Kevin started physical therapy school in January of 1995. I said in the last installment of this story that PT school was its own kind of learning and training experience for us. At the time I wrote that I'm not sure what I was thinking of. But this morning as I lay in bed, I began to think of all the ways that God used that time to prepare us for what we are doing today, in Brazil.
Here's one example:
On the first day of class, the teachers did their best to scare away anyone who wasn't up for the challenge of PT school. Well, they didn't actually try to do that, but on the first day the Anatomy and Physiology teacher outlined all the things that they would be responsible for knowing 10 weeks from that day. And if they failed the class, they would be kicked out of school. This was enough to have Kevin pretty intimidated. On the morning of his second day of class, he was getting ready to leave the house and was almost crying he was so nervous and scared. I didn't know what to say to him as he looked at me for encouragement and help. After all, I couldn't go with him to class or learn for him, and I had no idea how hard it would really be. As he voiced his fears, I nervously looked around our bedroom trying to think of something to say. My eyes fell on a little plastic scripture card that said "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. - Philippians 4:13" Aha! I grabbed the card, told Kevin that he wouldn't be alone, that with God he could do anything because He would give him strength. He put the card in his pocket and went off to school.
Now that may not seem like any big deal or anything out of the ordinary. But, at that time in our lives, we didn't look to scripture for the answer to everyday problems. I loved to participate in Bible studies, but that was one of the first times that I remember holding on to God's Word for the only hope in a situation. In our life as missionaries we have done this, and still do, so often. There are so many times when we can't solve the problem or don't know the answer and we have to rely on God's promises and act in faith. It happens a lot now, but that time on the first day of PT school was the beginning.
Another way that God used this time was in allowing us to really use and discover our spiritual gifts. As I said in part 2, Kevin has a gift for making friends. It wasn't long before he had a great group of friends in his PT class. He began to invite them to our house for get-togethers and meals. I would make a crock-pot of soup, or a roast, or whatever we could afford. These friends began to come to church with us. Lots of Sundays, we would have a church pew full of PT school friends. After church they would come over for a meal and just to hang out with our family. Friendship and Hospitality. This is a huge part of our ministry here in Brazil - something we do on a weekly, even daily, basis.
A group of our closest PT friends at a cookout at Kevin's parents' house right before graduation.
More good friends that, for the most part, we still keep in touch with today.
Recently I ran across a Christmas card that one of these friends had sent to us right after PT school graduation. I read her note inside and it said "You are truly the best family I know". I couldn't believe that. At that time, we weren't trying to be some kind of intentional example as a family. We were just doing what came naturally. Reading her note just reenforced my belief in the power of a Christian family; the strong example that it is for non-believers, and the wonderful way that God can use a strong family to bless others and show them His love.
Finally, PT school changed our financial situation. During these early years of our marriage, I had worked full-time teaching school. While we always had good child-care or preschool for the girls, I had a strong desire to be a full-time mom. I would always leave as soon as school was out to get the girls and be at home with them. Our goal when Kevin graduated in December of 1996, was to get a high enough paying job so that I wouldn't have to work and could stay home with the kids. We were blessed to find that job in Grenada, Mississippi.
So, at the end of PT school we found ourselves with a bunch of new friends, some school loan debt, a new baby (oh yeah, forgot to mention that Garrett was born in October of 96 - 2 months before graduation), and a new chapter in our lives awaiting us.