Jesus, You Know Better than I.

*Just a warning, this is going to be a long one.*
We are leaving South Africa on September 15th
I didn’t know this was coming. Truthfully, I didn’t. Neither did Bryan. Before we came here, we sat down and ran the numbers and asked ourselves if this was truly possible. We worked our budget again and again, factoring in all the possible expenses that could arise. As we boarded the plane on May 30th, we were full of hope. We were anticipating the ministry we would have, the relationships we would build and the doors that would open. Our hope continued throughout the first and second months of our time here. We enjoyed new friends, we started programs, we prayed with and for people, and we made plans for next steps in ministry. But as we received our monthly support statements, we realized something wasn’t quite lining up. I had my appointment with the OB/GYN, and the bill at the door was much higher than our estimate. Unexpected trips to the hospital came up from sicknesses our bodies weren’t immune to.  I remember sitting in the living room with Bryan when he told me we weren’t breaking even. He was working our budget on the computer with our support statement in front of him. When we saw the numbers, we were shocked. A lot of support that had been promised had never come through, and other supporters had (very good) reasons that caused them to drop off. Our hand was forced, and we were blindsided by it.
We immediately went in to a flurry of discussion about of course, a) why did this happen, and b) where do we go from here. To be honest, we’re not sure why it happened. It just did. We also realized that if we were to gain a few more supporters in the coming months to make up the difference, we would still be in a place that would cause us to be pinching pennies… meaning we would be forced to prevent another child from being conceived.
We have wrestled for a long time with the fact that we have a deep desire to have many children. Our desire for a large family, however, seemed directly opposite to our desire for foreign missions. It’s an obvious reality that the more people in the family, the more money must be raised, the more plane tickets purchased, the bigger house equals higher rent, etc. We had, with sadness in our hearts, resigned ourselves to waiting on expanding our family and had once again begun using contraceptive, against our own desires (not because we don't believe in it, just because we WANT more children). And then our second daughter was conceived, despite contraceptive—just weeks before we were to leave for South Africa. I stood holding a positive pregnancy test in one hand and plane tickets in the other, wondering how in the world they could co-exist. We believed that God led us to come anyway, and I won’t deny that still. God brought us here for a purpose, and it is not for me to question His ways.
Now here we sit, with the realization that we cannot stay in our current situation unless a miracle occurs. I am not one to be skeptical when it comes to the miraculous, but I do believe that God has obviously entrusted Bryan and I with the well-being of 2 precious daughters and we must do what is wise in regards to their care. We have the means to stay through January, but our conclusion to leave in September came through hours of reasoning. I am due with this baby on December 31st. I am expected to contract Cholestasis as I did in my pregnancy with Peyton, but it is not guaranteed (nor desired!!). If I do have Cholestasis again, I will be induced the first week or two of December. However, we cannot bank on that. If I do not get Cholestasis again, we will be leaving it up to God and this baby when she comes and any woman knows that could be any time between the beginning of December and mid-January. Our lease here in South Africa is up on January 15th. We cannot gamble with the chance of having to leave with a few day old baby and a sore, recovering momma. We have seen it best that we travel in September, when flights are cheapest, when I am at a good place in my pregnancy (not yet third trimester), and when we will still have time to get somewhat settled before our family grows again.
Our plan is for Bryan to pursue Law Enforcement, in which he has an Associates Degree already. This career will allow us to have the big family we believe God has called us to have, and also still have an involvement with missions through our giving and even short term trips in the future. Obviously, it will take time to get our feet on the ground again. We will essentially have to start from scratch all over again as we sold almost everything to come here. We are trusting God to provide the means to get us settled. Bryan will have to take a temporary job right away to pay our bills and get us jump started. Then he will move forward with his certification to pursue a job in the Burlington (or a surrounding area) Police Force.
 Yes, you heard me correctly. Burlington. As in Vermont. We feel that Vermont is the best place for us to settle and to raise our family. Vermont has a lower certification requirement than Minnesota, so Bryan wouldn’t have to go through any more schooling other than a hands on training course. I will be close to family and therefore have help with the kids as Bryan is away getting certified.
There are a lot of unknowns, and to be honest with you, there is so much temptation to feel condemned. We feel as though we failed, in a way. I have thought long and hard about this decision and we have both been before the Lord through this process. The devil has tried to come in many times with thoughts of judgment. We have received mixed responses since sending our newsletter announcing our decision. But each time we are met with a judgment from “man”, we run to God and find peace, love and grace.
I know that no matter where we are, we can be used by the Lord. We came to Africa to be useful, and we have been. But we also learned that we don’t have to be in Africa to be used. God has put the same Spirit in us that was in Christ Jesus and that Spirit enables us to be ministers of the Gospel far or near. For us, contrary what we always thought, I guess it will be “near”.
We may not know right now God’s reason for bringing us to South Africa for such a short time. In man’s eyes and estimation it seems almost a waste, but God does not operate on our time table or in our fashion. He knows the end from the beginning and all things will be made clear at the end of time. For now, we are trusting Him each step of the way and believing that He will continue to lead us from here onward.
I am excited about the next step, because I have a Master who is leading me forward in His grace, and excellent wisdom.


partialemptynester said...

Oh, you precious Daughter of the King! What a miracle you have growing in your womb! A miracle that says, God is God and His divine plans prevail regardless of our earthly ones! You've asked for a miracle and God has provided...babies are born all the time under the birth control radar...why? Bc God has already created your family and His timing is perfect and He is the one who has put all these precious ones on your heart and will be delivering these gifts to you and your hubby throughout the years, regardless of when/where you decide to plan them yourselves...oh, I just smile thinking of His power at work in your lives! Maybe this was a route you needed to pursue before settling into a large family in Vermont, maybe in years to come when you grow restless and tempted that you've taken the wrong road, you will have the satisfaction, the completeness to know that you did all you could and yet God brought you back through prayer to your true heart's desire, whether you realize it now or not. It is not with shame that you should be taking these steps but with confidence in the Lord that He is ABLE and IN CONTROL! You've served Him well and He is taking care of you! Praying peace and humility, not shame, to be the banner over your family as you fly back home, welcomed by friends and family who love you!

Ria Thurston said...

Your words are inspiring even despite the uncertainty - "but God does not operate on our time table or in our fashion". Beautiful! God is faithful and you've seen that time and time again. I can't wait to see where the Lord takes your sweet family :)

Lindsey V said...

No wise words...just thinking of you guys all day since I read this this morning....praying that this journey will not "feel" in vain but the revelation of His plan will come....even if isn't obvious now. Also praying that emotionally you will feel lifted up and sheltered by His wings in all these transitions...

Melissa Reiner said...

Oh Claire!
I don't even know where to begin. I got your newsletter a few days ago, and I haven't been able to get you and your family off of my mind. I've wrestled with how to write back and encourage you, but I keep coming up blank. Thank you for writing this and sharing your heart. Your beautiful heart that seeks after the Lord in everything you do.
I love that you are putting your family first. I've seen children go along the wayside so many times in missionary families, and I just can't applaud you and Bryan enough for choosing to follow after your highest calling. Those precious children of yours! Obviously God can use you in ministry wherever you are (and He could have worked things out for you to stay in S. Africa if that was His will), but I know He has such a huge plan for you in Vermont.
You know, we have an awful lot in common :) I sure thought we would end up on the missions field (or at least at Gil's Hills permanently), but God has made it very evident that my ministry needs to be our children, and Jamie's greatest place of outreach is in the work field. And while some days I wish for a hut in Africa, I absolutely adore my life, and I am so blessed with what God has given me.
If you ever need encouragement in this area or a friend to talk to, just know I'm here. I know I often end up talking to Leigh more often than you, but you are often on my heart, and I pray for you and your beautiful family often. Love you!

Cari said...


We have been through a very similar journey and I can tell you that God will walk with you each step, just like He was there for you on your way to South Africa, he will be with you on your way home.

Loving you and your family. Let me know if Michael and I can be of any help.

Love Cari

Stephanie M. Page said...

Sweet friend! My heart aches for you and all you are going through! You can't know God's complete plan--he knows exactly what he is doing and I believe that he brought you to Africa for his purposes, and he is bringing you home for his purposes too. Nothing surprises our King! He is so in control! I am praying for you...remember that you are missionary every where you go and when following God life NEVER ceases to be an adventure!! I am praying for you.


Tori said...

Claire, it was so cool of you guys to even attempt South Africa, even if it wasn't as permanent as you'd hoped. God knows your heart, and He has plans for you wherever you end up. I will keep you in my prayers and also will pray that the work you began down there in SA will continue strongly long after your family leaves. Just think of the cool photos and stories you will have to tell Peyton and her little sister of their early years in existence! They will no doubt be super proud of the work their parents had done!

Callie Nicole said...

I'm sorry to hear things didn't turn out the way you thought it would, but you are right, the Lord knows. There's a purpose for the trip to South Africa, and a purpose to coming back home. The Lord can use you wherever you are, and I know that He will!

~The Harrison Family~ said...

Beautifully written my friend. Praying for you and thinking of you ♥

Jody, Jen, Devonta and Trey said...

Wow you all have so much going on. Keep seeking Jesus in all of it. He definitely works all things together for our good.
I was just sharing with Jody what was going on with you guys and he told me to tell you that if there is anything he can do to help Bryan out to let him know. He knows a ton of law enforcement up there from our days in VT. Please let us know if we can help.

Jess said...

You guys did not fail. Sometimes we don't know why God ends what we are called to do. Remember the story I told you about my own abrupt termination of my mission trip? Back then I really didn't understand, but standing with you in 2006 it all made sense. I thought I failed as well.But God had a different plans for me.

I truley beleive God has an awsome plan for you and your family. Maybe when my surgery and receovery is over I can finally meet your wonderful growing family.

Love you and praying for all of you,


KB said...

What a change in events! Who knows why things happen the way they do....I used to want to know, but as of late, I am thankful that HE knows all and I just don't need to :)
I'm thankful you'll be in the States for the medical care.
God has plans, He is using you!
BIG HUGS!!!!!!

Kyndra Lynne said...

My dear friend, thank you for posting this. We've been going through a similar situation in our ministry and have been feeling like we're nearing the end of our season in youth ministry at our church. It's a decision we've battled with for the past 6 months. Chris and I can completely relate to feeling like we've failed or somehow missed the mark. God has been gracious to minister to us through our family and other ways as we make this hard decision, but the fear of man likes to creep into our hearts sometimes and we have to be intentional about letting God's truth and peace take over.

My mom sent me this email a few days ago... it encouraged me and after reading your post, made me think of your short time in SA:

"You have always been a bright light of Jesus’ love, and that makes a difference in the life of everyone that it shines on. Trust me. All those years we worked in South Africa, all the hard things we went through over there – your dad and I have been plagued by the heaviness of feeling that our presence there really didn’t make a difference. Time has told us a different story. Years later, we find out how much of a difference our friendship made in Tyrone’s life, and in making a difference in Tyrone’s life, we have made a difference in the lives of his family and each person he ministers to. We can rejoice in each immigrant he reaches out to and feeds in downtown Durban because we prayed with him during his hard times. I know we have made a difference in Richard and Sally Ann’s lives, and in making a difference in their lives, we have made a difference in the lives of everyone in their family and congregation. The love of Jesus snowballs. You have no idea the countless lives you will touch because of what you have invested in the lives of those young people."

Love you guys! Thank you for ministering the love of Jesus no matter where you are. God be with you and give you peace as you move into a new season in life.

Stephanie said...

It sounds like you have a beautiful heart that yearns to follow God w/ everything. The "meaning" of your time in S. Africa may be unclear now, but I bet you'll look back and see something magnificent in hindsight.

P.S. Congrats on your pregnancy! Having two little girls is so much fun. :)

These Three Kings said...

Wow..thats a lot..and hard..congrats on the new addition..remmeber no matter what God promises to provide, it may not look as we want or how we thought but the provision will always be there. I pray that you all continue to live missional no matter what your calling is..master whatever arena you are in for Gods FAME! Grace and Peace