Wednesday, March 02, 2011

O Be With Them

"Friends, and home, and all forsaking,
Lord they go at Thy command,
As their stay Thy promise taking,
While they traverse sea and land:
O be with them; O be with them;
Lead them safely by the hand.
O be with them; O be with them;
Lead them safely by the hand."

The church continued to sing as I looked up from my copy of the hymn. I looked to my right and saw my family sitting up against the side wall. Andrew, Ian, Dad, Mom, and Sarah. They sat there, some singing along with the church, others trying to hold back the tears.

The church was singing this hymn as a way to send them off to Zambia. For the past nine years every church we have attended has, at some point, sent us off to the next place God has for us. Only this time the sending off was slightly different.

I looked to my left and saw Damarise. We were both feeling the same way. Neither of us were singing but rather listening to the words while trying to hold back the flow of tears that threatened to come. It was the first time in nine years that Damarise and I weren't being sent off with the family. We were on the opposite end of the spectrum, the end doing the action, not receiving it.

I looked around at the rest of the faces singing. Our church family. They loved us, prayed for us, and encouraged us. These were the people sending Dad, Mom, Sarah, Ian, and Andrew out with prayers.

I joined in on the last verse. My eyes watery and my voice hardly audible.

"There to reap in joy forever,
Fruit that grows from seed here sown;
There to be with Him, who never
Ceases to preserve His own;
And with gladness, and with gladness,
Give the praise to Him alone.
And with gladness, and with gladness,
Give the praise to Him alone."

"And with gladness." Right then, sitting in the metal folding chair looking at my family, sorrow seemed a more eminent emotion. "And with gladness, give the praise to Him alone." Gladness? My family is moving an ocean away, how could gladness be felt right now?

The church ended the service in prayer for our family. And as the prayers poured out to God, I realized there was reason for gladness.

God has blessed me with an amazing family. This weekend was a strong reminder of that. We love each other, we laugh with each other, and we enjoy being with each other. There are not too many families who are blessed with that. And, on top of that, my family follows the Lord no matter where He chooses to lead them.

As people continued to pray, I was reminded of God's faithfulness to our family. He has led us every step of the way. He led us away from Arkansas into the life of missions nine years ago, and He has been faithfully leading every step of the way. He saved Ian's life, and protected all of us multiple times. He was with us through the rough times, and through the times where life was grand. Always, always, God is faithful.

The prayers ended, and with gladness I gave the praise to God alone.

I thank God that He has chosen my family to serve Him in Zambia. I'm thankful that they listen to His direction and follow Him no matter where it takes them. I'm thankful that even though we may be separated by miles of ocean and land, nothing can ever separate us from the love of Christ and the unity we have in Him. I'm thankful that even though most of my family will be in Zambia, God has blessed me with my wonderful older sister, Damarise, and with wonderful brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Even though the tears did flow, and the goodbyes still hurt, God was, is, and always will be faithful. And what a wondrous promise that is to hold onto.

1 comment:

amy said...

Oh, Hannah! I'm sure this is being hard for all of you. I know you'll miss your family & they will all miss you. I'm praying for you! I prayed for you while you were home this past weekend...that even with "goodbyes" you would have a wonderful time together & make lots of wonderful memories to go back and remember. Praying that the Lord will give you his comfort, strenth, joy, and peace now. Love you!