When Joy Sneaks Up on You

Some times joy just sneaks up on you. You find joy in the least likely places. Today it was an email from Southwest Air letting me know that on April 2 Bethany Grace Ferguson’s flight would be arriving in Nashville. Great joy. Turns a day following a stressful night into a wonderful day what Debbie and I now call a Dee Dah Day after reading John Ortburg’s The Life You Always Wanted (again as I have said before don’t let the title fool you not the kind of self-fulfillment that preacher in Texas would be talking about).

As many of my blog followers know my daughter Bethany is a missionary. Started off as a short term missionary in Uganda teaching the children of missionaries. I visited her there in 2005 and came to understand why she loves Africa. Many people who go once feel like they simply must go back. At least one more trip to Africa is on my bucket list.

Me and Bethany at the Equator in Uganda - 2005

Then she returned to the States to get a degree in Biblical counseling and then heard God’s call to return to Africa with a new team with World Harvest in Southern Sudan to help with education, counseling, pastoral training, fresh water production, you name it is in her “job description”.

Lots of people have romantic ideas about missionaries: above average saints, people who have no desire for the nice pleasures of this life, people called to sacrifice. I have known many missionaries over the past 30 years and most of them are more like me and you than you would imagine. My daughter for examples loves manicures, pedicures, fine coffee, exotic restaurants and massages (the very first massage I hand was one Bethany bought for me as a gift at an African safari park – but that is another story). She is a missionary, however, because that is what God has called her to.

Bethany enjoying fine coffee in Philadelphia - her adopted home town

She loves the people of Southern Sudan, though she weeps at their struggles, poverty and suffering. This is what God has fitted her for. As for me I would much rather have a daughter who stayed in the States, got married, presented me with grandchildren but she is first and foremost God’s daughter and He loves her much more than I do.

So now she live a live without Starbucks, pedicures and even indoor plumbing but this is what she has been prepared for all her life. So we call her via internet calling cards and try occasionally to Skype her just so we can see her face but that doesn’t seem to work most of the time.

Students in Mundri

So we talk and wait until she can get home. So today we heard  that she will touch down on April 2 and we (me and Debbie) float with joy. Joy that we have not known in many days. Though we know it is only for a short time. While she is here she will: go to Asia to share the gospel to Christians there who struggle in a hostile environment  (if you wonder about Christians needing to hear the gospel make sure you check out the mission she serves with РWorld Harvest Mission Рwww.whm.org), take part in the wedding of her former housemate from Sudan and help a friend in Philadelphia move. We look forward with great delight to the days we will have with her.

There are several “divine ironies” to this whole situation with our daughter. One is that the mission she serves with is one that Debbie and I have been involved with for almost 20 years. And on top of that one of my friends from seminary, Josiah Bancroft, has rejoined the mission there and now provides spiritual support for the missionaries (like Bethany) who serve with World Harvest. I met Josiah the very first day I started classes at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS in 1977 and now 30+ years later, he is ministering side by side with my daughter.

Our latest picture of Bethany with our good friend, Josiah.

So Debbie and I look forward to great longing to seeing our daughter. We know that the visit will not be as long as we would like but we know that our daughter is serving on the front lines of God’s kingdom and she delights in that as much as she does in lattes and running along the Schuylkill.