Indescribable joy…

…that is the only way that I can describe some of my experiences today. Today, I had the opportunity to check some things off of my ministerial “bucket list” and take part in a very special event for some young, new Dominican believers. For a variety of reasons, this will be a day that I will remember for a long time.

20140101-235413.jpgWe started off our day going to an orphanage that doesn’t like to be called an orphanage. These children live in a home where they are treated like family and consider each other brothers and sisters. We were able to share testimony with them as well as distribute gift bags and other bags that contained hygiene products. Many churches around the Wiregrass area, including FBC-Abbeville, had sponsored these bags as a way to bless these children and, as you can see from the pictures, that task was accomplished.

20140101-235402.jpgFor some of our team members, this was not the first time that they had been to this orphanage. It was very special to see them return to see these children that they have watched grow over the years. For some of our team members, like the one pictured here, this day was the highlight of our trip. And when we left, there were many tears shed by some. It was very bittersweet.

20140101-235523.jpgFrom there we went to take part in a baptismal service for some of the students involved in Young Life here in Santo Domingo. We drove to the beaches on the east side of the island (facing the Caribbean Ocean) to baptize them in the water there. I knew that I was going to have the opportunity to share a pre-baptism message with them. However, I had no idea that I would get to baptize them with my new pastor friend, Fernando. I cannot even begin to explain the depths of my joy in getting to share in this occasion. Baptism in and of itself is special enough. Baptism of some new Dominican believers made it extra special. Baptism on a public beach in the waters of the Caribbean Ocean…WOW! It was simply unforgettable.20140101-235541.jpg

However, upon returning to the hotel, I received some news that reminded me that The Lord gives us joys like the one I experienced today, but He also takes away. As I celebrated the ordinance of baptism with these new Dominican believers, a family of a close ministry friend of mine were mourning his unexpected death. Johnny Warren and his wife, Amy, were leaving the states in the weeks to come to work in an orphanage in Haiti. In anticipation of time separated from Johnny and Amy, their family had chosen to take a vacation together in Colorado. During the day today, Johnny hit a patch of ice on the slopes which sent him into a tree where he died as a result of the impact.

Johnny was a great leader who loved people and love the nations for whom Christ died. He provided much insight to me in years past about some of the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing certain courses of long-term missions involvement as a church. I still remember the conversations we had, remember the strength of his character, and his wonderful personality. Having gone through times like this in the past year, where something unexpected season of chaos seems to question the biblical foundation on which you stand, I can truly say that, while this is unexpected, God’s purpose reigns. This tragedy will serve individuals, families, churches, and nations for the Kingdom of God in the years to come. And even though we don’t have specifics or even an answer to the question of “Why,” we trust that behind every dark cloud of providence there lies a smiling face. And that face is the face of Jesus, who conquered the grave so that when Johnny closed his eyes here on earth, he opened them in heaven. And while now is a time to mourn and lean on others for counsel and encouragement, the time will come where God makes clear His intentions.

So, tonight I will go to sleep pondering the infinite, unstoppable, all-satisfying, yet sometimes unclear purposes of God. And whether you are going to bed today singing God’s praises or shedding precious tears, God is still on His throne and tomorrow’s moments are teeming with purpose in His creation and in our lives. This is my hope and my promise. To God be the glory.

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