With us for five years of grace!

It was last week, five years ago, that we were in the hospital with Jack. The 18th was the fifth anniversary of him going Home to Jesus. And it’s a little rough emotionally. Better than before, for sure! Thank you, Jesus! It was eight days from the time I was concerned enough to force going to the doctor, (when Jack was certain it was just exhaustion and dehydration from too much work and not enough rest). Then the next day, the hospital in Mexico sent us to a hospital in California. Seven days later, he was gone.

It’s crazy. Many of you probably remember that I had no doubt it was all to show God’s glory. The hospital staff thought I was just in shock, but I had full faith for healing. Some friends and family, though believers, saw my faith as naive and ‘cute.’ But Jack had just finished a series on healing. And then he got sick. Jack would often reply in emails that we are promised two things: battles and victories. This was a battle, and I was sure this was a setup for victory. (For our new readers, you can see my first call to prayer here, and then just a few days later I had to announce that he was with Jesus. ) I admit I was pretty unhappy with that article that first year. Jack’s own words telling me the truth behind what had happened wasn’t as comforting as it should have been! His own words telling us that he did in fact receive healing—what he called the ultimate healing.

God didn’t do it in the way I expected or asked for, but He did give us victory. Overwhelming victory. Jack did get the ultimate healing, and he got to be with his most beloved Savior. And, God has shown Himself faithful, powerful, and so kind and so generous all these five years.

When we began GTF, we wanted to model George Muller, whose goal was to show that God exists and is powerful enough and cares about us enough to answer our prayers. And really, God has shown the world that more this past five years than all previous. I had so much advice from other ministry leaders and pastors to stop doing outreach and giving away money after Jack died. They explained that it made sense that there would be an outpouring of support immediately after but that it would soon dry up. They said that Jack was the ministry, and without him, people would stop coming to the site and stop supporting the outreaches. They encouraged me to hold on to the donations that came in that first couple of months and try to make it last as long as possible. This was not the advice of a few people. It was the advice of hundreds! I’m so grateful that God gave me the strength and connection to Him to ignore them all!

I didn’t know if God would continue this ministry. Like the others, I also couldn’t see how He could do it with Jack gone. You guys, it shook me. I was so confident we would leave the hospital together. I was sure this would encourage so much faith in God for healing! And it all fell so dramatically apart, so quickly. I was so wrong about how it would happen, so I didn’t know what God wanted with anything. I didn’t know how I’d gotten it so wrong. So I thought maybe it had a good run and was now done. But I’ve learned whenever I get fearful, the best antidote is giving. And I was determined to honor God and Jack’s legacy and go out like we began.

Amid all this “advice,” many of you sent encouragement and support that I knew were straight from the throne of God, encouraging me to keep trusting and stay the course. (You know who you are, and I thank God for you each day!) I’ve seen how beautiful it is when God speaks through other believers. We are the body, and we need each other.

After Jack died, I told the Lord He needed to be my best friend now. I told Him I had to hear Him consistently and clearly. And I heard, clear as day, the Lord speak to my heart that He would love that too, and He’s so glad I asked. And since then, I have heard Him more consistently and more clearly than ever before. And it’s been essential each day these last five years. In addition to that, He has spoken to me through other believers more consistently since then too. We need each other. There have been times we’ve been praying for a family thing, and God is silent to each one of us. But when I ask other siblings in Christ to pray, He speaks to them instead. He’s been showing me just how important we are to each other and to the Kingdom. The enemy wants us isolated from each other.

Thank you for being with me these last five years. We couldn’t have done any of this without you. I’m beyond humbled and grateful, and there aren’t even words that can express how grateful I am and what it means to me.

Jack loved number symbolism, and five is the number of grace. Looking back over the last five years we can see God’s grace is fully evident. We’ve been able to show, without a doubt, that God hears and answers our prayers. Not only has He sustained this ministry, He has grown it! We started two churches, both in persecuted areas, and one so severely that our people risk their lives for Jesus. Our outreaches and the people we serve are growing!

Jack didn’t think that believers who die can witness events on earth. And the Bible doesn’t say, but I hope he can, and is there interceding along with us. I know he’d be proud of all we’ve done together in the last five years. It’s been hard figuring out what grief and belief and hope look like all mixed together. But I think we’re starting to figure it out.

Last year about this time, I went to a conference for women in ministry with a friend. I had agreed to go if no one else could so she wouldn’t be alone. I didn’t have a great attitude. They hold it in a megachurch, where their budget for snacks could likely feed whole communities we serve for months. Sometimes it’s hard to come to the first world! God did rebuke me for my pride and bad attitude, and I confessed and asked Him to speak to me over the affluence and my pride. And He did. I encountered Him so powerfully during their worship service. And heard Him tell me, this will be your last hard October.

See, I had been asking Jesus to just get me through the month. It felt traumatic and terrible every year. I just wanted to get through it and move onto Thanksgiving and our end of year outreaches! October just seemed so hard. Even when I thought we were doing so well, October would hit and slam into me with full force. I began to think it wasn’t just a natural grieving process thing, but more spiritual as well. So I was asking God to take it from me. And that was His reply: that 2019 would be my last hard October. Thank you, Jesus! I was thrilled. This was a special grace because most times, when I ask God to do something, He tells me to do it! (That’s actually how our outreaches began! Before, we’d fund other ministries doing outreach work, but then God put things on our hearts no one else was willing to do. And so when I asked the Lord to do it, He said: you do it.) He empowers me to do it, but I have to do the actions myself. I do love how practical and real the love of God is, and I’m always willing to be the boots on the ground. But this was a special gift from Him and a huge encouragement that I’ve hung onto all year.

It hasn’t been an easy October so far. I’ve been hit with migraines more severe and more often than usual, and we’re in a pandemic! There has never been more need than there is now. But it also hasn’t been as hard emotionally as it has been before. It feels lighter. Aidan and I can spend time together remembering, and it feels sweet instead of sad. My oldest brother, who has autism, moved in with us recently and so it’s no longer just the two of us in a house that used to hold three. This has its own challenges to be sure, but it’s new and different and an amazing blessing. So it feels different. And that’s a blessing in itself.

I know the world is in turmoil now. I know chaos is swirling all around us. But we can have peace in the storm. We are called to rebuke the storm. I loved reading long ago that when Jesus said to the storm, be still, another way that is translated is be muzzled. To this day, no matter the translation I’m using, I’ll replace those words. It’s such a good visual for the storms in our lives that are supernatural.

And I’m committed, in this chaos, to do less worrying and more muzzling. Less complaining and more loving. Less giving in to pain and worry and doubt, and more giving, period. I’m not going to sit and watch the enemy have his way. I’m going to be love in the midst of hate. I’m going to be peace in the chaos. I’m going to serve and lay down my life and my desires for those of my neighbors. And I’m going to seek humility over pride.

I love that followers of Jesus are so diverse. We aren’t a cult that has to check with a person for what to think or say. We don’t have one opinion. God has always brought to GTF people on every side of every political party in each nation, and people on every side of every issue. Because life with Jesus isn’t about the issues, it’s about people. It’s about family We are a beautiful, messy, diverse family! Brothers and sisters united in Christ. We get the hard task of figuring out how to live together, and honor Jesus, and love people in the complex world we live in. And we’ll differ! We’ll disagree. But our goal must be to act with love and humility in every encounter.

Thank you for being here. Thank you for coming alongside us, and showing the world that God is real, that He cares, that He hears and answers prayers. Showing that He loves us so much and wants to be with us, and that He also cares about every practical detail in our lives. It’s been five whole years! In that odd way that time works, it feels like it is both yesterday and a lifetime ago at the same time. I hope you can look at the little faces we serve and see how impossible all this is without Jesus. Without a God who steps into our lives and cares about each detail.

Not one person can look at this ministry and think it has lasted because of me! Nor because of any human cleverness or effort. No one can explain it without God.

Amen and amen.

In love and gratitude, ♥ Samantha


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