The place of growth has always been where adversity resides. This is true for my spiritual growth as well as my personal growth. I have always been pleasantly surprised about your acceptance of me as me. I have been away from the “normal” church life for four long years, and yet, when I finally found the courage to come back, you have welcomed me with arms wide open. I felt as if I have never been away at all. This gives me a glimpse of the profound reality of God’s unchanging love.
I faced tremendous challenge in my work there in Abu Dhabi. There were times when I wanted to just give up and walk away from it all. It was always too easy to give up. But then, there was the church family. I found sustaining strength, from the small group that I and my wife attended. I know you, the people who were there. I shall not mention any names but, I shall never forget you all. You were there at the lowest point in my life. And when I found victory or triumph in my spiritual as well as in my everyday life battles you were there to share it with. I know that you faced the same kind of battles that I did and
yet you always found time to encourage a downtrodden brother such as me. You never had to say anything. Just the fact that you accepted me just as I am was enough. The very thought that I knew that I belonged and was accepted was extremely comforting. This was all that I needed. And if you come to think of it, this is exactly what all of us need: to know that we are loved, no matter what or who we are. Jesus accepts us just as we are and He knows that it is what we need most. The small group has been God’s instrument in fulfilling this into reality.
We had faced many a spiritual battle in our church life together. It made me realize that war is never over until Jesus comes. There is never a time that we can leave our guards down…never. We’ve lost some battles and won some. But, the most difficult ones are those that shattered the relationships among the brethren. Those are the battles that nobody wins or ever will. We must remember that the church is primarily relationship centred and relationship driven. The Word of God is explicit about this; love God above all, and love your neighbour as yourself. That is why if we have fractured our relationships among our brethren, then we have lost our mandate as a church.
When my family and I left for “greener (or colder) pasture,” we felt like we were leaving behind our family, and rightly so, because, after all we are one big family of God. I was surprised at the thought that people came out of their way to give us a very pleasant farewell. I was even more surprised with the testimonies of some people that showed how much they appreciated the presence of our family. You may never know how much it meant to me. Especially considering that I always thought of myself as a “difficult person” to be friends with. Some of you never said anything much. You never had to. We understand that there are still no words that were invented to verbalize some of our deepest feelings. I find comfort in knowing that when we left, some of the broken relationships have started to find wholeness once again. It is never ever easy to mend broken relationships but it is never impossible. Healing comes only through God’s grace. With God, all things are possible.
If I have to mention some regrets, it would be that I may have lost some good friends along the way. I am glad for those friends that I have hurt but found time to ask for forgiveness. Your forgiveness meant so much to me. For those that I forgot to ask forgiveness for, I humbly ask them now. I am sorry for those I may have hurt along the way for one reason or another. There is no reason or an excuse to hurt anybody. This is especially true among brethren.
If there is anything that I am thankful for, it would be that I am truly grateful for spending a slice of my life with you all. I’ve grown much in spirit and in facing life as a whole because of my experience in the church life over there. I left a part of me right there. I may be someone who is never truly misses (or pretends to be), but I know that in the deep recesses of my heart a part of my life is missing because I left it there with you. Being away from each other is not something that we must fret about. This is not much of a tragic situation anymore. There is always the internet and, of course, FB. We may never meet again in person and may never smell each other’s bad breath ever again. But the greatest tragedy of this all is that if we do not see each other in heaven. We must continue to hold on to that blessed hope and hopefully find time to pray for each other’s well-being. My family and I are forever grateful for the prayers offered to God to accompany us in our new life in a strange land. My family and I love you. God will bless us all.