Today marks our one year anniversary back in the States.
It was just a year ago today, November 7, that we boarded Czech Airlines in Prague and made the long journey back to the United States after only about seventeen months in Czech Republic. Although the decision had been made months before, that day marked the end of our official time as overseas missionaries and meant we would be “coming home.”
Above is Bethany and the kids in the aisle across from me. Below is a photo of a tired Titus in the Amsterdam airport on our first layover that day.
Our flights that day would lead us to Louisville where my parents would pick up our family in two cars (so we could all fit!). We got to drive our “Dodgers car” which we had sold to my parents just before we moved to Czech. The kids call it that because it has a big “LA” sticker on the back (gotta represent our team!). It had been a while since I had driven in the States and I remember going down the highway and feeling weird. The cars felt oversized, the trucks were giant, and lining the highway was every kind of food you could think of. We were back in America.
The time we spent at my parent’s house was just what we needed. The kids had a blast riding on the tractors, playing outside on the five acres of land, and even spending some time with their cousins who flew out from California to join us. As we got over jet lag that week, I remember Bethany and I spending a lot of time just talking. We were talking about what had gone on the past few years, things we had learned, and basically just debriefing ourselves. I remember loving those chats with her. We needed that time and I’m thankful we got it. But it went by quick, and wasn’t long before we were on a plane again, this time headed West to our new home in Kingsburg, California.
It’s here in Kingsburg that we’ve made a new home this past year. Through many people, and in a way only the Lord can do, He has provided for every one of our needs. Our physical needs of a home, car, and job have all been met. Our emotional and spiritual needs have been meet in our wonderful church. God’s people continue to bless and encourage us in ways we definitely don’t deserve. Our family is cared for with great shepherding and care that we receive from our pastors and friends. I feel like the church at Philippi. Speaking of God providing for the church there, the apostle Paul writes, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). We truly praise the Lord for how He has taken care of us.
While the Lord has been providing us all we need, He has also been teaching us to trust Him. As I’ve entered a new role as the director of the student ministries at our church, I’ve been humbled by my weaknesses. It hasn’t always been good. I’ve had some hard days here, but I can look back on the past year and praise the Lord for what he’s teaching me about Himself and about myself. I am learning that each and every day I have to walk in the power and strength of the Spirit and not trust in my own strength. I have to trust Him and not myself. I haven’t arrived, but I’m learning. The students and families I get to serve are so patient with me, not to mention the rest of the church staff. They are all so willing to watch me make mistakes, grow, and learn. I don’t deserve it, but the Lord is so gracious.
We’ve had other opportunities to trust Him too. Just this summer we walked through our second miscarriage. There were a a few scary moments during that time. It wasn’t easy. We cried a lot. But again the Lord was so kind and gracious. He put people around us that cared well for us. He gave us a great doctor who I frantically called at 2:30am who helped me know how best to help Bethany. He gave us sweet nurses at the ER who were kind and gentle. He gave us pastors and friends who called, texted, and showed up with food, took our kids out to play for us, and who prayed with us. He gave Bethany great strength and courage amidst a very different kind of trial. It grew both her and I to cling to Christ and for that I can only praise Him.
As I reflect back on this year in the States, only one word comes to mind: growth. Actually, I think this year we’ve experienced a spiritual growth spurt. Like a physical growth spurt that comes quickly and is followed with it’s aches and pains, our spiritual growth spurt hasn’t always been easy, but has led to our growth. Like a body that is changed by sudden growth and development, we too have experienced that in our spiritual lives this past year. There have been so many wonderful moments this past year, as well as many hard ones, but in the end I can say that God has used them all to make us more like Jesus. I can’t help but think about 2 Corinthians 3:18 “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” We are the midst of that transformation! Each day as we see God for who He is and what He’s done for us, He’s changing us to be more like Him!
On the day we loaded our container in Czech in order to move back to the States (Oct. 30, 2015), I wrote in my journal about all that happened that day. To close my entry that day I wrote these words, “I’m thankful to God for what he’s doing in my heart to change me and make me more like Christ. I just want to be His servant.” With that in mind, I can even be thankful He gave me another year to experience that change. It doesn’t really matter if it’s in the States, Czech Republic, or wherever else the Lord may lead. I can rest and trust in His plan. He’s using all of it to make me more like Jesus. It was hope and prayer a year ago and it still is today.