We want to personally thank every one of you for the tremendous support you were this year. The list of ways you blessed us and partnered in our ministry is long and runs deep and rich in our hearts.
As most of you know, we’ve had a year for the record books. So, I’ve written a very personal update in hope that you will see…even so, God is good. First, a sad, quick recap of 2018… a looming financial challenge was followed by the suicide of Chesney’s best friend (Harry), was followed by visa fiascoes, was followed by the death of another close friend. Never-the-less, a beautiful truth has settled over our family: “Perfect love casts out fear.”
I’ve heard fear is friends with trauma… a natural by-product...
I was lost inside it after Harry’s death, who was like family. Most moms can relate to mental strategizing for our kids; we quietly try to arrange their lives to avoid the worst and set them up for wholeness and happiness. (Like a real-life chess game.) After Harry died, this part of me went into overdrive. I was worried about Chesney from the moment I woke up to after I fell asleep. Fear for her even filled my dreams.
Her after-graduation plans disintegrated… understandably so. She no longer wanted to be far from home. University felt sour. And, due to her volunteer visa status, she’s unemployable in South Africa. I knew my driven, uber-social daughter would sink into depression with too free a schedule. So, I played my mental game of chess… We decided she should do the local September Discipleship Training School (DTS)!! She’d be taken care of by a group of amazing mentors, her days packed full, and then venture off on some exotic outreach. It was perfect… and finally, FINALLY, I could get a break from worrying about her for a solid 6 months.
Well, let me back up to 8 months ago…. It was a Thursday in March. Harry’s memorial was in the morning; directly after, I dropped Chesney at the pre-show rehearsal for her Senior Dance Studies Choreography Exam. That’s right: On the same day as her life-long, best friend’s funeral, she had to perform the dance that is the culmination of her 4 years of dance studies. I fretted about the terrible timing, but that night, our daughter was awarded the first 100% in Fish Hoek High School’s Dance Studies history. And… the professional dancers judging the event (whom she had on the highest pedestal possible) offered her free private lessons! What a beautiful way to close off the most painful day of all our lives. (It’s almost like God is a better chess player than I am.)
Okay, back to the story…
It was a week before the DTS began (before I could drop her in a safe community and take a deep breath of relief) when I got the news: Her dance mentors offered her a two-month apprenticeship; she could understudy for her first professional show. This has always been her dream… to be a professional dancer. But… her parents’ dream was for her to do DTS at this fragile season in her life. (After all, the apprenticeship was only for a few months. What about the rest of the year? What about 2019? For Pete’s Sake!)
However, Chesney made her own decision: To Dance. Honestly, I went to a friend’s house and cried. I was devastated for my own sake, too lost inside my fear to see straight. My spiritual director encouraged me to pray into this fear for one month. At most, I hoped for some existential release… to feel a little better… to find a little bit of peace… any at all.
Chesney’s mentors got her into a 3-day audition. 150 dancers competed for 20 spots, and she was awarded a 3-year scholarship for a professional dance training school with JazzArt, South Africa’s oldest contemporary dance company!! (You can see her audition on their facebook page by clicking HERE.)
And it hit me… “Perfect Love Casts Out Fear.”
To cast out is not a passive thing. It’s not gentle. It’s not subtle. It’s aggressive. It’s a violent banishing. I did not expect God to show up in such a physical way and literally cast out my fear for Chesney. In the midst of trauma, I’d forgotten He is a God of action.
God said to me, “List all the ways I’ve cast out fear for you in the past year.”
1. Kevin’s health and energy are restored after years of battling. (Fear for my husband cast out.)
2. After years of praying & researching to find the right school for Asher, the perfect one was literally built down the street. He will begin in January. (Fear for my special needs child cast out.)
3. 11 new supporters and 1 new supporting church joined our team. (Financial fear cast out.)
4. We got our visas in the most dramatic fashion. (Fear of losing home cast out.)
5. Most of all…Chesney begins her professional dance school in 2019. (A traumatized mother’s paralyzing fear was CAST out.)
It was a big, personal, intimate reminder…He IS the God that shows up. He IS the God of action. He IS the God who doesn’t just enter our suffering but delivers us from fear… even amid our worst fears coming true. He IS Emmanuel. God WITH us. (And, He definitely is a better chess player than I am.)
So, my Christmas present to myself will be a little statue that will sit in the place where I pray. A monument of God’s perfect love in action in the midst of a traumatic season, so maybe… just maybe… I won’t ever forget.
This Christmas season, our wish for you is to experience Emmanuel as the God who is WITH you too!
Merry Christmas from Kevin, Tonya, Chesney and Asher!
Here's a little photo of my "prayer hut". (A converted tree house the kids outgrew.)
The statue in the middle reminds me of our Trinity family.
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Kevin and Tonya Stanfield
Serving in South Africa since 2007