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The location of the old chapel at Grand Vally Ranch

Southerland Prayer Letter (November 2020)

Dear Faithful Supporter,

I hope you and yours are doing well. I cannot express to you the appreciation I have for your partnership and support of my ministry with PMU.  Coming to the end of this year the Lord has given me opportunity to look back and consider the year, and His faithfulness.  Yes, even in 2020!

The Lord has been faithful in drawing me to Himself.  In September, on my way to Unionville, NY, I was able to stop by and spend a day with Cody.  We spent the night at a campground that was just north of Youngstown, Ohio, which happens to be just south of Rock Creek, Ohio.  For decades this was the location of the Great Lakes Presbytery Camp.  Summer camp was my introduction to the Bible Presbyterian Church and, to me, a hallowed place where the Lord brought me to the Savior.  I cannot overstate the significance of that place in the years that followed.  As a camper and also as a counselor, I spent one week of my life there each year for 25 years; more than six full months of my life were spent under God’s teaching there.  The camp is now a wetland reserve and open to the public so, naturally, I was compelled to visit.  Many buildings are gone, but one of my favorite places on earth was still standing—the old barn where we met for chapel.  I felt it was consecrated in some sense for the Lord’s work.  Ascending the stairs always felt like we were leaving the good and fun of camp and entering a holy place where we were treated to weighty matters and eternal joys.  That time alone with the Lord at Grand Valley, reviewing the Lord’s goodness to me through His word and the dozens of counselors and pastors whose Christian character was a model for me there, prompted a memorable and rich time of personal prayer and praise.  And this is in 2020!

He has been faithful to our family.  If you also receive the PMU Prayer Requests, you’ll know that our son, Cody, was engaged to Ms. Maggie Gates (from our BP church in Pittsburgh, PA).  We are very excited the Lord has brought Maggie into Cody’s life.  The Lord has also brought our family through two rounds of concern related to Kelly’s routine bloodwork which keeps an eye out for the return of cancer.  Praise the Lord, both times the results were clear. For me, the Lord provided the opportunity to have surgery on my wrist.  The pain had been growing for years and had become constant.  At this point, I have recovered enough that I can lead worship with my guitar again.  And this in 2020!

He has been faithful in granting opportunities to serve His Kingdom even in the midst of a global crisis.  You know that in the few months prior to the global lockdowns of March 2020, the Lord allowed me to visit our mission field in Myanmar and lead a team in Peru.  While my travel for PMU has been limited, it also gave an opportunity to visit the saints at the First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY.  This is where Rev. Doug Douma pastors and where he, Priscilla and Maple serve at Sola Appalachian Christian Retreat, our ministry to Appalachian Trail hikers.  I even got to hike a few miles on the AT with the Doumas.  And this in 2020!

I do understand why 2020 is a year that is despised by so many.  It is a year of leanness and loss in many ways.  But I believe it also bears some resemblance to Israel in the prophet Micah’s day, “Be in pain, and labor to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in birth pangs.  For now you shall go forth from the city, you shall dwell in the field, and to Babylon you shall go.  There you shall be delivered; there the Lord will redeem you from the hand of your enemies” (Micah 4:10).  It was true in Israel and it is no less true in our day—all things are working together for the good of the Lord’s people!  We do not know His plans and they are often bewildering to us, but this we do know—the Lord is faithful, ever faithful. Even in 2020!


For God’s Glory Among the Nations,


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