Last Sunday we had the opportunity to celebrate a very special day in the history of our family. Ten years ago, after a three-year gap between siblings, we were overjoyed to find out that God was blessing us with a new life to love, cherish, and invest in. On August 9, 1999, Susanna Joy entered the Neely Team, bringing with her buckets of cheerfulness and loads of happiness! As her nickname implies, “Sunny” adds much joy to our home through her loving daily care of the little ones and her cheerfulness in the many family projects we do together.
Susanna, it has been a wonderful blessing to watch you grow in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. May you continue to let your light shine before all, that your Heavenly Father may receive the glory due His name! Happy Birthday!
You, my sister, are sweet and fair,
With bright blue eyes and golden hair.
Your lovely smile, much like the sun,
Cheers all around you ‘till the day is done.
You, sweet fair maiden to whom I speak,
Jump up to help when there’s a need.
Love the LORD with all your heart
And always strive to do your part.
You’re growing up so fast, you see,
And all the years, how quick they flee!
But oh, so soon, I’ll see you there
At the altar, kneeling in prayer.
Our own dear father by your side,
Giving you away – a lovely bride!
So keep your heart, oh sister dear
For that special, glorious year;
When you join yourself – heart and hand
To that one blessed, special man.
Guard your heart – don’t give it away!
Save it for that joyful day.
You’re making a path for many souls
So follow Christ, keep your eyes on the goal!
I love you more than I can tell –
Oh follow these words, and hearken well!
Written by Kathryn M. Neely (14)
For Susanna J. Neely on her 9th birthday
August 9, 2008
were nearly two hundred people there; somewhere around thirty-five families gathered together to encourage each other to continue to “fight the good fight of faith” and to be a light for Jesus Christ in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation. It was an amazing time of encouragement, inspiration, blessing, and challenge as we fellowshipped with one another, prayed together, sat under the teaching of godly men, and sought the Lord’s will as individual families. The schedule went somewhat as follows:
We arrived back at the Wilkes’ on Thursday afternoon, so we were able to help wrap up some of the things that still needed to be done. We had a lot of fun along the way, too! Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” We certainly saw that to be true once again as we worked together as members of the family of God! That evening, we went to the school where the conference was to be held, and got things ready there: setting up chairs and tables, working on the sound system, preparing the registration table, and “scoping out” other things for consideration.
On Friday, we started the day with a Wisdom Search together – what a blessed time of meditation on the Word and sharing with brothers and sisters in Christ! We then hit the ground running with the remaining preparation, and it was a joy to see the spirit of cooperation and teamwork in every person! Finally, at noon, the last dish was finished, the final water balloons were filled, the obstacle course was set up, and the grill was going for the cookout: now things REALLY got started. 🙂 Over one hundred people attended the cookout at the Wilkes’ home, and it was a great kick-off to the rest of the weekend!
Immediately following lunch, everyone went outside and was assigned to different teams for the family-building obstacle course. Each team was composed of several families, and each father explained the directions and led his family through the beginning of the course. Laughter was prevalent as we followed our fathers blindfolded through a rocky path, played a mini croquet game while holding a cup of water in our hand, carried a cup of popcorn on our feet (and then dumped it, hands-free, into a bucket), tried to catch water balloons, and accomplished various other tasks. 🙂
That evening, everyone went over to the school and heard the first few of a chain of inspiring, convicting, and life-changing sessions. Our attention was brought to important truths dealing with why there is still hope for a Godly family, the heart of fatherhood, and how to protect your family in the area of medicine. After that and a brief clean-up, the Wilkes, Staddon, and Neely Teams headed back to the Wilkes’ house for a few more hours of fellowship before it was decided (by the adults at least :)) to “hit the hay.” 🙂
Saturday opened with another Wisdom Search with all three families; this time focusing on Proverbs 8. By the time we all loaded up, headed for the school again, we had been both spiritually and physically nourished (thanks to the great cooking of Daniel and other members of the Wilkes Team :)) and now possessed the stamina needed for an unbelievable day. During the bloc of time before lunch, we heard meaningful lessons on courtship, marriage oneness, and family harmony. While the mothers prepared lunch and the fathers met for a time of prayer, all of the young people entered wholeheartedly into Discipleship Soccer and Canadian Dodge Ball. What an encouragement to see the older ones taking the time and energy required to invest into the lives of the younger children! We came in worn out and very warm, but filled with joy and ready to do full justice to the wonderful meal! During the rest of the afternoon, we saw an amazing chalk drawing, gave praise to the Lord through song, and heard more encouraging testimonies on the impact of older siblings on the family, harmony in relationships, and the blessings that come when we die to self and operate under authority. At the end of the day, those staying with the Wilkes were to be found playing volley ball, discussing how the Lord had worked, eating, and doing anything else the combined brains of 33 people could come up with! 🙂 A special memory of the evening was when each father prayed a blessing over the 27 young people present. What a treasure to see the hearts and desires of our leaders portrayed as they prayed over us and laid vision for the future!
Saturday night, a few of the more adventurous ones stayed up until after 2:30 a.m. working on… can you guess?? Answer: THIS BLOG!! 🙂 Anyway, somehow we all got enough rest in the remaining 4 hours of the night to sustain the activities of the next day – Sunday. Again at the school for the morning worship service, we were challenged by a message from the life of Joseph. Though this day marked the end of our journey, and shortly afterward we were on our way home, we carried with us new inspiration and excitement for how the Lord wants to use our family for His divine purposes. Though the hard part of what we heard and learned was still to come – the APPLICATION of it all – God is faithful and we can accomplish anything through His power alone. We praise God for all that He taught us throughout the week, and we look forward to seeing how He will use what we heard in our lives in the coming days.
To God be the glory – GREAT things HE hath done!
Amanda: What was your favorite part of the zoo?
Susanna: I liked the bobcats!
A: What did you learn about the bobcats?
S: The mother is lighter-colored than the kittens, and when the kittens are first born, they’re black. They like to sleep high off the ground, and they like to play and wrestle with each other.
Lauren: I liked to see all the snakes!
A: Really? I liked the snakes, too! What did you think was so interesting about them?
L: They can shed their skin!
A: That IS neat. How do they do that?
L: They just basically crawl backwards and the skin turns wrong-side out as it comes off of them.
Herman: The elk!
A: Oh yes, that WAS neat! What does the elk like to eat?
H: They like to eat leaves off of trees and grass, and his favorite fruit is pears.
A: They were about to feed him some pears when we got there, weren’t they? What else did you like about seeing the elk?
H: We saw him wake up from a nap and scratch his back with his antlers.
Bethany: The pink things and the prairie dogs!
A: You liked the rosate spoonbills. They were pretty interesting! What did you like about them?
B: They drink and eat out of the river!
A: Yes, they eat small fish and crustaceans. They use their bills to sift the food out of the water. Their food is what makes them pink, but they don’t have any feathers on their heads, so they’re bald! And what did you like about the prairie dogs?
A: What else did you see?
B: They were eating!
A: It was fun to watch them eat! And something that I liked to see was that they showed attentiveness to their leader. When the leader made a certain noise, they all stopped what they were doing, ran over to their tunnels, and got ready to hide if the leader told them to. That was also showing obedience!
Thank you for sharing, Susanna, Lauren, Herman, and Bethany! I hope we all learn lessons from the animals that God has placed around us!
The next part of our exciting journey was to the Majesty Music MusiCollege, held this year in Collegeville, PA. We arrived there just in time for church Sunday night, and then afterwards had the opportunity to work with “Uncle” Gary and “Aunt” Christiane Emory, setting up for the conference. With hymnbooks, book bags, registration material, music, and many people all flying around in a thousand different directions, 🙂 we all enjoyed the wonderful service opportunity immensely. Monday started bright and early, and over the next 2 days, we were challenged, encouraged, and inspired to continue serving and glorifying the Lord with the musical abilities He has given. During chapel sessions we were reminded of meaningful truths like the lasting consequences of bitterness, the sovereignty of our God, the importance of giving everything over to the Lord’s control, and how we, in our own strength, cannot possibly fulfill our “role” in the ministry that He has called us to. During the different workshops throughout the conference, we learned many different skills and ideas on a variety of topics, from conducting to singing to teaching violin to piano techniques, etc. etc. The Lord especially used the conference to remind me that I must turn every talent, idea, desire, or ministry that I have over to Him and then allow Him to work out His will through me. We were blessed for those two days to have Joshua and Jenny Wilkes and Lisa and Rachel Butler attending MusiCollege with us. The like-minded fellowship that took place was an encouragement, and we greatly enjoyed our time together. 🙂
The grand finale of MusiCollege was the “Graduation Concert” on Tuesday evening. It started with a special orchestra performance, and then continued with many songs of praise sung by the choir of over four hundred people! What an opportunity to declare the glory of our wonderful Creator and Lord!
“I will sing unto the Lord, because He hath dealt bountifully with me.” (Ps. 13:6)
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise Him.” (Ps. 28:7)
It all started on Friday night, July 31, 2009, when we finally got the last suitcase in the trailer and headed out the driveway. Actually, it started several days, and even weeks before that, as we planned, prepared, and finally packed for this long-awaited and much-anticipated road trip. So, with much excitement and many smiles, we left home around 7:15 pm.
We stopped at a hotel along the way that night, and early the next morning, we got on our way again, with a very exciting destination in view: the home of the Wilkes Team!! After a rather uneventful trip, we arrived in high spirits in northern Virginia. The Wilkes had arranged for our two Teams to minister at an assisted living complex near their land in Culpepper, VA, so that was our first stop. We were well-received, and God blessed us with a fabulous time of singing, testimony, and talking with the people there.
The next thing on the agenda was a new experience with old friends: in the ten years that we have been blessed to know the Wilkes, we had never been to their land in Culpepper! So we loaded up our vans and headed down the road to the property. The evening there was wonderful, and it included supper and a tour by pick-up truck all around the land! That was very interesting! Imagine a pick-up truck with a good-sized-but-not-huge bed. Then, imagine that the two dads climb into the cab, to be the chauffeurs on the tour. Okay, now that you have that down, picture two lawn chairs in the bed of the truck (for Mom and Mrs. Wilkes), and then pile nineteen other people (ranging from age 24 years to 5 months old) in the remaining space. Put beaming smiles on every face, and lots of talk and laughter on every tongue, and your image is complete. 🙂
The tour was wonderful, and lots of fun! We did have a slight adventure, right at the end of it, when the left, rear wheel started making a strange noise. We stopped the truck and unloaded, only to discover that we had run over something sharp and now had a flat tire! Okay! So that put an interesting twist on things, but God is merciful, and the spare tire worked fine… once it was out from UNDER the truck and put ON the axle. 🙂 Dad, Mr. Wilkes, Josh, Matthew, and Daniel worked hard and had it in good running order in a short time, although some people thought it was interesting that the flat had occurred on the GIRLS’ side of the truck… Hmmmm…
Sunday was very spiritually refreshing, and we thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful fellowship of the people who attend the church services at the Wilkes’ house. Sadly, we had to leave right after lunch, but happily,we would see them later in the week… 🙂
So… here we were… 10:00 at night… sitting around in our dear friends the Wilkes’ house… working, thinking, laughing, thinking, talking, thinking, and FINALLY… DESIGNING!!! (And did we mention that we were, um thinking?) Snapping photos, choosing fonts, laughing, thinking, and talking some more. 🙂
Anyway, with the expert ability of Robert and James Staddon, and the gracious hospitality of the Wilkes, we stayed up past 2:00 in the morning and got it under way. We praise the Lord for allowing this vision to finally become a reality, and look forward to recording how God is working. Praise the Lord for all He has done.