2011 has been a year of tremendous fruit and blessing for my family and ministry. A year ago at this time, Mary and I were experiencing our first Christmas as empty nesters and preparing for the departure of our son, daughter in law, and his family who were moving to Costa Rica. Just weeks before Christmas 2010, our son, daughter in law, and daughter all graduated from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where I am on faculty. That same evening, we held the rehearsal for our daughter, Molly, who married Daniel the following day.
Within a matter of weeks, Mary and I had gone from living in our very full home to a very empty nest and found the holiday season upon us. It was a sad season, yet we were grateful to God for the circumstances that had emptied our nest—in fact, we had prayed for exactly this—desiring for our son and his family to be enabled to be obedient to their missionary call and for God to give our daughter, in whom we saw so many gifts fitting for a wife, a godly husband.
The new year brought even more blessings. Mary and I were able to enjoy spending more time with one another. Christopher, Carol, and Abraham settled into Costa Rican life and gave us 2011’s most precious gift, granddaughter Anna Elizabeth Sills. Molly and Daniel began their life together and we were able to watch our daughter thrive as a wife. In addition to God’s faithfulness shown through my family, He has also overwhelmed me with blessings in ministry. 2011 saw many opportunities to serve Him through my role at SBTS as well as RTIM. His blessings included the honor of preaching at churches and conferences in the United States, Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Mexico, Kenya and as far away as the United Arab Emirates. I am still amazed by the special privileges allowed to me personally such as speaking at the 2011 Desiring God National Conference and leading pastoral and missionary training classes through several organizations on four different continents.
When we left the mission field and returned to the United States nine years ago for me to join the faculty of SBTS, I was concerned that I would not be able to stay fresh with what was happening on the field and wanted to ensure that I was still being faithful to my missionary call. One of the things for which I am most thankful is that God has given me the opportunity to stay involved in what is happening around the world. I had the opportunity to serve overseas on eight separate trips this year and have been blessed to see my students graduating and going out to every corner of the earth. I am thrilled that at least one couple who went with me on a mission trip this year, and who had zero interest in missions prior to that trip, felt God’s missionary call during that week and are now on their way to the mission field.
As a new believer a few decades ago, I would often steal away on my lunch hour to read the Bible at the city library or pray in the open sanctuary of a downtown church. I was hungry for Truth and eager to believe that the years I had squandered living for the world could be overcome with years of radical, faithful service to the Kingdom. Since that time I have always been driven by that sense of commitment. Yet, with all things there should be balance. And if I had to identify one key change I am making for 2012, it is that I am in search of balance. I still want to be as faithful to serve the Kingdom as I have always been, but realize that wisdom and faithfulness means that I must strive for not just quantity, but quality. I realized somewhere in the midst of teaching an extension class in Jackson, TN along with my regular class load, recent promotion to Associate Dean, and all my other administrative roles at SBTS, while also traveling to preach, speak, and serve that I was doing a lot—sometimes too much—and often I barely had time to breathe.
2011 saw many new beginnings for my family and after a season of experiencing this new normal, I’m launching a new beginning of my own! I’ll continue to do all God has called me to do, but I am going to try to ensure that this includes a healthy balance of service, personal growth, family, and leisure (I’m still trying to figure out what leisure is, though!). Along these lines, we are always looking for additional volunteers to help with the work of RTIM, so please let us know if you are in a position to offer some of your time or services to help us as we seek to be obedient to the task to which we have been called. I receive requests for RTIM teams to come teach and minister in other countries, from stateside believers who want to serve on a team, or from churches who want to get started with RTIM virtually every week. RTIM could be a full time job with more opportunities than any single person could handle. We need and welcome your help to grow and respond to all that God is bringing our way.
The desire for balance is coming just as more changes are on the way for our family in 2012. Christopher, Carol, Abraham, and Anna Beth are raising support to move to Ecuador and hope to be there in a matter of months. Then, in June, we are expecting our third grandchild, this time a little baby Patterson, due to our daughter Molly and her husband, Daniel. I think of my grandchildren (who are cuter and smarter than yours, just in case you are wondering) and marvel at the incredible family and rewarding ministry He has given me. I want my grandchildren to know that their Papi loved them and served the Lord, and served Him wisely every day. I want them to see that a crucial part of that kind of life is making decisions to grow in fruitful ministry every year. May it be for each of us this year and next. Soli Deo Gloria!