved taught me that leaving a church was a serious decision and should not be taken lightly. When you consider that the church is the people, or rather the body of christ, the decision to leave the church is ultimately the decision to leave the people you have committed to worshipping with, fellowshipping with and growing with in the Lord. With that said, I believe that there is only two reasons to leave a church. 1. They are practicing things expressly forbidden in the Bible or 2. God moves you. Believing the former to be truth I was very confused about my feeling to leave Real Life, were we a had met life long friends who had suffered, cried, laughed and celebrated with us over what has turned out to be the most trying year of our lives. Being confused about what appeared to be an irrational feeling, I did what any natural born procrastinator would do and ignored it.

The middle of October, God explained that feeling to me and all the rest of what he was trying to communicate, in one clear, concise plan.

Scott & Denise Thompson along with their 3 wonderful children recently moved to Pullman, Wa. in an effort to follow the Lord's calling for their lives to plant a church atop one of Pullman's many hills. When I met them the middle of October, their love for the Lord and desire to do his will was intoxicating and possessed a gravitational pull that I didn't want to resist. At that time we had responsibilities in our care group and did not think seriously about the opportunity God was laying before us. A few weeks later we had dinner with our new friends and they invited us to be part of what the Lord would do through them in the Palouse. During our conversation with them, I don't think that Mandy or I had any intention of leaving the home we had made at Real Life to begin an adventure with some crazy people from Kennewick.

I told Mandy as we drove, "I can't wait to get into the Word tonight and see what God has for us!" Great time to point out that I believe the Word of God is a living thing in which we encounter the Holy Spirit. It does not always matter what you are reading but rather that you are reading, creating a direct line of communication between you and God.

That night I read a few chapters in Hebrews. Hebrews 6 outlines the difference between a new Christian that is sustained by milk and the mature Christian who can only be sustained by the meat that Christ has to offer. In that moment I felt convicted that for 27 years I have been raised in a family that professes Love for Christ, and I still pretended to not understand his voice. Last year I fell on my knees devastated before Christ and found comfort, understanding and purpose in His arms, but now found myself unable to move forward. Finally, when I knew that the Lord was calling me to support, grow and serve in ministry that is sprouting right around me, I had that audacity to continue to ask God for further conformation and what ended up just being...MILK. In that moment I apologized to God and chose to follow what I now know, without a doubt, was his calling. In that moment I pledged to receive meat from the Lord and become a vessel for His kingdom.

I pray in the days, months and years to come that I will learn to run when I hear His voice, even if that is to the desert just to meet a Eunuch in the middle of nowhere and lead him to Christ. I pray daily that I will no longer require milk but rather thrive on the meat that God is offering.

After tearful goodbyes and difficult conversations, we concluded our time at Real Life and more importantly our time with our Small Group. I would like to express my deep love and appreciation for John and Emmy Salisbury because without their love, encouragement and desire to see the Lord's will be done, this last year and especially this transition would not have been so seamless. We will attend our first Bible study at our new church this Thursday and Restoration's very first church service will be Sunday, December 11 @ 1030am.

As always, I am encouraged by the Lord and what he is always doing. I look forward to seeing what He has in store and I encourage anyone reading this in the Palouse to check out or call Mandy or I with any question about services and how you can be involved!

God is at work and He is always there waiting for us to jump on board.....