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Remembered Gifts

9 February 2022

Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing
And obtaineth favor from the Lord.
—Proverb 18:22—

50 Years and Counting!

Dear Friend,

Photo of the the Kerwins marching from their 'I do' into the rest of their livesYes, Mike took most of the shots on our Big Day, but this shot (and its Photoshop restoration) was courtesy of Steve Bryson. Click the photo above for a larger version of the image.1

At the end of January we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. Due to unusual weather here in southeast Virginia, we were snowed and iced in, but we had a great time for all that. We enjoyed the day snuggling, discussing some interesting points of scripture, sharing a special meal, talking with each of our three daughters by phone, and working through our 50-year-old wedding-picture negatives with a view towards finally creating our wedding album! Thank you, Mike Ollila for your photography that day!

Someday soon we will go off on a quiet, multi-night getaway to mark the special occasion, but spending time together on our special day caused me to reflect on three wonderful blessings that the Lord gave us through friends or circumstances just prior to our wedding. Let me share them with you, as well as how our marriage experience is going to be foundational for my missions trip to Honduras in about a month.

Remembered Gifts:
Ring, Gown, and Burning Bush(es)

Early experiences of learning to live by faith, and a quick background:
Within two weeks of my 1970 high school graduation, the Lord opened up a door for me to take a ministry trip to Dallas, Texas, where I stayed with Gus and Helen Lundberg and their family. It was quite an encouragement to find out the Lord could use me in praying for people, operating in the gifts of the Spirit, and leading people into the baptism in the Holy Spirit. (I had just turned 18 and was about six weeks shy of having been saved for two years.) When I returned from Dallas to my home in California, I didn’t know that Denise even existed. By the following year, Denise and I had met, ministered together, and were certain that it was the Lord’s will for us to marry. During a summer trip in 1971, we stayed briefly with the Lundbergs in Dallas.

Ring:

Photo of the hands of newlyweds' hands wearing their wedding ringsThe diamond in that bride’s ring came in the mail less than 16 hours after I proposed.2

I suppose it wouldn’t be fair to say that we were poor in those days, so let me euphemistically suggest that, like many young, engaged couples, we were very “short on worldly resources.” I will not recount the embarrassing story of the bumbling how and the very unromantic where I proposed to Denise (other than to say that it was with a full-VW-windshield view of her grandparents’ garage door). For some reason, she said “yes” anyhow. I had wanted to propose with an engagement ring in hand, but didn’t have one and lacked money to buy one.

It’s a good thing I faltered forward in faith. In the next day’s mail I received a small, unexpected package from a friend in Dallas. Imagine my speechless praise and wonder when I discovered that it contained three different diamond rings (family heirlooms) and a note which said simply, “Choose the one you want and send the others back.”

That package had of course been mailed before I proposed, so the ring had already been provided; I was just unaware of God’s provision! (Fifty years later, we are still thankful, Sister Dana!) Less than 24 hours after she said yes, Denise had her engagement ring.

Gown:

Image of Denise Halbert Kerwin in her wedding gownThe gown the Lord provided
for the bride the Lord provided!3

I am pretty certain that if you had a copy of the 1971 Webster’s Dictionary and looked up the entry for “petite,” you would find a contemporary photo of Denise illustrating that word on the page. She was so petite, in fact, that it was hard for her to find clothes in her size that didn’t need alterations. So…

…when our Dallas friends, the Lundbergs, shipped their married daughter’s lovely wedding dress to us as a loan (“We’re pretty certain it will fit well”), we were stunned and blessed to discover that not a single stitch of alteration was needed for a perfect fit. Another unexpected provision from the Lord!

Burning Bush(es):

Artist's rendition of Moses' burning bushOur “bush” wasn’t as spectacular as the one Moses saw; but then, his arrived 40 years too late for his wedding!4

It was on the day of our wedding that we had our “burning bush experience.” Well, to be more precise, burning bushes. The chapel we had rented for our low-budget wedding ($25 for the sanctuary and dining hall combined) was devoid of any sort of decoration except a large cross hanging at the front.

Someone wiser than I (guess who!) decided that the place needed to be spruced up with potted plants, etc. Thus we arranged to rent some plants, have Denise’s brother pick them up the morning of the wedding, and then return them after the reception.

When Dave, my brother-in-law, arrived at the nursery that morning, fire trucks nearly filled the parking lot. But the place seemed open for business, so Dave sauntered into the office, saying, “I’m here for the plants for the Kerwin wedding,” as he pulled out his wallet. The clerk pleaded, “Never mind the rental price or money! Take the plants! Save as many as you can! The place is on fire!” So Dave loaded up his pickup with a bumper crop of rental-free plants in order to adorn the sanctuary.

And thus we began our life of living by faith together with God's provision of a ring, and a beautiful, expensive wedding gown, and even a “burning bush” (or three or four) for good measure!

Sharing 50 Years of Experience

Photo of Antonio Rodriguez Antonio Rodriguez, an old friend, but the new superintendent of the churches in Honduras 5

Living by faith and ministering together brings us to the subject of next month’s missions trip. The topic of ministry chosen by the Honduran superintendent, Antonio Rodriguez, is couples working together in pastoral ministry. I’m pretty certain that Antonio knew nothing about our 50th wedding anniversary when he invited me to minister to the pastors and their wives. But I guess after 50 years, Denise and I do have some thoughts on the matter and experiences which I can share from our five decades together. The dates of the trip have been shifted from this month until next.

It looks like airfare will be in the $600-$750 range. With other expenses added in, I’m guesstimating a cost of around $1,200 for the trip. Your prayers are appreciated. Now that I’m fully vaccinated and boostered and have had Covid (it was such a “fun” January [not!]), I guess I’m as ready to return to the mission field as one can be, at least in terms of immunization. But pray that physical health and protection would be granted along with an empowering of the Holy Spirit for ministry.

John the Baptist: Posted, as Promised

Temporary cover image for a new bookNo, that's not the final cover;
it’s just a “placeholder” until a real graphic artist
tackles the project.6

Last month, as promised, I posted the first two chapters of the manuscript of The John the Baptist Experience on our website — “Preparing the Way” and “More Important than You Think!” Lord willing, chapter 3 will go up this month. All of these chapters are from Book 1, The Exceptional Messenger, the first in the three-book John the Baptist series. One of my goals for the month is to set up a website or private Facebook group to be used by a small team of folks who are willing to read each chapter as it comes out and give feedback on the three books as they come together. Drop me an email at this link if you’re interested in participating!

Apologies Asked, Prayers Requested

Not only is this “January” newsletter late, but for those of you who are donors, so are the end-of-year receipts which you should have received by January 31st. We humbly apologize, but you'll understand when you read about the circumstances…

Photo of a married couplePhyllis and Rick four years ago7

Our treasurer’s husband, Rick, has suffered for years with a debilitating lung disease. He was hospitalized in December, then again for most of January, his condition complicated and torpedoed by Covid. Meanwhile our treasurer, Phyllis, and her daughter contracted Covid a few weeks back and were laid low. Rick died in my presence just a few days ago. Rick and Phyllis have been an integral part of our Fellowship since its very beginning, and Rick will be sorely missed. Now we are moving into the “extra innings” required for the myriad of tasks required for memorial service, burial, and so forth. If you’ve ever been through the experience and the process, you can empathize.

That said, the year-end donation reports were mailed out before this newsletter was finished. Thank you for your patience and understanding at this time. Your prayers for Phyllis, our friend and faithful treasurer, who has served our ministry selflessly for many years, and her family, are greatly appreciated.

Thanks Be to God

We praise God for fifty years of marriage. We praise Him that the door finally seems open for missions trips again, and for forward motion on The John the Baptist Experience. We trust Him for His loving, if inscrutable, wisdom in taking Rick Home at this time. And we thank the Lord Jesus for your faithful, gracious prayers and support.

Much love in Jesus,

Jim

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  1. Photo and restoration by Steven D. Bryson
  2. Photo by Mike Ollila
  3. Photo by Mike Ollila
  4. Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay
  5. Photo by Jim Kerwin
  6. Background image for temporary The John the Baptist Experience book cover is a detail from Mathias Grünewald's altarpiece Crucifixion-scene painting for a church in Isenheim, France (c. 1515). Courtesy of Wikipedia, but copyright is held by Zenodot Verlagsgesellschaft mbH and licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. The Latin phrase in the “crook” of John's arm declares, “Illum oportet crescere me autem minui,” the Vulgate reading of John 3:30 — “He must increase, I must decrease.”
  7. Photo by Denise Kerwin
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