Eight years ago we left our lovely three storey Edwardian house with a car load of things and headed off with our three children to live and serve in Albania. We arrived and settled into life in a nice house, once we got rid of the fleas.
People asked us why we would give up everything and go, it didn’t make any sense. But it did to us. Our belief in God and our desire to live our lives for Him meant we had said we would go wherever He thought best, do whatever He asked and trust. WE were faithful.
After two years we knew we were to set up a centre for children and young people in this deprived settlement where hopelessness had made her home. So we asked our church and they helped us with the finance and there were some rocky moments, some tough challenges, threats to us but we saw these children and young people grow in God, learn in their own lives, become more than they thought and realise that they mattered. We saw in their smiles, in their chatter as they crowded round the gate waiting to get in that this was what God had wanted. Our CHURCH was faithful, WE were faithful.
When we felt we should move from our nicer house on the tarmac road to the mud lane swamp area we found a four room house. It was ground floor, had an entry space that we could put a kitchen and a sofa in, we could use two other rooms for bedrooms and a bathroom. Sure it also had mould covering the walls and it was TINY, but we knew this was to be our home and so we packed our stuff into a van and moved. WE were faithful.
Two years ago we set off on a plane, accompanied by our suitcases and a van full of boxes (by the road) and returned to the UK. We were due to have our fourth child, we knew that this time in Albania to live was at an end but we didn’t know what lay ahead. WE were faithful.
In the months ahead we discovered we had to prove our nationality that we had gained at birth but lost living overseas, we lost our entitlements to benefits and help. We had some friends who continued to support us and the dwindling monthly income stretched miraculously. Neil went for interview after interview to be told he was a close second, over qualified, too experienced. But we kept going, we had our baby and placed her in a charity shop basket, in second hand clothes, we told the children they couldn’t go on school trips and we all learnt the walk of a land where your passport fits but your heart does not. It was dark, it was tough, it seemed never ending. But WE were faithful.
Two years on and I have my dream job, it is incredible and beyond what I could have ever felt I would be offered – tutoring at the Centre for Youth Ministry on the degree course. Neil is a university student – he never felt he could do academic work but continues to strive for his best and passes well each semester. We both also have the incredible privilege of working in our home church who had supported us for so long and seeing another generation grow in passion and life for God. We have our four amazing children, three at school who have faced challenges of bullying, fitting in, learning a new language and continue to fly high and smile and take each challenge. Lilijana, chatters and sings and worships like I have never seen a child before, her heart just overflows. Then after temporary accommodation for the past two years we bought and have moved into our new home. A stunning three story, five bedroom, four bathroom, kitchen, diner, double garage, lovely garden, moments away from a nature park in one direction and the play park in the other. Our two cars sit on the driveway when they aren’t going to our many activities. Our life is full. But God was NOT faithful.
I don’t mean He hasn’t blessed us continually, incredibly, wonderfully and miraculously. Oh my goodness He HAS! But this was not because He was faithful in the sense it seems it is often used. It is not a REWARD for what we have done, given, been. He doesn’t need to pay us, He didn’t owe us for our time of ‘sacrifice’, He wasn’t in debt to us for asking us to do things. That was our choice as our commitment and belief, that was more valuable to us than other people could ever understand and that was us, being us. God is a God of incredible love, a ‘good, good father’ as we like to sing – He gives because He loves to, He loves us and He can. He isn’t faithful in paying back something that was never a cost, beyond a Call.
When we think this is God’s faithfulness what do we do when the job interviews all failed, we had no income, we are living in that mouldy little house? Was God not being faithful then? Oh, the stories of that precious home, the memories of that neighbourhood and the place it has in our hearts are more than the flash new build. God’s faithfulness is not linked to payment or payback but linked to His never ending, never failing, never giving up love. People say ‘God is Faithful’ in terms of a payback, a settling but how cheap that makes His love and His Call. Faithful is His persistent love, faithful is His walking through the storms, faithful is His Call to adventure and life, Faithful.