This morning, our home church in Cape Town (for 17 years for Kagiso and 10 years for me) had a special farewell service for our family in conjunction with the annual Thanksgiving service.  During the service, I had an opportunity to share the following:

In the song, Blessed Be Your Name, the lyrics kick off like this:

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Some may argue that we’re headed to the land that is plentiful, where streams of abundance flow.

But the end of the song says, “You give and take away, You give and take away,
my heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your name.”

I shared these same lyrics two years ago when I stood up here on Thanksgiving Sunday.  At the time, my mom was in her eighth year of fighting cancer.  During that period, I asked God to help me to be able to say, “Blessed be Your name” as He gave and as He took away.  Now, two years later, the lyrics seem fitting once again.

The Lord has certainly given us ‘immeasurably more than all we asked for or could imagine’ through the body of believers here at Holy Trinity.

In fact, I knew there was something different about this church before I even stepped foot into the building.  Before my arrival in Cape Town in 2002, I had made e-mail contact with Alan through a mutual friend.  He knew that I would be arriving in July to volunteer at the Student Y for what was then supposed to be six months.  When I landed, the Nobles were away on holiday.  You can imagine my surprise when I received a phone call two days after my arrival from Alan, calling me from the Garden Route to welcome me to Cape Town.

That one gesture spoke volumes to me, and as I got to know the Nobles over the years, I have been amazed again and again by their sacrificial acts of love to so many.  We are so, so grateful for the ministry of Alan and Gaby and incredibly blessed and privileged to have spent these years working so closely with them.

The Lord has given to us in countless more ways through Holy Trinity as well. In fact, it was in that tea room that I was first introduced to Kagiso, one Sunday evening in July ten years ago (thanks to Irene!).  But it’s more than just a place.  We’ve shared our lives with you, and you with us.  We’ve cried with you at funerals, rejoiced with you at births and baptisms.   We’ve laughed with you during Bible studies and prayed with you during tough times and times of thanksgiving.

Our children have grown up in this church; you lifted us up with open and welcoming arms when we spontaneously added an unfamiliar face to our clan four years ago.  You prayed us and prayed us and prayed us and loved us through nine years of my mom’s cancer overseas, and her death last year.  You brought us meals when we had babies, when we were sick, and when one of us was traveling and the other was home alone with kids.  You fed our compulsive moving habit by giving of your time and physical labor every time we packed all of our possessions into cardboard boxes.

The Lord has given us so much through you, His body.

You are our family.  And now the Lord is taking us away from here and moving us on to new pastures.  We go with full hearts, with grateful hearts … but with heavy hearts.  We are thankful for each one of you and the role that you have played in our lives over the years.  The Lord has shaped us and molded us through you and because of you.  And as cliché as it may sound, even though we may be far from each other in physical distance, you will always be held closely in our hearts.

So can I challenge you this morning with this parting thought: Whether God gives or whether He takes away, may we all be enabled by Him to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”