Don't ask if we're packed yet. We're not.
We just dropped Samson off at Travis and Alicia's. Their daughter, Ceara, loves him. Their cats do not. We're confident they'll find a way to work it out.
Yesterday we had our first anniversary celebration at church. We set a new record--102 people. Last year, our inaugural service was mostly brothers and sisters from the other Churches of Christ in the city. This year there were only a couple of people from those congregations. The crowd was made up of our members, their friends, family and neighbors, and dozens of contacts we have generated: English students, language teachers, doctors. Three visitors stand out in my mind:
1. Vivian--Vivian was one of the LST students. She studied while the campaign was here and then she and I studied together for a while. Once the English classes started up again after summer break, she came back with several friends. Yesterday she visited our worship for the first time. Our perseverence paid off.
2. Palmira's husband--Palmira is a sister from one of the other congregations who visits us occasionally. She's an older woman who has dealt with a lot of tough things this year. Yesterday when she walked in the door she was beaming. Her husband came to church with her for the first time ever.
3. Zoraide's nephew--Zoraide is another LST student. She and I have spend many hours together. She's been coming to group classes again, too, and has started bringing her nephew with her. She explained to us that he won't come with her to her church (she is Seventh-Day Adventist) but he was willing to come to ours. We're happy to have him.
(My apologies that I don't have names on the tip of my tongue. Yesterday was a flood of names and faces, not to mention the fact that my brain is full of travel plans!)
If you were to ask my teammates which visitors stood out to them, they would probably tell you different stories--stories of persistence paying off--but with the same sense of amazement that I have. It is incredible to see what God has done in one year.
We had a potluck lunch after worship and gave people the opportunity to share how ICOS has touched their lives. Many tears were shed. We were reminded of how many life transitions we have been able to be a part of--births, deaths, weddings and new and renewed commitments to Christ. Above all, people spoke of the love they feel as part of the true family that exists there. There aren't words I would have rather heard right before I left for furlough. God has created something wonderful at 35 Holy Spirit Street. It's something that people want to be a part of and, even better, want the people they love to be a part of. To God be the glory!
And that brings me back to tomorrow. We leave just after lunch for the big trip. It's unbelievable to think that we will be gone for two months. When I look at our schedule I wonder if we'll be able to pull it off. There are so many people that make what we do possible and we want to thank them all personally. If you're not one of the people we're going to see, let me tell you right now--THANK YOU! We are utterly dependent on the actions of God and other people. Without people writing checks, writing emails, sending candy and praying for us, we wouldn't be here. Even the littlest bit makes such a big difference for us. We thank you and the family of ICOS thanks you, too.
And now, off to pack!