It's been a long time since we talked. But because of technology, like Facebook, we have been able to keep up with all of you. The line from the old Michael W. Smith song is true, "Friends are friends forever, if the Lord's the Lord of them." After being in ministry for the past 15 years and watching all of you stand strong in the faith, I have a profound appreciation of this truth.
So let me begin by saying, we are so glad to call you our friends. Distance tends to make strangers of us all, life continues to happen outside our shared class schedule we had at TFC. Family, children, jobs, ministry as well as sickness and trouble have appeared on our Facebook feeds concerning all of you, keeping us informed and helping to know how to pray for you, as the years have flown by.
Vacations have been few and far between for us and visitations to our old stomping grounds, because our family is from the area, haven't netted the connection with each of you that we would have liked. Hopefully soon that will change.
So what has happened to the Bannisters since graduation of 1999? Like you...A LOT!
The week after graduation we found out that we were pregnant with our firstborn Victoria. Because of that we stayed in the area until she was about 15 months old, we figured that one big life change was enough. In the summer of 2001, I was hired as Youth Pastor for Heights Christian Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico...and have been here ever since. When we came, Shannon was pregnant with our second child, Micah (boy). About 17 months later, we had our third and final child, Kathlyn.
The early years were a struggle for us as we had to learn how to balance ministry and family, often times failing. We (mostly me) took on too much responsibility at the expense of a family that needed me. God brought us through that season and it truly made us stronger as a family, and strengthed ministry as well.
Shannon worked various jobs from 2003-2010 and even tried college again, but God kept closing the doors. In 2006, because of our chaotic schedule, Shannon and I began to homeschool our children, taking a break one year (2012) because Shannon was burned out.
However, the fruits of our labor are paying off. Victoria will earn her GED this year (1 year early). Micah will hopefully duel enroll this next year at CNM (he will be in 10th grade then). And Kathlyn is coming along fine in currently in 7th grade.
In 2008, we received news that Shannon was losing her vision. She has a condition called Retinitus Pigmentosa, or RP for short. It is a genetic condition with no known cure. In her condition, she gradually loses sight around the periphery until she either sees a "tunnel vision" or goes completely dark. In 2014, after our last trip to GA (where we missed many of you), she was officially diagnosed blind. She has less than 20% of field of vision. Now she can still see, but she uses a cane for objects out of her range of vision. She has taken it very well. Me...on the other hand...depends on the day.
It has been an adjustment, but God is good. We truly believe that this is the reason that we began to homeschool and didn't become dependent upon 2 incomes. (I know she can work, but homeschooling 3 is job enough.)
Over the last few years, Shannon has been writing songs. It has been amazing to see how God has grown her. I am sure if you wanted a sampling of her work...all you would have to do is ask (and let her know where to send it to). She has written or co-written about 15-20 songs (it's starting to get hard to keep up). Right now, it is just a hobby, but she enjoys it so. She keeps joking that in 10 years, we will flip roles and she will support me with her music (wouldn't that be cool!).
Victoria knits...mostly scarfs and hats, right now. And she writes...boy does she write. She hopes to write books someday and has already "completed" one manuscript.
Micah loves archery, animals, science and music. He has been playing for about 2 1/2 years and has a real gift toward it.
Kathlyn is currently into gymnastics and cooking. She is constantly flipping, rolling, splitting and handstanding everywhere she goes.
It is a joy to see how different each of our children are.
So what about me...well, I was hired as Youth Pastor in July 2001. Over the years, I have seen two Pastors come and go and am currently working with the thirds since my tenure here. It is a great working relationship and I truly couldn't be happier.
The longer I have been here, the more responsibility I have acquired. Since becoming the Youth Pastor, I have now grown into the role of co-Pastor. We currently have no Senior Pastor, but rather Mark (the other co-Pastor) and myself work in areas of giftedness. I am over Youth, Children, Families and our Day Care. I also preach half the time at the church and help create the various series we do.
Recently, God has burdened me with reaching out to families and helping parents disciple their children. As a Youth Pastor, I have always been convicted that it was the parent's responsibility to disciple their children in the Lord. If they don't, then my impact in most youth's lives would be minimal. Being in ministry for the last 15 years has only strengthed this view.
This past year, I have been working to create a set of videos for parents in helping their children in each of their phases of life (0-3 yrs old, 3-5 yrs old, K-2nd, 3rd-5th, Mid High and High School) in six different areas (Prayer, Bible Reading, Fellowship, Outreach/Service, Discipleship and Giving). We just finished the filming and are hoping to have the editing done soon. I pray for it to be a resource for anyone who wants to use it (free, we are putting it on YouTube).
Known to some of you, we are HUGE gamers. We love strategy and deck building games. We are fans of Dominion, 7 Wonders, Ticket to Ride...etc. So if we are ever in the area and you have the same passion, it won't be too hard to scare up a game with us.
More than anything else, we want to let all of you know that you will always hold a special part of our lives. Whether we ever get to see each other face to face again or we are forced to connect electronically until the day we see His face together, please know that you are never alone and will always have a friend with us.
Lord bless you all! If you get time, let us know about the adventure that God has you on. If you don't have the time, we truly understand. And we will be praying for you all the same.
I pray your 2017 is filled with God directed adventure!
The Bannisters (Jeremy, Shannon, Victoria, Micah and Kathlyn)