How can we thank God enough?1
Paul asked this question only to highlight the answer:
If we could put a spiritual stethoscope on the two short but gospel-sweet books that the Apostle wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica, we’d hear a heart beating oh-so strongly and ever-so steadily with thankfulness.
Because God was clearly at work in these people’s lives. Paul could see ripe fruit on the Thessalonian “trees.” Paul was overwhelmed at God’s hand of blessing on his work of ministry. Like air bursting out of a pin-struck balloon, Paul’s Love-struck heart exploded with thankfulness!
For the very same reason: Like Paul, I am dumbfounded and awestruck at the evidence of God’s love in His people. One of many missionaries left staggering at the experience of it all is….me.
In fact, it happens to me every furlough.
Let me explain.
Every two years or so, WELS missionaries and their families have an opportunity to return back to the good ‘ol USA, to the land of chocolate chips and choices. Two months later they pack those tiny morsels of Nestle goodness, choke out tearful goodbyes and board a plane.
Long layovers in airports and longer rides in aircrafts have a way of giving a person time to reflect on the question that keeps coming up in their minds: What just happened? Looking back on a two month furlough seems like a 60 day blur. Yes, what DID just happen?
Well, what really happened was…God. God “happened.”
In other words, God was active in His people with His grace, mercy and forgiveness, and in turn, those very people were active in their faith and life. I witnessed again what had the Apostle Paul beaming with joy: Christ-filled people doing Christ-like things:
Acts of love.
Expressions of kindness.
Words of encouragement.
Words from the WORD.
Like a steady stream, God’s grace flowed freely from His people with…
Offers of help.
Blessings of grace.
Each work a fruit of faith. Each person a 21st century Thessalonian.
“We always thank God…for your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”2
“We ought always to thank God for you… because your faith is growing more and more and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing…”3
Paul had his myriad reasons to thank God and I have mine. After every furlough, even though I already know the answer (we can’t!) I have the same question…“Lord, how can I thank you enough for…
Our families? Though we disrupt their routines, they welcome us with open arms; they feed us, house us and put up with all of our packing and unpacking, moving in and moving out, our comings and our goings. Lord, we see that dads, moms, brothers, sisters and extended family are there for us because You have been there for them.
My wife? Lord what did I do to deserve such a person as my life-long companion and mother to our children? Oh, that’s right, not a thing. Mindy, you are a gift from God’s hand. Thank you for walking hand-in-hand with me on this mission journey.
My children? Rachel and Heather, you consider me as DAD #2. I’m overjoyed that your #1 Father is your Heavenly one. No dad could be prouder (or more thankful).
Christian friends of Rachel and Heather? You are an answer to prayer. I could list your names but you know who you are. Mission kids sometimes wonder where they fit in, so many thanks to you who befriend them and give them time and space to do that. We are grateful for you being there when mission parents can’t. Did I already tell you that you’re an answer to prayer?
Friends? They adjust already-crammed schedules and juggle already-filled time to spend a few moments or a few days with us. Lord, even though we tell them, these special people may not even know just how important they are in our lives.
Our brothers in the gospel ministry? What a privilege to sit in a pew on furlough and hear solid Biblical preaching and teaching. Thank you, brothers, for your hard work and faithful ministry in your congregations. We appreciate the well prepared meals of grace on Sunday mornings. We are weekly uplifted and eternally grateful!
Congregations which request a mission festival preacher and/or presenter? Thank you for allowing us time in your church and Fellowship rooms. The meals you prepare, the banner you display and the offerings you give ALL speak of your passion for Christ and His mission.
The Board for World Missions and office staff? All of you together make for a great team. You keep your finger on the pulse of world missions and your heart on the people being served. Thank you for everything from rental cars to furlough housing. You take great care of Called Workers.
Malawi Mission Partners? If I could invite you all over for a meal in the Warm Heart of Africa, I would. It would be wonderful, not only to eat with you but get to know you. If we don’t get to sit around a dining table in Malawi, we will in heaven. I look forward to the banquet.
Administrative Committee members? Many WELS people may not be aware of the extent of your work – or your love. Your work day extends past business hours and your love extends beyond America’s borders. Because of you we are blessed. Africa-size thanks.
Former Missionaries? Because you faithfully plowed fields and planted seeds in mission lands years ago, we can water what was sown. We thank Jesus for your many years of faithful service in His Harvest fields. Let’s have coffee and share stories!
Schools? God has guided mission kids to go into a variety of callings, from medicine to military to full time ministers of the gospel. The USA is filled with opportunity for good education. Special thanks for schools such as Bethany Lutheran College, Wisconsin Lutheran College, Martin Luther College and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary that keep the most important the most important: Christ!
* Written by Missionary John Holtz, Malawi, Africa
- 1 Thessalonians 3:9
- 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3
- 2 Thessalonians 1:3
- For a recent article on NPH see Forward in Christ magazine, September 2016 issue, page 26.
- For a recent article on MLP see Forward in Christ magazine, Bonus Issue Every Neighbor Every Nation WELS Missions and You, page 30.