Pastor Kevin Sanders

"He must increase, but I must decrease." -John 3:30

Category: Married Life (page 2 of 5)

Two-Year Anniversary: Daylight Dreams

My Dream

My Dream

It’s been twenty-four months since I watched Mare Cris walked down the aisle. Her radiant beauty filled the room as she held back tears. She was overwhelmed with emotion as a room full of loved ones stood in her honor.

I was smiling and quietly joking with Erwin, my best man. Typical behavior for a groom, I suppose. But part of me still couldn’t believe this wedding was actually happening. It all seemed too good to be true, as though any moment I’d wake to realize it was all a dream.

Two years have flown by. My dreams are occasionally haunted by images of life without (or before) her.  I’ll subconsciously re-live my days as a romantically frustrated bachelor (or even my student years–those dreams seem to happen more frequently now that I’ve moved back to my home town). I’m always relieved to wake up and find my wife lying next to me.

Life is sweet when you wake to see your most beautiful dream.

He who finds a wife finds a good thing
and obtains favor from the Lord.

–Proverbs 18:22

Six Month Update

I don’t guess I’ve said much about our journey since the post on reverse culture shock.  Mare Cris and I have been here in Alabama, USA for six months (as of yesterday).  Here’s what we’ve been up to:

Winter Fashion

Winter Fashion

Staying Warm

After 11 years in the tropics I was looking forward to the variation in weather that comes with the fall and winter seasons. Be careful what you wish for–we’ve experienced some record-breaking low temperatures.  Mare Cris saw snow for the first time while we were in Pigeon Forge (TN) helping with a youth retreat.  She also loves seeing me wear something besides shorts and white t-shirts (my garb of choice in the Philippines). I only sweat when I go to the gym these days, and this is a welcomed change of pace.

Ministry

Mare Cris and I visited several churches in and around the Birmingham area last year.  It was an honor to preach, worship, and in some cases catch up with old friends.

This month I started a new phase of ministry at First Baptist Chalkville (located about ten minutes from where we live).  Their pastor resigned recently (to pursue another ministry opportunity) and I’m preaching/teaching there while they search for a new one.  My wife and I are delighted to have a place to serve!

Spending Time with Family

Mare Cris' 27th Birthday Celebration (with our nephews)

Mare Cris’ 27th Birthday Celebration (with our nephews)

I’ve really been blessed with the way my family has welcomed Mare Cris.  My nephews are crazy about her (who can blame them?).  I’ve spend most of the past eleven years on the other side of the globe, so being with my family through the recent holiday season was a great joy.

Waiting

The most challenging part of our lives right now is living in limbo.  We believe the next step for us is for me to become a full-time pastor.  We just don’t know know exactly when or where this will happen.  We could end up settling down here in the Birmingham area or moving to another state altogether.   We are patiently waiting and trusting God to reveal these things to us in His perfect timing.

1st Anniversary: The Fastest Year


Mare Cris and I exchanged vows one year ago today. Neither one of us can believe it—it doesn’t really “feel” like 12 whole months have passed by. The old adage about time flying when you’re having fun has proven true in our case.

I think the best way to commemorate this day (as far as the blog goes) is to simply express our gratitude to the Lord.

First and foremost, we are thankful God allowed us to meet. I’ve written about the series of events that led to our whirlwind romance. Sometimes Mare Cris and I talk about how different our lives would have been with even a slight variation of just one choice or circumstance. We are overwhelmed when we think about it—we live in awe of a God who knows our every breath (Psalm 139:1-6).

We are thankful for the power of the Gospel in our marriage. God’s grace empowers us to have a marriage filled with love, joy, hope, and forgiveness. Every day we grow closer to each other, closer to God, and increasingly aware of our dependence on Him.

We are grateful for every opportunity we’ve had to serve. Some of our fondest memories are the times we’ve been able to minister together. This is something we both dreamed of in our single days—having a partnership that glorifies God.

Last but not least, we thank God for His daily physical provisions. Our finances are directly tied to the struggling American economy/dollar. But we’ve never lacked for anything—God has provided for every need and kept us in good health.

Thank you, Lord, for an amazing year! We are looking forward to many more!

The Move: A Year Later

It’s been a year since I moved here to Angeles City. The past twelve months have been surprising, crazy, wonderful, and any other similar adjective you want to throw in. I’d like to share a little more about some of the events that led up to my move–things that I haven’t gone into detail about here on the blog.

Let’s go back to around June of 2011. I began the school year with my usual routine of meeting new students, sharing the gospel, and trying to establish new Bible studies. But I made one significant change in strategy: I decided to stop visiting the university where I first began doing ministry back in 2002. Years ago I had good connections and didn’t have much trouble getting inside. But security grew increasingly strict, making it more difficult to get inside the campus.

A change was also taking place inside of me. I was beginning to feel a little restless, as if God was preparing me to do something else. I started entertaining the idea of moving somewhere else and/or church planting, but I didn’t feel like I had received a specific assignment or direction from the Lord.

I encountered two serious problems in August. The first issue had to do with my living arrangement: the building management asked me to sign a ridiculously expensive lease to continue living in my apartment for another year. They already had two month’s worth of rent as security deposit and they were asking for thousands of additional pesos. They also wanted to raise my (already expensive) rent by 10%. I had no intention of handing over that kind of cash to a management I didn’t trust (the way they handled things when I left confirmed my instincts, but that’s another story).

The second problem impacted my campus ministry more directly. I lost access to my other “target campus”–a college where I had done ministry since 2006. The guards apologetically informed me that no Bible studies would be allowed on campus. I wrote a letter to the (new) school president, but I never received a reply.

I could have adapted my ministry to either hindrance if they had occurred separately. Moving to an apartment further from campus wouldn’t have been a big deal as long as I could still visit students inside the college. Having no access to the campus would not be a problem if I could still live nearby. But I wasn’t sure how to overcome both of these obstacles at once.

The building management put pressure on me again the following month regarding the new lease and security deposit. I refused to pay anything other than my usual monthly rent/fees.

I wasn’t sure what my next move was going to be. It seemed like God was speaking me through these circumstances, but I didn’t know exactly what He was saying.

My “ah-ha” moment came during the last weekend in September. I decided to visit Erwin and family in Angeles City for a couple of days. I wasn’t really planning to move here at the time—I was just coming to catch up with a good friend and get a break from the problems I was having Manila. But the weekend visit included Sunday night worship with the people of Hope Angeles, his newly formed congregation. Suddenly everything made sense—I knew this was where God wanted me. Erwin had never pushed me to move here, but he enthusiastically supported my decision once I made it. So that was it—I would move to Angeles City as soon as possible.

October was a pretty crazy month. I found a great apartment that had recently become vacant (just a few days before our inquiry). I was trying to get everything either packed or sold (I had to downsize a little for this new place) in preparation for the move. Hope Angeles had their official launch, and I also had a few speaking gigs to wrap up in Manila.

I moved here to Angeles City on the evening of November 1st. I was ready for “Ministry 2.0”—a fresh start in a new city. But I never could have anticipated what God had in store for me next.

I spent the next couple of days unpacking and setting things up here in the new place. I bought a Globe tattoo (internet device) and got online every once in a while to update my blog and check my email. I noticed a new friend request on Facebook while I was online. I don’t always accept new add requests to my personal account (I prefer they join my public Facebook page instead), but the beautiful profile picture of Mare Cris Nitura caught my attention.

She Changed Everything (Picture from the Wedding Day)

I doubted such a gorgeous woman would be single and available. But I added her and wrote a quick message to thank her for contacting me. She replied the next day, and this began a process that would lead to our marriage just a few months later (I’ve already shared our love story, so I won’t go into greater detail). I’m now married to the most incredible, beautiful woman any man could ever hope for.

The joys of married life are more than enough to keep a smile on face. But God has given me even more to celebrate. He has allowed me to partner in ministry with Erwin, one of my best friends. We are seeing previously unchurched people worshiping and following Jesus. Church planting is very challenging work, but the rewards make it all worth it. I have renewed enthusiasm for preaching and ministry.

My life has changed so much in the past twelve months. Not long ago I was spending lonely nights in my Manila apartment trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life and ministry. Now my life is full of love and purpose as never before.

I marvel at God’s goodness and sovereignty when I think about all circumstances that brought me to this point. This verse comes to mind:

What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.
-Revelation 3:7

I’ve taken the time to write this in hopes that it will encourage you. Yes, I’m talking to you—it’s no mistake you are reading this post. Maybe you are wondering if God really has a plan for you. He does. It may not be exactly what you expected, but it’s always for the best. Just trust Him and keep following. No circumstance can prevent an obedient disciple from experiencing God’s perfect will.

I hope my testimony also demonstrates just how quickly God can bring you into a new, blessed season of life. He doesn’t need much time to turn things around.

But I’m also writing this for me. One of these days I may find myself in another proverbial valley and need encouragement. Maybe I’ll need to go back to this post and be reminded of God’s faithfulness.

“There is no panic in Heaven! God has no problems, only plans.”
-Corrie Ten Boom

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