Wednesday, 21 April 2021
SIM Australia mission worker, Brenden*, shares how God’s faithfulness led him and his wife, Melanie*, through the storms of 2020.
“To follow Jesus means going to the places He is going,” Brenden shared. “However, Jesus has a habit of going to the difficult places, where there is the most need. But, those are the exact places where He invites us to join Him. Just like He invited the disciples to trust Him during the storm on the boat, He invites us to journey with Him today.”
Brenden and Melanie are committed to seeing least reached people come to know and love Jesus. With their heart for all people to hear the Gospel, Brenden and Melanie are serving in Central Asia in student ministries. As well as Brenden leading the team in their country of service, the couple is involved in relational outreach with a local church.
Living in a remote region for the sake of the Gospel brings with it challenges. The challenges encountered by the couple in 2020 were significant, with Brenden comparing it to encountering a series of storms. At the end of 2019, Brenden and Melanie discovered the wonderful news they were expecting their first child. However, that same night, Melanie began screaming in extreme pain. They tried to remedy the situation but nothing worked so they made their way to the regional hospital at 3am. The next month consisted of a medical evacuation and three hospital visits in two different countries.
Brenden shared, “Being newlyweds, it was challenging to make big decisions not just for myself but my wife and unborn child. This was our first storm, but not the last.”
Melanie was diagnosed with severe kidney stones, which coupled with other factors, posed a major risk for her pregnancy. Doctors advised that Melanie may need surgery but told Brenden and Melanie not to have the surgery in their country of service as doctors there were untrained in the procedure. On two occasions, they were told if they were to go ahead with the procedure, the doctors would need to terminate their child’s life. When Brenden made it clear they were joyfully waiting for their child’s arrival, the doctors decided to hold off on performing the surgery.
He said, “Melanie was not fully aware of the events around her so I had to bear the decision process alone most of the time, just walking with Jesus.” Praise God that after a month, Melanie recovered from the kidney stones, without surgical intervention.
In February, Brenden and Melanie visited Melanie’s country of birth, expecting to stay for one month. However, COVID-19 was starting to spread around the world and it soon became clear they would be unable to return to their country of service.
Brenden shared, “It was heartbreaking as this is the country we have come to love as our home.”
The couple then faced their third major storm. Brenden received the news that his elder sister, who had been battling cancer for seven years, had been told she had three weeks left to live. Although his wife’s health was still a concern, Brenden left for a two-week trip to Australia with a clear purpose to share the love of Jesus with his sister.
The day after he arrived in Australia, Melanie’s home country closed its borders. Brenden shared, “I was six months into a marriage, expecting a child while knowing my wife faced health challenges and I was stuck on the other side of the world. When I called the embassy, they really could offer no help. Again, the storms raged against us and we could only cling to Jesus.”
Brenden reflected, “When you’re in the middle of a storm, out on the water you have the choice to sink or swim. I wish we could say that we swam successfully every time we felt overwhelmed. Yet, the reality is that often we sunk. But we discovered as we sunk down, flailing our arms around, that we were not alone. Jesus was right there next to us. The Lord took Melanie and me through the storms of 2020. Charting our path according to His plan.”
Although their year turned out very different from what they expected, God revealed His faithfulness to them in each of the storms they faced. God also graciously provided Brenden with the opportunity to witness to his elder sister. Brenden had prayed for years for the opportunity to share the Gospel with her.
Brenden shared, “I prayed even harder after arriving in Sydney, it was a challenge as my sister was so sick. But after a week I got the chance to ask her where she stood with Jesus. She looked at me for a minute and said, ‘He talks to me all the time and I know His voice well and I’m going to spend eternity with Him.’” Brendan had gone to Sydney expecting to share the Gospel with his sister only to learn that the Lord himself had gone before to witness for Himself, then He called her home in June.
Although Brenden’s two-week trip to Australia turned into ten months apart from his pregnant wife, his sister’s precious words “I know His voice well” made the storm worth it. He had hoped to travel back in time to be with Melanie for their daughter’s birth, but travel restrictions hindered him.
Brenden shared, “The Lord promises that He will faithfully walk alongside us but He never promises that we will always be safe or that we will receive the answer to prayer that we want. He just promises to faithfully lead us through times of joy and storms alike.”
In December last year, Brenden was finally reunited with his wife and got to meet his four-month-old daughter for the first time. “It was not the way that Melanie and I wanted to welcome our daughter into the world. But the Lord blessed us with a beautiful daughter who is healthy and joyful. We walked through many storms but because the Lord walked through 2020 with us, it was a year of blessing.”
Serving on the mission field often adds complexity to the lives of the workers and comes at personal cost, just as it did for Brenden and Melanie. Despite their recent challenges, Brenden and Melanie remain committed to the work of the Gospel. They joyfully await returning to their country of service but in the meantime, they continue to serve in a foreign land while they wait to go home, in the hope that people will come to know and love Jesus, for that is worth enduring the storms.
*Names changed to protect identities and representative image used.
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