I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas season with your families! Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year, and now that we’re out in South Carolina, we get the added bonus of having our very own Winter Wonderland! The above picture was taken at the little creek that runs through the woods behind our house. With just a handful of snowy days each year, it seems like the perfect balance of the seasons for Tina and I. The kids made snow angels and snowmen, had snowball fights, went sledding and would have stayed outside all day long if we would have let them! It really is the most wonderful time of the year...and I believe that’s in large part because people are just a little friendlier, smiles come a little easier, and things are just a little closer to how God intended them to be.
Discerning God's voice...through our 6-year-old
From mid-November to early January, I was working a holiday assignment with the USPS. It was a wonderful blessing of provision, but it unfortunately didn’t allow for much family time (six 12-hour days/week during the holidays that I love so much!). During this time, we experienced an unexpected downturn on the homefront, and began wondering what God was trying to communicate to us.
Evan was hit especially hard with our schedule adjustment. My working from home had allowed him 24/7 access to daddy, which suddenly dropped to about 3 hours a day literally overnight. Within the first couple weeks of this new schedule, he became withdrawn—still sweet and gentle, but confused and unconfident. He would avoid answering questions with a “yes” or “no”; instead saying, “maybe” or, “What do you think I would want?”. He stopped praying, refused to say “amen” when we prayed together, wouldn’t say “I’m sorry” and stopped saying, “I love you”.
He would find creative ways to express himself with other words and phrases, but just didn’t seem able to use these particular words that he’d been using perfectly well for years. When we would tell him, “I love you,” he would either ask a random question to change the subject, or give an incoherent mumble. It was heartbreaking. Over those two months, we spent many hours talking with him about why his behavior had changed. He would initially try to change the subject, but once getting into it he would begin crying and say he didn’t know why he couldn’t say “yes”, “no”, “amen”, “I’m sorry” and “I love you”. He acknowledged that he was doing it consciously, but couldn’t explain why.
While still dealing with Tina's health issues and working a job that seemed to be delaying us from the ministry we so desperately want to immerse ourselves in, this latest development really seemed like the last thing we needed. I will admit to asking God, "Why does life get increasingly difficult the more we follow You?" But in those times, I have to remind myself that God doesn't need me to accomplish His work, but rather, gives me the privilege of being involved in what He's doing. In fact, it seems that each of these progressive challenges addresses my heart (realizing that I can share my faith more wherever I am, not just while abroad), my habits (self-discipline and frequency of witnessing) and my preconceptions (how much I can handle, both emotionally and physically). Suddenly, it seemed like all these obstacles to our ministry are more likely preparation for our ministry, which in turn has made me quite receptive to what God is teaching me! In 2 Corinthians 4:17, Paul says,
"For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are unseen are eternal."
So far, I'll tell you I've had to trust God more in the past two years than at any other time in my life. I've learned that He gives me strength to handle more than I thought possible...then the load increases...and it increases again, and each time the measure of strength He provides is sufficient. As volatile as our circumstances may be, there is one constant—One who has never, and will never change; Who is faithful even when I'm not; Who is strong when I am weak; Who never asks more of anyone than according to the ability He has given them. And let me tell you my experience with Him: He has never failed me. Do you think this experience and perspective may come in handy in the mission field? I have no doubt that it will (as frightening as that thought can be!). He has never failed me.
After my eight-week appointment at the post office ended, I returned to the job search. But, after three weeks of complete non-responsiveness on numerous positions I was perfectly qualified for, I sat down to put in some focused prayer-time on the subject. The only problem was my mind kept asking, “Wouldn’t my time be better spent getting our support-team assembled than looking for another temporary job?" I couldn’t shake it. So I shifted my focus and asked God to give me direction and to give Tina and I a sense of unity in that direction. A couple hours later, I checked my e3 email and had a message from my manager informing me that we now had enough in our support account to begin drawing a partial salary while we focus full-time on completing our support-building! Wow. That was crazy. So at lunch time, I told the kids about what had transpired and asked them to be praying that God would give us a clear direction. That night as we put the kids down to bed, Evan volunteered to pray, asking, “God, please let daddy start working on missions work again”. The following night, for the first time in over two months, as I put him in bed, he said, “I love you.” Then he got out of bed, ran into our bedroom and told Tina, “I love you, mommy. I’ll always love you.” Needless to say, there were a few tears, and a sense of divine confirmation that we were heading in the right direction, in the right time. The following day at lunch, we thanked God for His direction, and informed the kids we would be resuming our team-assembly, to which Evan exclaimed, "God answered!"
As we return to full-time support-team building, we ask you to join us in prayer. Right now, we have 28% of our monthly support committed and coming in. We need to get the remaining 72% committed over the next four to six months. This seems like a huge challenge to me—but something tells me the God who spoke the universe into existence won’t have a problem with it. The thing is, this process isn’t just about getting me into the mission field. God is assembling a team of His children to get involved in the harvest. Team members who will pray faithfully, team members who will contribute financial resources, and team members who will go share the gospel with the lost. Could He simply provide the finances we need through a winning lottery ticket left in our mailbox? Of course! But that would require less faith on our part and could deprive others of the privilege and blessing of being involved in what He is doing! Would you please join us in praying for the following?
Prayer Requests"God, please...
•prepare the hearts of those You want on this ministry team;
•help Matt and Tina connect with those people;
•give each person you call the faith and courage to obediently respond to your calling.Amen."
We trust that as we seek Him and follow the path He is laying out before us, that He will provide everything we need. Can I ask you one more thing? Would you start thinking about whether there is anyone you know who may be interested in hearing about our ministry? I will follow up with you in the coming weeks to see if God has put anyone on your heart to share this opportunity with!
Thank you all!The Brown FamilyClick here to subscribe to our newsletter via email!
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Matt Brown, e3 Partners Ministries
1735 Memorial Drive Extension
Greer, SC 29651
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