Three Years Ago--Then and Now

Dr. Ray Pritchard
Three years ago today, very early in the morning, before the sun had come up, we left Oak Park on our way to Tupelo, Mississippi. About that day I remember very little except that a few friends came to say goodbye as our Ryder truck was about to pull out of the driveway. Betty Nelson came, and Shirley Wilson, and Margie Gilchrist, and Soo Ai Kudo. Craig Hammond came because he was going to drive the truck to Tupelo. Megan and Kyler and Marlene rode in our car, and I rode with Craig in the truck. I remember that at the last second our next-door neighbor came out to say goodbye. I also recall Betty leading the old chorus, "God Be With You Till We Meet Again." I was so overwhelmed that I couldn't pray, so Craig stepped in and prayed in my place. Thus fortified with the grace of God and the love of our friends, the truck pulled away and we drove off into the darkness. But the sun was about to shine again.

When I mentioned to Marlene that today was the third anniversary of our move from Oak Park to Tupelo, she said that all she remembered was how mentally fried and physically exhausted we were. The previous few months had been grueling, and we were badly in need of some rest.

It happens that three years later, Marlene and I find ourselves in Prince Edward Island, Canada. Three weeks ago we were at the Pentagon. Last week we were in Oregon. In two weeks we'll be in New Jersey.

But geography is the least important part of the story. I have said many times that when we left Oak Park, we only knew that we were going to Tupelo for what we thought would be four or five or maybe six months at most. Time enough to rest and refocus and then we would be moving on. That was my plan. As the wise man said, You want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.

We had no idea that morning of all that would transpire in the next three years. Not Keep Believing Ministries. Not Josh and Leah and Mark and Vanessa getting married. Not Josh and Leah going to China. Not Mark and Vanessa moving to Tupelo. Not us buying a home in Tupelo. Not Nick going to grad school. Not Josh and Leah and Mark and Vanessa moving to Dallas to start seminary. Not the chance to minister overseas. Not the vision to train pastors. Not the Anchor Book Depot. Not the many friends we've made in Tupelo. Not the friends we've made across the country. Not going for a year without a salary (that was definitely not part of the plan). Not the invitations to speak across the country. Not the hard times, the good times, the uncertainty, the amazing answers to prayer, the fear, the idea for a new kind of ministry, the tears, the friendship with Pastor Peter in China, the joy and the sorrow, the whole roller coaster of emotions, the KBM board that supports us and prays for us, the hundreds of people who pray for us, the 5000 people on the sermon list, and the people from 192 countries who come to the Keep Believing website. 

I can guarantee you that we didn't see any of it when we drove off into the darkness that morning--so worn out and frazzled and unclear about everything. Knowing only that this is what we had to do, that we were following God's call without knowing where it would lead.

Tonight--it's late here in Prince Edward Island and Marlene is already asleep--I am profoundly grateful. Over the last three years we have learned a lot about ourselves and we've learned a lot about God and his goodness. We've learned that we have a lot of friends who love us unreasonably, which is really the best kind of love there is. And we want to say Thank You to all our friends for sticking with us.

I would make a few predictions about the future, but every prediction I've made so far has been wrong. That thought actually cheers me up. I remember the prayers and the hugs and the tears in the pre-dawn darkness three years ago. Little did we know. Little do we know.

Those who believe in Jesus are on a journey whose destination lies somewhere beyond the horizon. I felt three years ago that it's like they say on the street, "It's all good." I still feel that way tonight.

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