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Pastor Lyro, sons, Leaman boys and ice cream

Southerland Prayer Letter (April 2021)

Dear Friends,

In this Prayer Letter, I’d like to share with you some of the joys and challenges the Southerland family have had over the past few months.  There have been some wonderful times in life and ministry, and we have faced some challenges as well.  It has been a bit like sitting in a raft on a turbulent sea.  We’ve been up and then down and up and down again without knowing exactly when the last wave would pass.  But let me hasten to say that it has been wonderful to know that, while we have not had the benefit of a ship’s crow’s nest from which to see when the waves would end, we have had the greater blessing of being cared for by our Good Shepherd, who not only sees the end of the waves, but who has ordained each one according to the counsel of His will, the good, wise, and loving counsel of His will.

I’ll begin with Christmas Eve.  On Christmas Eve I (Casey) was to have a part in our church service but was feeling sick with something that I thought was possibly COVID.  That afternoon I had a rapid test, that returned a negative result, but I missed celebrating with my family and the church, nonetheless.  That wave passed and the raft rose again.

In January, I was preparing for an eagerly anticipated trip to visit our missionaries, the Leamans, in Brazil.  By God’s grace the trip went on as hoped!  The time with the Leamans and Rev. Tito Lyro and his sons was all that I had hoped it would be.  The visit was my first on-site introduction to this field and the work on the Soli Deo Gloria Project.  We were able to meet and greet many brothers and sisters in Brazil who are the local Christian community of our missionaries.  It gave me the opportunity to meet and thank many of the folks for their labor and commitment to the work the Leamans are engaged in for the Kingdom of God in and outside Recife, Brazil.  I even got to know each of the Leaman boys a little better and see how much they add to the work.  The wave had crested, and it was an encouraging relief, as you can see from the pictures in this newsletter.

The relief was countered by the virus at home.  The big concern was that I would bring something back from Brazil, so I submitted to a 7-day quarantine and test as recommended.  But while I was quarantining as a precaution, Kelly and Julia were quarantining because they had contracted the virus while I was in Brazil.  We had three people quarantining in separate rooms in the same house.  A few days later, the quarantine, and our spirits, were lifted and we got back on top of things for about a week.

Then came a planned gallbladder removal.  I had become a candidate for the surgery due to some minor pain and decided to have it because I would eventually need it and we thought it best to have it done in the U.S. rather than possibly having an emergency while I was abroad.  I believed I’d be back in the office in a couple days, but the doctor later informed me that it could be more like a week.  It was.  And though being sidelined again was becoming harder to handle, it too passed, and I was getting back to work.

If you are reading this newsletter, you’ve likely heard about this next wave from other avenues.  In March it became clear from markers in Kelly’s bloodwork that the cancer she’d undergone chemo for could be returning.  This led to a CT scan which we hoped would give us some solid answers.  The answer we received was confirmation that no tumors were detected.  We praise the Lord for this.  But we also didn’t (and still don’t) have an answer for the rise in the tumor markers.  The only likely explanation is the presence of microscopic spots of cancer- just like they were after a previous surgery leading up to chemo.  We were in a low spot in the wave, to be sure, but we were also experiencing the peace that comes to those who have the Lord as their anchor.  He is sustaining us as the sure and steady anchor for our souls.

I believe I’ve shared enough to illustrate some turbulent times over the past few months for our family.  I haven’t even gone into the other two weeks I was sidelined by COVID.  We’ll let those waves pass.  But let me just say we are grateful that as spring arrives and colors are blooming in Cincinnati, we believe our entire household has now survived the virus, and for that we are grateful.  Many waves have come and gone, and we can be sure many will come and go throughout our lives, and yours.  To this we cling- “The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, than the mighty waves of the sea.” (Psalm 93:4).  Thank you for your continued support of our family and of our PMU missions who proclaim the mighty name of Jesus to a world crushed by wave after wave of sin’s curse.

For God’s Glory Among the Nations,

Casey

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