Thanksgiving is such a special time for the Patterson family, rich with tradition. Every year our extended family of aunts, uncles and countless cousins gather in the little log cabin where my father was raised. No one lives there now. No one could. But many years ago, when my grandmother was still with us, we tore out some walls, strengthened a few supports, and patched the leaks in the roof … well, most of them.
Every year since, we run an extension cord from the barn, start a fire in the fireplace and celebrate Thanksgiving on the farm where Pattersons have lived for generations now. Each time I cross that threshold, memories of Mamaw flood my mind. One of my most treasured possessions is the tattered Bible she left behind. What inspires my deepest thanksgiving each year and every day is how that tattered Bible continues to put together broken lives. As it has been said, “Where you find a Bible that is tattered and torn, you typically find a believer who is not.”
Like every family, ours has experienced its share of brokenness. But as I have transitioned from the loud, rowdy teenager to the quiet, observant man sitting by the fire, I am amazed by all the Lord has brought us through. Psalm 118:1 urges, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” He has been good to every generation. His steadfast love continues to carry us through, and the faith that began in my grandmother — the faith that has now become sight for her — continues in great-grandchildren she has not yet met.
Thank God for His glorious gospel! And thank God that He blessed our forefathers with the kingdom foresight to create the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering! Because of being on the mission field for a number of years, we were absent from the Patterson Thanksgiving. We grieved every absence, but such is the joyful sacrifice of “gospel goodbyes.” We knew that we would have all of eternity to spend with our loved ones who know Jesus, but we also knew that there are billions living in places without access to the gospel.
I am thankful that when God called us to join Him in taking the gospel to the unreached Quilombola villages scattered throughout the Amazon Rainforest, that He had already provided both the message and the means to get it to the ends of the earth. The faithful Cooperative Program giving of churches had already built all the infrastructure needed so that 100 percent of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering could directly support missionaries like us. Sure, we temporarily missed the joys of gathering with family here, but it was worth it to know that we will share eternity with Quilombolas in heaven.
There are still billions who have not yet heard. As we celebrate all God has done for us this year, how can our hearts not turn to them?
For the Great Commission to be fulfilled, we must continue praying. We must continue giving generously to CP and LMCO. But we also need more Kentucky Baptists willing to say more “gospel goodbyes.” We have eternity to be together, but where will they spend eternity if we do not answer the call to go?
Rob Patterson is evangelism team leader for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.