Finally at the end of this full day, we reached the part I have not been looking forward to.
One last time together with us three couples.
Brian and Aleisha Stephens arrived nine years ago to serve on the leadership team of JV. And now the time has come for them to return back to the States to pursue what God has for them there.
They leave with so much of our hearts as we've shared life over these past nine years. And how do you mark such a time with dear ones like this??
I wish you could hear the little snippet from the "live" version of this photo I took. Brian is saying, "You've got to be kidding me!"
Brian and Aleisha love art, and have been collecting it during their nine years here, especially in the past few months since they've known they'd be leaving. In fact, at this spring conference, thanks to many who helped Aleisha, she was able to surprise Brian with the remaining uncollected paintings from each country that JV ministers in! She'd asked people to be on the lookout for inexpensive art (sometimes it was even free!) so that they would have a memory from each country.
So now, they have a memory not only of Prague (where this painting is from), but also from their dear friends, Mel and Amy, Dave and Connie.
As they look at the couple strolling down the streets of Mala Strana in Prague, we pray it reminds them of all the happy and fruitful days they've had here in the Czech Republic, serving us so well for all these years.
As Brian read from a journal he found while packing up their belongings (telling about how God made it clear to them that they were to come), I was reminded that it is God who calls both ways...to the mission field, and from it.
This is the case with Brian and Aleisha. And while our hearts grieve that we no longer get to do life together, we know God has good plans in store for them, and provisions for us to fill in their holes.
So we smile, through tears, one last time, and bless them as they head back to Minnesota for all that God has in store for them there.
We will miss you Brian and Aleisha!!!