Immanuel...God With Us in 2018

"'Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel' (which means, God with us) (Mt. 1:23, ESV". "God with us" is a theme that runs throughout the Bible and it is a theme that has been very personal to us throughout this year. It is a theme of continual Messianic hope for the people of God. It was the promise that God would guide, protect, and rule over his people. Joshua challenged the people of Israel to stand strong and not be fearful because God was with them (Joshua 1:9). Isaiah heard God tell him to not be fearful or dismayed because God would be there for him and uphold him with "righteous right hand" Isaiah 41:10, ESV). The writer of Deuteronomy assured God's people that God would be with them and never leave or forsake them (Dt. 31:6, ESV).

God being with us is not some favor that we can earn. God came to the world in the form of a baby in a manger to give us the free gift of salvation and the promise that he would always be with us. He is available to everyone. God has promised to be with us in every moment of our lives, through the good times and the difficult ones. He counsels us to not be anxious about anything but to depend on him for all our needs. As I think back on the 2018 year, which is nearly finished, I am again in awe of what it means to have "God with us."

There were many times when Angie and I encountered difficult moments throughout the 2018 year but we have been continually assured that God has been with us. The difficulties that we have faced have often turned into opportunities for God to bless us beyond our greatest dreams, more than we could have ever imagined. These are a few of the highlights from our family in 2018.

Without much doubt, the hardest part of the missionary life for us has been having to say "goodbye." It hits us in both directions, leaving and returning to the States. We have our direct family in Ohio and cousins throughout the country. Over our lifetime we have made lots of close friends. Leaving them to go to Honduras for an extended time is hard. Some, we will likely never see again. Many of our Honduras friends have become family to us as well, so we always have mixed feelings when leaving one country to go to the other. We try to focus as much as possible on the blessing of having such a large family with so many friends in two countries.

Angie and I are proud of all our children and grandchildren. Our family continues to grow in number, in stature, intellectually, and spiritually. It is amazing t us how multi-cultural we become. I guess that would be expected with our background of living for nearly 40 years in two different countries. Our children who were born to us are third-culture kids, having grown up in Honduras and now living their adult lives In the United States. They are magnificently special. One of the lessons that we have learned is that family does not consist of only those who are our direct genetic relatives. It reminds us that we too have been adopted into the family of God.

We have seven grandchildren so far. Rachel and Jared have four children, David and Stacey have two children, and Maribel and David have one daughter. Whether they are born into our family, or lovingly adopted into the family, we are proud of six grandchildren who live in the States and one here in Honduras.

Maribel with Belen and David
Maribel is our Honduran daughter. Sometimes, I think that if she had been born to us as parents, she couldn't more closely imitate some of our characteristics. She even laughs at my jokes in English. Maribel is about the same age as our daughter Maria. She came to live with us as a teenager, though we have known her family for most of our career. During her high school years, Maribel dreamed of becoming a microbiologist. Though at times it seemed like an impossible dream, this year Maribel graduated with a doctorate in Microbiology. She teaches in the nursing school. Maribel and her husband David work alongside us in ministry. They pastor the Shalom church that we helped to get started. Their daughter's name is Belen and is in kindergarten.

It's nearly impossible to get everyone in a photo. 
It is exciting to think about what our grandchildren are going to accomplish and experience in their lives. It has been fun to live next door to four of them over the past several months while we have been home in Ohio on Home Ministry Assignment (HMA) with World Gospel Mission. We live just close enough in our next door apartment where we can observe them for a while each day. We can also retreat to our "nest" when things get too loud for us. We had a great Christmas season together. Right now, the comment that I hear most is "Hey mom, Alexa's not working." They will figure it out for sure. David and Stacey added a new child this year. It was great for us to be here to help babysit for two-year-old Carter and newborn Owen.

On December 19th Larry finalized his four years of doctoral studies by graduating with a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Extension Education from Ohio State University. It has been a long haul, but the process was beneficial as we gained new knowledge along the way. We are now looking at how to make the best use of the degree as we return to Honduras in January. Our dream is to teach university students by developing a Study Abroad program with World Gospel Mission. We are analyzing the options and waiting on God to show us the open doors he wants us to walk through.

Our year of HMA is nearly finished, but we plan to end it with a major
Maria and JD Singh
celebration, where we will witness the uniting of two families through the marriage of our daughter Maria to Jasdeep (JD) Singh. We have valued this year as a time of getting to know JD better. We quickly understood why Maria fell in love with him. Welcome, JD, to our 'interesting' family.

It has been an exciting year. We give testimony that God has been with us every step of the way. We look forward to seeing God's plan for the 2019 year and beyond.


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