The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom…
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
“Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God…
He will come and save you… Isaiah 35
The first time I went to Israel the trip spanned late August into early September. Even for someone well acquainted with Texas summers, it was extremely hot and very dry. The Judean Wilderness, a flint rock covered moonscape of rolling hills and deep cut ravines, was and remains one of my favorite location in the Holy Land. Looking to the north, taking in this rough and unforgiving terrain through which travelers would cross to get from Jericho to Jerusalem (as in the Good Samaritan) there was not a single green or growing thing in sight. Our professor and guide remarked when the rains come that vegetation emerges across the Wilderness landscape and, like Isaiah 35 promises, the desert blooms. I remember thinking, no way...not here, not on this ground.
Years later, I stood in roughly the same spot in late February and saw that our guide had spoken the truth; the rains had fallen and patches of grass and flowers decorated the hills that I believed were too dry and rocky to grow anything.
It would be hard to overstate how hard and challenging this year has been. I am sure that there are many that look at the rocky terrain of the pandemic, these dry days of distance, and the deep cracks of pain and brokenness in society and think: nothing good could ever grow in a place like this…nothing beautiful could bloom in a year like this.
But it has. The desolate months of the pandemic have not prevented blooms of hope, new confessions of faith or baptisms. We have witnessed 70 picnic tables built and delivered to area schools to allow outside education spaces. In the last 9 months, we have seen the collection and delivery of over 100 tons of food to our neighbors. We have seen large sums of financial giving that provided school supplies, teacher support and appreciation, meals, expanded medical access in our community, made possible UTSA and Rawlinson food bank expansion, and hygiene supplies. We have learned more deeply of God’s provision, faithfulness, and shepherding grace even as we walk in the valley of the shadow of death.
Your gifts, your prayers, your service and your witness fuel the work of God’s calling up this community. Please consider investing boldly and joyfully here at University. Above and beyond gifts that are designated as ‘Christmas offering’ will benefit our growing partnership with Impacto Communitada, a coalition aimed at the blessing and building up of God’s Kingdom in West San Antonio. Learn more about getting involved with this ministry by visiting our Outreach page.
I am so thankful for you, for this community and for the honor of sharing this ministry, in this season, on this dirt with University. The rains have just begun, I cannot wait to see what God will grow in the season to come.
Be strong, do not fear!