Dear Faith Family of SVCC

by Jonathan Haefs

*Today, at our annual family meeting, I breifly reflected on many things that happened among our SVCC faith family during 2013.  Below are the thoughts I shared in the form of a letter.

Dear Faith Family of SVCC,

_DSC0152It is difficult to express everything that I feel in my heart about 2013. I think the greatest analogy that comes to mind is that of childbirth…after all, my third little one, Talitha, entered the world this past year. Through that miracle of life I have found myself reflecting again and again on the joy that comes through pain.

Perhaps that is the best way I can describe 2013…it has been a year of joy amidst pain. In our own home we experienced quite a scare through the birth of Talitha as Holly dealt with some serious after-effects of the birth. Our daughter Charis was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and our parenting challenges seem new every morning. My brother and his bride moved overseas. And there are various other challenges I will not mention…I do not want this to sound like a list of complaints. It is not.

Amidst all the pain, and I know many of you have endured much greater this year, we have seen the faithfulness of God again and again. He never left us as Holly struggled through birth complications, He is ever present in our parenting and Charis is a constant reminder of his grace, and I praise him daily that my brother and sister-in-law have followed his leading to take the gospel wherever he leads. Without fail, there is joy amidst pain for he is amidst the pain!

IMG_2232At SVCC this year we have experienced pain. I have sat with some of you before surgeries or beside hospital beds and prayed. Some of you have seen loved ones make the transition from this life to the next. There are some which have been hurt by those who they trusted. Many of you have allowed me to see and know you amidst your pain and you have shared in mine…and it has been beautiful for I have seen your joy.

Even when some have felt like there was no joy to be found, I have watched others gather around them and pray for them, fight for them, hold on to them. There have been relationships healed, children born, adoptions granted…both physical and spiritual. We have seen many come to Christ, be baptized and grow in him. Amidst all the pain there has been extreme joy because Jesus is always amidst our pain!

IMG_2233Of course there have been some practical, external things that we are thankful for in 2013. We’ve partnered with Common Thread Community to open a studio, there are nearly 50 musicians involved in the worship ministry, and John-Mark joined us as our worship leader. The women’s ministry had their largest retreat, there are college students coming out our ears, we’re setting up chairs fairly regularly, and there are two new community groups. The youth have grown, I have parents sending me Facebook messages like this, “Is youth group happening tonight…I just need to check because it is my daughter’s favorite part of her week.” The children’s ministry is the same, especially with interact, this past fall we saw our kids really engage through prayer (evidenced by the prayer walls).  We’ve also prayed over Ashford Taylor as she heads to Spain, Carley O’Neal to Australia, and Emily Echevarria to India. All of these things are awesome…massive blessings…but they are only happening by the grace of God!

Any success here is not in how large retreats are or how many chairs we set out…we do not boast in numbers (that’s why we don’t really count them), we do not boast in anything but Jesus…and the only reason I list all of those things is to say…Jesus is at work.  Amidst pain, through pain, we see him at work and we rejoice!

Nothing has increased my faith more this year than seeing you praise amidst pain. I’m not trying to make it sound like this year has been all pain…it hasn’t, but many times you can hear from a church leader and it just sounds like life is totally awesome all the time and that’s not reality. We have had pain this year, but you have praised amidst it all and that shows the world the glory of Jesus unlike anything else!

Praise amidst pain magnifies the majesty of Jesus!

Let’s keep magnifying Jesus! No matter what comes our way in 2014! No matter if the year is awesome or awful, let us be full of awe! No matter if it feels like we are being showered with blessings or if it feels like we are being beaten down by a deluge of suffering…Jesus is with us amidst any storm and he can walk on any amount of water!  Let’s trust him and praise him and make him known to the nations.

I love you all. May his grace be with us,