Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ups and Downs, Part 2

When I wrote the post entitled Ups and Downs, Part 1 I thought our car situation would be the biggest challenge of this trip. I planned to focus on the ways in which God has blessed us and provided for us here in Goodland, Kansas. I'll still share those things, but I also have some sad news to share. If you don't have time to read this entire post, you can skip the next four paragraphs and go right to the fifth.

As I mentioned previously, our car broke down last Thursday afternoon shortly after crossing the border into Kansas. We called State Farm for roadside assistance, and while we were waiting for the tow truck to arrive, a pickup truck pulled off to see if we needed help. As it turns out, he worked for a local repair shop. Of course he wanted us to have our car towed to his shop. But the tow truck driver also had a shop (which the pickup truck driver tried to discredit), and the insurance agent found a third shop. Needless to say, the situation was getting very confusing and we had no idea who to trust in this small town where everything and everyone was unknown to us.

I made the best decision I could based on the circumstances, rode back into town, and started calling hotels to find a place to sleep. Super 8 was full. Comfort Inn was booked. Sunset Inn: no vacancy. Same with Holiday Inn Express and America's Best. Finally, I called the last and cheapest hotel in town, which had horrible online reviews: the Goodland Motel 6. I breathed a sigh of relief when they said they could give me a room. Prepared for the worst, we got a ride to the motel. When we opened the door we found the room to be small and basic, but recently renovated and surprisingly clean. Apparently the motel had been shut down and just recently reopened under new management, which is the reason they had vacancies when every other hotel was full. I've never been so thankful to have a safe place to lay my head!

Before going to sleep, we contacted everyone we could on social media in an attempt to connect with someone in northwest Kansas who could help us, but to no avail. In a last-ditch effort, I looked up a few local churches and contacted them by email or voicemail, praying that someone would be moved to help us. I know that churches get lots of requests for help, sometimes from scammers, so we were praying that someone would believe us enough to respond. At this point I was just asking for transportation to help us buy food and to attend church on Sunday, and a possible recommendation of a trustworthy mechanic.

The next morning we got a call from Pastor Tim Bonebright at Goodland Bible Church. He had received our email, checked out our blog and determined that we had some credibility. After hearing about our situation, he offered to drive us to the store to pick up some groceries, and to take me to see his mechanic for a second opinion on our car. It turned out that Pastor Tim, his family, and his church were a much greater blessing to us than we ever could have hoped. Not only did they help with our groceries, but they welcomed us into their house and shared several meals with us over the course of the next few days. The church even helped to cover most of our hotel costs. It might have seemed like a small thing, but to us it was huge! And as for the mechanic, it so happens that Pastor Tim has a good relationship with Butch, the tow truck driver who pulled our car off the highway. He is currently working on replacing the engine on our Vibe, so please pray that he will be able to work quickly and proficiently!

When God brought Pastor Tim and his wife Sarah into our lives (or us into theirs, depending how you look at it), none of us had any idea that they would share with us one of the most difficult nights we have faced as a family. On Saturday, September 24, Tara was not feeling well. By early evening, it was clear that she needed to get to a hospital, and though Tara didn't say anything to me in front of the kids, I knew that something was not right with the baby. I called Pastor Tim, and he got us to the local medical center as quickly as he could. The next couple hours were very difficult, especially for Tara. She was essentially left alone to deliver our son 16 weeks into the pregnancy. The nurses did not know how to help her and I was bouncing back and forth between her and the kids.

Anyone who has had a miscarriage knows how difficult it is, and as her husband I won't try to explain what Tara was (and is) going through. As a father, the most difficult moment was telling Ian and Ella that they would never meet their baby brother on this side of heaven. As we looked upon the tiny body of my son—with his ten little fingers, ten perfect toes, and his little nose and mouth—we couldn't help shedding tears together. Yet, we know that the Lord is good, and that because of the hope of resurrection and eternal life we may someday meet Ezra Ray Hammitt (or "Bean", as we affectionately called him) face-to-face.

When we got stranded here in Kansas we had no idea that we would face the loss of our unborn child in addition to a major car repair bill. But God, in His grace, did not allow us to be alone. By bringing the Bonebright family and the members of Goodland Bible Church into our lives, he provided physical and financial assistance, fellowship, and encouragement to help us through this difficult time. At the same time, we have felt a great outpouring of love and prayer from our friends and family back home and around the country, who have been supporting us by phone, social media and prayer.

As I conclude this post, I do want to thank Pastor Tim, his wife Sarah, and the members of Goodland Bible Church, who went above-and-beyond to help us while we were here. Pastor Brian from Harvest Free Church also checked in periodically to make sure we were taken care of and helped us explore the option of purchasing another vehicle. I know that neither of them helped us in order to receive recognition, and I am not thanking them publicly to puff them up. I'm convinced that they do not desire recognition for themselves, but they would desire Jesus Christ to be glorified and lifted up through them. So, even though we want to thank these men and women, we ultimately give thanks to our God and Father, who brought us together in Goodland. We don't always understand His plans and purposes, but He used the circumstances of his past week to increase our faith and trust in Him, and to remind us that He loves and cares for us at all times and in all places—even Goodland, Kansas!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Trusting God

Sitting here in the hotel in Goodland, Kansas, I have lots of time to think and reflect on the happenings of the past week. I plan to write a post covering everything that's taken place, but I'm going to save that for another day. What I'm thinking of today is God's provision and what it means to trust in Him. Specifically, I've been pondering the subtle difference between trusting in God and trusting in his provision.

As I mentioned in my last post, we are currently stranded in northwest Kansas, facing some costly repairs to our car. One of my first instincts was to contact MMS Aviation (the ministry we serve with, and who processes our monthly financial support) to get a digital copy of my financial statement for September in order to see how much money came in for us this month. In fact, near the end of every month I tend to get a bit anxious to see our financial statement. If it's a "good" month, I breathe a sigh of relief and thank the Lord that we won't have to be quite as frugal; if it's a low month I start thinking about how to tighten our budgetary belt. I know that God has always provided for our needs (financial and otherwise), and that every good thing comes from Him, but I also like the assurance of having money in the bank to know that we're covered financially. It's not that I don't recognize those dollars in the bank as God's provision, but I'm beginning to question whether I've truly been trusting the Giver and Provider, or trusting in the resources He provides.

So this month, instead of requesting that financial statement, I decided to pause, to wait. I knew that if I looked at our income for the month, I would start crunching the numbers, filling in my budget, figuring out how to make ends meet and how to start rebuilding our savings for the next rainy day. By delaying that process, I am able to focus on the God who provides our needs and truly trust Him, rather than focusing on dollar and cents.

I've always known intellectually that it's ridiculous to trust in a savings account, and that it only takes one crisis to wipe out years of savings. I've told myself and others that my faith is not in my savings, but in my Lord who provides for me. And until these past couple weeks I thought I was truly living out that belief. But ever since I worked in the corporate world, our family has had a financial safety net large enough to absorb any financial challenge we've faced. But as I watch this safety net shrink, my response to financial challenges has changed from "Thank the Lord that He's provided the money to cover this expense" to "Thank the Lord, who provides for our every need." It is a subtle change, but a significant one. The focus has shifted from the provision itself to the person who faithfully provides and cares for me.

It's wise to save for the future. It's wise to plan for the unexpected. But it's easier than I realized for my security to become wrapped up in the Lord's blessings (whether it's savings, investments, a stable job, or any other good thing) rather than in the Lord Jesus Himself! It's a good time for me to learn this lesson, as we prepare to move to North Carolina. We have a lot to trust Him for in the near future, and in the midst of it I will strive to keep my eyes fixed not on the things that God provides for us, but on my Lord, my Savior, my Redeemer, and my Provider.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Ups and Downs, Part 1

Since it's been a while since our last post, I'll attempt to cover a lot in this one. The last several weeks we've had some significant ups and downs.

On a positive note, I completed my oral and practical examinations and earned my Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic certificate on August 30! We are now cleared to move to Burlington, NC to begin serving and flight training with Missionary Air Group. I will be continuing to gain maintenance experience by helping to maintain MAG's fleet of airplanes, while receiving flight training to prepare me for overseas service. After gaining the necessary flight experience and ratings in North Carolina, I will spend some time on the field in Honduras and/or Guatemala.

Since we have a bit of time to make the transition to Burlington, we are spending a few weeks to do some traveling and support raising to cover our increased cost of living in North Carolina. We started out by spending a long Labor Day weekend camping with my parents and my brother and his family. Then our family of four headed west to visit some national parks, with the intention of visiting friends, family, and ministry partners on the way back to Ohio. We had a great time visiting the Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Arches National Park. Finally, we crossed the mountains to see Tara's grandmother in Colorado, where we had a great visit and spent the night.

Our car did well through the whole trip, until we crossed into Kansas the next day. This is where the major "down" of our trip took place. About 20 miles into Kansas, the engine started making some disconcerting sounds, and I immediately pulled to the side of the road. We ended up getting a tow to a local shop, where my fears were confirmed. At 190,000 miles, the engine in our car is finished, requiring replacement or rebuild.

This is certainly a test of our faith and trust in the Lord! There is nothing like being stranded in rural NW Kansas, knowing no one, being at the mercy of a mechanic you know nothing about, facing a $2500 repair bill and $400 in hotel costs. In the midst of this trial, however, God has been gracious to us. I'll write more about that in the next post. But for now, we appreciate your prayers for our situation. Given the choice of buying another car here in Kansas or putting another engine in our Pontiac Vibe, we've decided to repair the Vibe, which would be essentially worthless as a trade-in in its current state. We also don't want to take out a loan to make a purchase under pressure, and we already have the money in savings to pay for the repair. However, the repair will take several days, which means we are stuck in a hotel until early next week or later.

From an earthly perspective, this couldn't have happened at a worse time. We already have many expenses on the horizon with our move to Burlington and financial costs associated with Tara's pregnancy. We were also planning to draw from our savings to purchase another car to accommodate our third child, who is due to be born next March.

I'd be lying if I said we haven't struggled with discouragement over the last few days. Yet, in the midst of anxiety and feelings of helplessness, I have been reminding myself of the truth that God is our provider. Even as we watch our savings account being drained, we know that we serve a God who holds the world in His hands, and for whom money is no concern. For the most part, my anxiety has turned to peace, knowing that God will—and already has—taken care of us. We look forward to seeing how He will continue to provide over the next few months. I'll share in the next post some of the ways that the Lord has already met our needs here in Kansas.