Deputation Reflections from 2020

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January seems to be the perfect time of year for goal setting and reflection. As our family sat down to reflect on the past twelve months, we realized a few themes that we kept coming back to. Here are a few reflections from 2020 we wanted to share.

But first, yes, 2020 was a hard year in many ways.

As a nation, we faced unprecedented times thank to the virus. But, despite the challenges, 2020 was a year when we could clearly see God working. And, we learned to trust Him more.

God Has Things Under Control

No matter how much our plans changed in 2020, we have never been more sure that God has everything under control. Covid-19 did not take God by surprise. And, most importantly, His will was still being done – even with the pandemic going on.

This past year, we really learned to trust God. Our plans were not His plans this year. And once we realized this, we had two choices:

  1. Fight against God’s plan and try to find ways to make sure we can still do what we want
  2. Accept that God’s plans are better and submit to His leading

Going against God doesn’t tend to work out too well. So though we didn’t always understand why certain things were happening, we prayed more and submitted to God.

And you know what we discovered? Being where God wants you to be is an amazing place – even when it’s not where you thought you’d be. As we reflected over our year, we realized just how clearly God had been working in our lives.

Seeing God Work

In 2020, God allowed us to present our ministry in 19 different churches around the country, despite the shut-downs. We presented in:

  • Washington
  • Oregon
  • Idaho
  • Montana
  • Illinois
  • Missouri
  • Kansas

Additionally, Bryan spoke at a Teen Camp in Arkansas.

During the past year, we also spent about four months at Missionary Acres. You can read about our summer of service in this post:

A Summer at Missionary Acres

Though our original goal for 2020 was to present in 25 churches, we are so thankful for the 19 that we were able to be in. It was a huge blessing to meet so many people serving God. No matter which state we were in, we were able to fellowship with other believers – that is so sweet.

Our other goal was to end 2020 at 50% support. Since we started the year barely past 10%, this was a huge goal. And do you know what? God provided.

Several new churches and individuals joined our support team.

And, Baptist Mid-Missions agreed to allow us to self-fund about half of our support – an amount that Lisa’s freelance writing and VA business provides each month.

Between these two things, we are now at 87.5% – which is just amazing. We are thrilled by how God has worked to get us closer to Missionary Acres.

Reflections from 2020 helped us to see that God has been working hard, even when we didn’t understand.

Squirrels Are Common

Another reflection we had is that squirrels are common in life. And if you’re wondering what that even means, don’t worry – we have a great explanation…

Squirrel!

When people make plans, we tend to think linearly. We know point A (where we’re starting) and point B (where we want to go.) Then, we chart a path on how to get there.

This path of ours is a straight line. It’s the most direct route from one point to the other.

The problem?

God’s plans aren’t usually in a straight line. They often have twists and turns in them. As a family, we call these squirrels. Just like a dog can get distracted by a squirrel running by, we can also get distracted by changes in our plans.

And sometimes, we lose focus completely and start chasing the squirrel instead. There are times when through prayer and seeking counsel, we realize that the squirrel pointed us down a completely different direction than we ever would have considered on our own. And, other times, we see that it was a learning experience or opportunity we needed before we get back on the previously determined route.

Squirrels aren’t bad. They’re just a part of God’s creation and plan. So, when you start to embrace those twists and turn as a part of God’s plan for you, the squirrels are much easier to deal with.

Flexibility Is Key – A Big Lesson We Learned Through Reflections From 2020

Between learning to submit to God’s plans and dealing with squirrels along the way, we quickly learned that 2020 provided plenty of opportunity to flex our flexibility muscles.

When you are so stuck in your ways and your plans that you can’t adapt to life as God’s plans come to be, then you are going to be miserable.

It’s much better to be flexible. To say, that wasn’t what I had planned, but let’s see how God uses this for good. (Since we know from the Bible that He will.)

We planned on taking our travel trailer across the country in 2020, and going to Family Conference in Ohio. We planned on just showing the Acres to the kids on a short stay. And we had lots of other things planned.

Instead, we got the opportunity to spend four months getting to know the Acres. The kids fell in love with the people and the property. We were able to help remodel a house and get to know the area.

And our travel trailer? It didn’t get used, unfortunately. Since Missionary Acres lost so many volunteer groups because of Covid, they had a home where we could stay the entire summer. And that made more sense than dragging the trailer – especially since we didn’t know how lock downs were going to pan out.

But, if we hadn’t been willing to be flexible, none of this would have happened. So embrace what God has for you, and go with it – even if it requires you to change all of your plans.

After all, five years ago, we never thought missions was in our future. And leaving the family farm where we’d lived for so long wasn’t something we really ever discussed at that point.

But God’s plans are better. And we’re thankful that He is teaching us to be flexible in our thinking and planning, so we can fully follow Him.

Choosing to Serve

Another one of our reflections from 2020 is that service is a choice.

When Covid hit, we easily could have bunkered down and just sat in Washington the entire year. After all, we had some of the most strict restrictions in place.

But, we didn’t want to sit on the sidelines. We knew God could use us, if we were willing. So we choose to do something. We choose to go to the Acres and volunteer for the summer.

And, as we traveled the country, it was such a blessing to see so many other Christians still willing to serve. God’s people could have idly sat by and done nothing this year. But, praise God, most of them didn’t. They made the decision to serve God however they could.

Some started videoing their sermons and reaching a new set of people that way. Others volunteered to come in and do extra cleaning so the church could meet safely. Some gathered supplies for their neighbors and reached out to try to keep loneliness at bay – especially for the more vulnerable populations among us.

All around the county, Christians rose to the occasion, and despite the challenges, served God and their community the best that they could.

It was a learning experience for sure. But, it was amazing to see God’s people make things happen.

Independent Baptist Churches Are Creative

Finally, as we discussed the many things we’d noticed in 2020, we kept coming back to how creative the churches were. You see, each and every church is different. And because of that, there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” solution to how to handle church in the pandemic.

All around the country, churches got together and figured out how to creatively minister. They came up with a variety of solutions – tailored for their people, in their community.

Being able to solve problems locally is a great benefit of Independent Baptist churches. They do not all have to do the same thing. Which is great, because some of the solutions we saw wouldn’t work in other churches. But, they were working well in the church that implemented them.

It reminded us that God has provided the churches the people needed, with a variety of skillsets. When those people come together and serve God, they are unstoppable.

We keep hearing in the news that many churches are not doing well after Covid. Thankfully, that is not what we noticed. Most of the churches we spent time in were doing very well. They had more people volunteering. And, they were trying new ways to get the gospel out.

A Special Verse for 2020

Throughout the year, as challenges arose, one verse kept coming to mind:

For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

~ James 4:15

If the Lord will. And as mentioned above, His will does not always match our plans. So as we started thinking about 2021, and making plans, we are remembering something key.

It has to be if the Lord will.

His plans may be completely different. And, we need to trust Him if they are.

Deputation Goals for 2021

With that in mind, we did set two main goals for 2021. If God will, we plan to:

  • Be at 100% of our support by July
  • Move to Missionary Acres and begin serving there full-time

There are a lot of things that need to happen between now and then. We still have roughly $700 to raise each month. (If you’re able to help us reach that goal, you can learn more on this page.)

We also need to raise more money for our outfit and passage. The details of this are provided here.  Basically, we need this one-time amount for moving expenses, and to pay for the basic remodeling that needs done at our house at the Acres. It has carpet in the kitchen that has to go! (And a few other things to tackle.)

Doing the remodel will also be something to accomplish this year.

Additionally, we’re expecting baby #10 this spring. So, having a baby is on our to-do list.

If you could please pray for a healthy delivery, we’d appreciate it. We learned recently that Lisa is placenta previa, so we are praying that the placenta would move out of the way. In many cases, this will resolve later in the pregnancy, but if it doesn’t, a c-section will be necessary. Thank you for your prayers!

Praying for You in 2021

We really appreciate you taking the time to read our blog posts and pray for our family. As a family, we desire to spend more time in prayer in 2021. We would be honored to pray for you.

If you have a specific prayer request you’d like us to pray about, please send us an email at tanners2ma@gmail.com.

Thank you!

 

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