We do not yet possess ourselves, and we know at the same time that we are much more.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
This is Eldon Henry and Elsie (Stamper) Henry. They are my great-grandparents. Their legacy shapes my life even today, although they are past from this world. Eldon is the man I knew as Mr. Henry, he married my great-grandma after her first husband, James Stamper passed. Although Eldon wasn't my blood... he was every bit my Papaw. If you know my story, you know that I believe that family is not limited by genetics. Family is much bigger than that.
Mammaw & Papaw Henry were saints in my young eyes as a child. My mother would "fix" Mammaw's hair every Saturday morning and I would fly paper airplanes with "Mr. Henry." If I was feeling mischievous I would slip into the dining room and write on their dry erase board (I loved the smell of the ink). Paul Harvey would play on the radio, and then later I would listen to the Bible Hour program from Chicago. I can remember taping pocket change to paper notes and slipping them into envelopes so I could donate to that ministry. Looking back, Mr. Henry probably spent more on the postage than the value of my gift.
Mammaw and Mr. Henry had a 3 story home in a part of the city that had once been grand, but had slipped from prominence over the decades. We now had to carefully make our scurry from the car to the heavy, triple bolted front door. But, once inside... it was like the mansion described in C.S. Lewis' tale of The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe (still my favorite book of all time).
Their house had an attic that was straight from the movies... you could see the beams that held the roof, and cobwebs hung that were bigger than me. The basement had a boiler, and a coal room that was padlocked. I was sure that the lock held back some unforeseen danger. Lightbulbs hung from cords and required a pull from a small chain to turn them on. This required a walk through darkness to turn on the lights. The ancient boiler made noises unlike anything I have heard before or since. The house seemed a living, breathing entity.
I used to wander away and explore... my heart pounding as I challenged myself to explore the dark corners of the basement and the spider-claimed angles of the attic. The second floor was an unused apartment. All of the furniture was in place... dishes stood untouched for decades in the cabinets, beds were made that had not seen wrinkles in their covers for years. This was by far the most fascinating section of the home. It was like time had been frozen. I used to silently slip through those rooms... convinced that if I moved to quickly I would disturb ghosts.
All the way down the back hallway, I would ease open the thick, dark, paneled wooden door with my eyes closed as the hinges creaked and dust obscured the sunlight through the antique, distorted glass windows. This room was terrifying... but I HAD to see it. It held incredible treasures.
Mr. Henry had been a missionary when he was younger. He had spears, and shields, and clothing that were unlike anything I had ever seen. To a small boy from Preble County, Ohio... this was like Indiana Jones when he first caught glimpse of the Ark of the Covenant. And there were pictures! Pictures of Mr. Henry as a younger man, standing with the villagers.
I have never forgotten those days...
And now, my wife and I have our own pictures. We have hundreds of digital pics of us in the mountain villages outside of Guatemala city. I have a machete on the mantel of my fireplace. And we have textiles! I have 3 ties woven by women from Antigua that I were nearly every day so that I can tell people about our love for Guatemala.
I think back of my days as a boy... while Eldon allowed me to "sneak" around his home and wonder at his treasures. I see my own son, Caleb as he examines the pieces that I have brought back from a distant land... and I tell him of how our life is about to change as we align our action with our belief.
He sees us make this transition. So does his sister, Aleksandra.
Caleb has watched us adopt his two sisters... and he knows their stories well. Our family can tell you about the power of redemption. Each of us has a story to share. We can all tell you how we were once just individuals... and now we are a strong family that was brought together by the convergence and provision of God.
It has been so affirming to hold the hands of our children as we walk this transition. We have seen their confusion turn to understanding that led to questions and great fear! We have seen their fear turn to acceptance, and then enthusiasm, and now prayerful contemplation. We have had discussions of what we are leaving, abandoning, giving up... and what we are gaining. We have had serious talks about the things that can not be given up... that make us who we are, give us our identity, and how these things will never change. We talk about how God will be with us no matter where we are. We talk about how this family is not limited by international boundaries... rather, it is defined by the call of God.
And now... we see the result of our faith and our obedience. We have been talking this talk of Guatemala for over a year. Many close to us have doubted that we would really see this talk turn to reality. At times, we of course have had doubts as well. And yet... we have remained steadfast and God has been faithful. We have continued to walk the path He has laid before us.
And suddenly we are accelerating! We are thrilled! We are shell-shocked! We are giddy! We are admittedly scared! And we are good with all of this. We are eager to go. With our house rented, we have 6 weeks to reduce our belongings and move into the basement of my parent's home. Then we will have a year to pay down bills, save money, build support, further reduce our belongings, and then we will arrive in San Cristobal to begin life.
Today we loaded 2 couches and 2 dressers into a trailer and hauled them away. These were the first major pieces of furniture to leave our home. We have hauled bag after bag and box after box of books, clothes, and misc junk out over the past year... but this is the first time that items left our house and left a bare hole in the layout of our space.
Our bedroom looks wide and empty. The family room now seats 3 less people. I have a stereo piled on a tiny wooden table. Our cupboards are nearly empty. Yellow stickers cover the possessions in our home as they identify what we need to sell, and what we hope to collect. Tomorrow we will have friends and family walk through our home, and they will select items to purchase from us. This will help us prepare to move out by June 1, and it will help fund our transition. I have been contemplating this word today...
Kel and I have been married for nearly 17 years! That statistic amazes me! I was only 16 when we started dating. We have now been married longer than I had been alive when I first asked her out! Do you know how many possessions that can be acquired in 17 years? We have pursued possessions for so long... automobiles, furniture, televisions, computers, pictures, art, photographs, utensils, appliances... all things that we longed to possess.
Recently... I understood that these items we had struggled to obtain, had somehow gained an ownership of us.
We had become masters to the items that we held. Our possessions... in fact possessed us. We were held back and limited by the investments we had made into them. We had obligations, and payments, and expectations that had to be fulfilled! The pursuits of our life dictated the future path that we could take. Kel and I went to Guatemala... and our hearts were seized! Our eyes were opened! We desired to make a difference... and we were limited by our past decisions.
And yet... our belief was stronger than our circumstance. God was present in our own lives, He gave us a second chance. We found healing in desolation. We found hope and forgiveness that silenced the chaos of shattered dreams. I experienced the love that comes from God, and I could not deny its power and truth.
Our possessions simply have to go. They do not have enough value to cost us the desire of our souls. We are not brave... we are not anything accept desperate to hold on to the truth that we grasp. Nothing else is more valuable than the love of God.
Once you have experienced such great truth... how can it not radically change your life? Once you have seen such great faith manifest in the barefoot dust of a mountain village... how can you not be challenged?
We are doing our best to be obedient. We are desperate for your partnership. We are confident that God will provide. We hope that you will be blessed to be a piece of this provision. Prayerfully consider partnering with us.
You can start today.
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Romans 6:22-23But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.