“This is our mission, and our suffering has not caused us to stop walking in the same direction. We march forward.”Brian Schlottmann
When our international team arrived in Schwenningen this January, my spirit was torn. Reveling from an amazing semester the team experienced in Puerto Rico, I also was combatting the intense coronary heart disease of my wife, Beba. While on one hand, I saw a record enrollment for our organization, new staff, the birth of a second team and location, and the growth of some of the most amazing students one could know. On the other hand, the continued suffering of Beba seemed to weigh throughout it all.
Just two days before the team’s arrival, Beba was released from the Frankfurt University Hospital in Germany where she received her sixth catheterization within a year and two additional stents in a critical artery. Yet again, Beba, while having all the faith in the world that God can help her, was facing another life-threatening emergency.
Even while this suffering loomed, we knew the Abante mission we were created to accomplish. We were reminded throughout this process that God has continued to give us grace to lead our organization for six years and to further our footprint in over 22 countries, and counting. This is our mission, and the suffering did not cause us to stop walking in the same direction. We marched forward.
We proceeded with caution and determination, introducing our team to Schwenningen Church of God. The colleagues were able to acclimate to the European culture and build relationships that follow them all the way to ETS, the European Theological Seminary they study at after our 6 weeks of travel. Some of the colleagues got to play in the snow for the first time in their lives. Others were surprised to experience the diversity of Germany. It was so rewarding witnessing for the first time much of their training being applied to this fresh experience.
After Schwenningen, we headed towards Belgium to serve for a week in several churches and organizations. However, an hour into our journey from Germany to Belgium, our van broke down in Stuttgart. We were thankfully rescued by a local seminary student, Fabian Richter, from our partner, ETS. Fabian’s family was kind and welcomed us into their home, where we stayed for three nights, ate their food, and became a part of their family as we waited for the van to be repaired.
Every year the Holy Spirit speaks to us about a common message and theme throughout our time in Europe. This year it has been about “Faith that Propels Us Forward.” Many of our sermons, experiences and organic conversations have centered around this topic with the Europeans we have visited. However, I believe the people who have benefited most from the message have been Beba and myself.
We have yet to find resolution regarding Beba’s health. Her future is uncertain and we do not see past a month of life at a time. Yet, we are compelled to practice what we preach. The kind of faith that pleases God is the kind that allows us to take action on the assignments that God has given us. It sounds good from the pulpit or on a podcast, but in practice, I have personally found it harder to live out.
“I can admit that I am too weak to produce this type of faith on my own.”
As a matter fact, I can admit that I am too weak to produce this type of faith on my own. Thankfully—as the book of Ephesians points out—this faith is given to us as a gift from God. Many have told me about their high respect for me, how they have been inspired by our story to persevere, and how they see us as examples in their own Christian walk because of the valiant strength, faith, and perseverance Beba and I have. Always to these comments, I chuckle, smile back and confess that I am totally ill-prepared and too weak to properly face my current situation. I also remind them that this faith is a gift from God and that they can be assured that when the time comes in their life where they need this same level of faith to move forward and take action, that it will be there for them—as it is for me.
My heart is encouraged as we travel with our colleagues. I am hopeful for the future of the church, and I rejoice as I see the Kingdom of God come alive in the hearts of my disciples. Though Beba’s future is still unclear, we both have faith that it is a future that is meant not to harm us but to prosper us as Jeremiah 29:11 states.