It is the time of year when we reflect on the past year and look forward to what lies ahead…
And I find myself amazed once again at the goodness of the Lord. This time last year we were facing the hard truth that we would not be returning to Papua New Guinea. It was a difficult and bitter pill to swallow. Hard in that we were leaving the only life goal that we had known since we met on the very soil where we ministered for so many years together. Difficult in that we were leaving friends, co-workers, and national believers and unbelievers whom we had come to dearly love, and many were the bitter tears that were shed. Not a bitterness of heart that longed for something forbidden, but a bitterness and anguish of soul that desires God’s perfect plan in spite of what must be released into His loving hands.
So the process began in seeking a new ministry and figuring out what that might look like on this side of the globe. With the danger of being too wordy, I will suffice it to say that the Lord continued opening door after door and brought us to Emmanuel Bible Church in Smithville, Missouri where Rich is serving as the pastor. Not only did God bring us back to familiar territory and friends, but He has brought us to a church that was primed and ready for someone to step into the role of leader and begin teaching what it means to reach out. It has been exciting to see the many ways that the Lord has prepared the church and us for one another.
When we visited the area from Michigan to search for housing, the Lord took away each option we had thought was viable and replaced it with a house that was move-in ready and 30 minutes south of the church. It was clearly the only option that the Lord left us with, and yet we could not figure out why He would have us be so far from the church and community that we were sent to minister to. After moving to Kansas City in late June, we began the all-too-familiar task of unpacking and settling in again. The Lord provided jobs and cars for the girls – just a few minutes from our new house. That was wonderful, and I (Dawn) was working at that time for a grocery store chain in several locations, and I found our house to be fairly central to this work. The Lord also connected us with a classical Christian school less than 10 minutes away for Jordan and Havannah to attend, which has been a tremendous blessing to our family as well.
We are thoroughly enjoying the ministry the Lord has placed us in here at Emmanuel Bible Church, and are excited as we look toward the future as we continue to minister where the Lord has us. Rich began preaching through the book of Ephesians, which has been a blessing, encouragement and challenge to all. Evening services have been started up and we are going through a video series on marriage called Love and Respect, with a fellowship time following. This being our last week of this series, we will be beginning a new series of lessons soon, training the adults how to teach someone through The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus book.
The adult Sunday school has been learning about the 5 purposes of the church (worship, service, fellowship, discipleship and evangelism). The current focus is on evangelism and we are being encouraged to participate with some practical application to help solidify what is being taught. Through the several months we have been ministering at EBC, we have come to recognize the need for another division of classes for the children’s Sunday school. Our first week began today, with the 2nd-4th grade class and the 5th-8th grade class each being taught through the children’s Building on Firm Foundations Creation to Christ chronological curriculum produced by New Tribes Mission.
I have been privileged to be able to minister to the ladies by starting a Bible study for women. We are currently reading a book called Calm My Anxious Heart and are enjoying the study that goes along with the book reading, as well as the discussion and fellowship that this type of group affords. Hannah has been singing as a part of the worship team and Hadassah has joined us on her flute on occasion. All of the older 4 children in the family have helped in the nursery, some are helping with childcare during the evening meetings, and the older 3 have been a part of the weekly youth meetings as well.
Sometime in August, we experienced a big crash with health. Hannah began experiencing stomach pains that kept her doubled over and unable to work. At the same time, we were looking for answers for a skin rash that had been plaguing Josiah for months. The doctor that we were seeing at the time was in St. Louis, which was a 4 hour drive away. Though much closer than when we lived in Michigan, I couldn’t see driving 4 hours to see her when there were problems that needed immediate attention. So we went to the Lord for wisdom and began searching the internet for someone closer. The Lord clearly led me to a website for a doctor who is a chiropractic physician and also an internist. These types of doctors are medical professionals who have the ability to order any tests that one might need for diagnosis and yet only prescribes natural treatments. Finding someone who is an internist (has studied all of the 16 internal systems of the body) was a huge blessing and he posted on his web page that he is a believer in Jesus Christ. It all sounded too good to be true. And the best part was that he is only located about 35 minutes away from us – yet another reason why the Lord placed us in the house that He did.
Since finding the doctor, our lives have been rather consumed with visits to the doctor, treatments and diets for healing, and the Lord has given us many answers to health issues in our family – especially for Hannah, who is feeling dramatically better. Both Hannah and Josiah have been diagnosed with Leaky Gut Syndrome and food allergy tests came back resulting in 30-90 reactive foods. X-rays for a couple of the kids have shown scoliosis and genetic anomalies that need help now and later. We are in the process of getting treatment for parasites, hormone issues, yeast problems, and the list could go on – but listing our ailments and/or treatments isn’t the point of this letter to you all. Bottom line? God is just plain good.
While we are considering God’s goodness, it might be a good time to give you an update on the Bena Bena work. Though we hear nothing from the people themselves, we have remained in contact with our former Australian co-workers. David and Wendy had to leave the work during our last term in Papua New Guinea because of Wendy’s ongoing and increasing struggle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. They retired and returned to their home area in Australia. During the past 6 or so years, Wendy has been seeing a naturopathic doctor who has treated her for several things which has brought about a major turn-around in her ability to function. At the same time that we were realizing the Lord was keeping us here, they were asking the Lord if He was possibly re-opening the door for them to return to minister in some way once again to the Bena. God has continued to open that door and they have received their work permits in preparation for their return to PNG. They plan to move as soon as the Lord brings in the funds needed to live there and when the remainder of the paperwork is finalized. They are excited to return and David has brought out his language tapes and is refreshing himself in the language as they wait for their return. Please pray with us in regard to their return and reconnection with the believers as well as wisdom as they seek the Lord as to how to move forward in discipleship, translation and teaching responsibilities. Please also pray that the Lord will provide co-workers to join them to see the work completed to the point where the ministry will be entrusted fully to the Bena believers themselves. If you are interested in supporting the Lees, please contact us for more information in how to get in contact with them as well as support details. Thank you so much for your continued interest in the Bena Bena people and for your prayers for this exciting open door for the Lees.
My prayer for each of us in the coming year is for Christ to become ever greater in our lives and that as a consequence we would become less and less.
Merry Christmas (a bit late) and a Peace-filled New Year to you all from the Fosters
Rich, Dawn, Hannah, Hadassah, Jordan, Havannah and Josiah