Celebrating Our Silver – We Got By With a Lot of Help – and a Little Heat – From Our Friends!
25 years ago, today, I stood in the garden of the YWAM Philippines Balut Missionary Base in Manila without stateside friends or family present and committed to the most important decision of my life. As one very close friend recounted during our celebration of this momentous decision a few weeks ago, at the time, the decision was controversial and was met with a great deal of skepticism. Of the many people I approached for blessing, my pastor opposed the decision, several professors in my seminary did, and some family friends were fearful to say the least. My mentor’s wife and her friends were very vocal in their opposition to my decision and a few acquaintances were convinced I had experienced a break with reality. On Luz’s side, fear was the most prominent sentiment, with many of her friends voicing concerns and advising caution. One trusted mentor reasoned that this scenario of the “American Knight in Shining Armor coming to the rescue” was the worst thing that could happen and just not what Luz and the girls needed. In many ways, it felt like we were astronauts poised for lift off, while the Mission Control specialists ticked off all of the broken systems that pointed to a need to scrub the launch: “Finances – no go. Time acquainted with each other – no go. Living space – no go. Definitive plan for the future – no go. Plan for immigration for Luz and the girls – no go. Broad support of spiritual leaders and advisors – no go.” With all of these elements in question, why in the world did we take the bold and seemingly crazy step of getting married anyway?
Things were not quite as they appeared. Both of us were blessed with the support and blessings of our immediate families and our very closest friends. Those who knew us best and heard all of the facts, understood that our situation was somewhat unusual, but felt that the two of us were rather unusual as well, and that based on knowing us, our histories and our way of thinking and approach to life, the scenario actually made sense. Our friends had first asked us tough questions, tested our motives, closely scrutinized each of us and confronted us with unpleasant and challenging possibilities of the future. After subjecting us to a gauntlet of tests, blessings were given. In addition, Luz and I also scrutinized each other. Luz tested me on all fronts, observing how I dealt with anger, disappointment, difficulties and being out of my comfort zone for extended periods of time. I had the privilege of observing Luz under pressure, in tough situations and saw in her a woman who was capable of handling any challenge that life could throw at her. Besides testing each other, we prayed – and fasted- a lot! We didn’t pray out of desperation but in preparation.
While apart from each other, we spent one day a week for 6 months coordinating a time of fasting and prayer where we replaced our physical nourishment with the spiritual food of prayer, meditation and contemplation. We searched our own hearts and focused on preparing ourselves for the challenges that awaited us. We allowed further scrutiny from supportive friends and targeted areas that clearly need work. We then continued to ask each other the toughest questions we could formulate. After being ruthlessly candid about our life views on every subject we could consider, and sparing no effort to discover the real people behind our smiles, we KNEW we were made for each other. At that point, the opposition mattered very little to us. We had faith in each other as the team that had to “fly the rocket” and we had absolute faith in the Director of Mission Control – the Lord – believing that He was not only with us but had indeed orchestrated our coming together.
Why look back on the naysayers and challenges to our coming together as we celebrate our Silver Anniversary? To stick out tongues out at those individuals time proved to be wrong? It is tempting, but no, that’s not the reason. I remember those who questioned our coming together and I am as thankful for them as I am those who were supportive from the beginning. Because of the tough questions these dear friends asked, and the skepticism with which they viewed our potential union, Luz and I were forced to look beyond the surface into the depths of the realities of the heart. Because of friends who were courageous enough to ask us if we really knew what we were doing and if we had seriously counted the costs and the risks, we actually counted the costs and risks and prepared ourselves for the journey that awaited us. I look back at those individuals because once Luz and I were committed to each other in marriage, these friends committed themselves to walk with us in support and encouragement in spite of their doubts – even my mentor’s wife and her entourage! That commitment to help us and to basically work to see that disaster did not happen, has provided a testimony of love and faithfulness that all involved can now celebrate!
Our 25th anniversary has provided us with the opportunity to thank God for all of our friends, as we realize that we’ve made it this far because so many cared and so many shared – even when they thought we were wrong! That’s what makes this Silver Anniversary such a shining moment! Through each step of our journey as a family, we’ve been blessed to have committed friends stand with us. We appreciate all you have done to make it easier for us to fully experience the love God gave us for each other. Luz and I have committed once again to continue walking together in life and we invite you all to continue to walk with us in encouragement, advisement and love. With friends like you and God’s love binding us together, we can’t wait to see what will unfold in the years ahead. Thank you for being our friends – it has made all of the difference!
With great love and appreciation,
Sam and Luz