This month I’m excited to bring you the God Story of Carol Brazel, one of our missionaries to Belgium. She has served on the mission field in Antwerp, Belgium, with her husband Paul since 1986 and raised three children there. I have found Carol’s story such an encouragement, and I pray that you do, too.
It is a blessing to grow up in a Christian home, meeting with the saints Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night, and every time in between. I don’t remember a time that I didn’t believe in God the creator, his Son, and the Holy Spirit. I do think that because I grew up with a faith, I took it for granted and became complacent about the presence of God. I know it is not supposed to be that way but sometimes it is.
Although I wasn’t always completely aware of God’s presence, there were times that I knew God’s Spirit was touching my heart and leading me to where I am today. One summer at church camp a woman came and spoke to the girls about her mission trip to Africa. I was very touched and intrigued by the possibility of also serving the Lord in a foreign country. I remember thinking how exciting it would be to be a missionary, but I was only fifteen and this idea soon faded.
I went to Oklahoma Christian University in the fall of 1978 and attended my first World Mission Workshop at Freed Hardeman University. The idea of being a missionary was sparked again. At this workshop I wrote on a piece of paper, at the speaker’s encouragement, “I want to serve the Lord in a foreign field someday.” And that summer I did go on a campaign to Brazil.
These influences and God’s Spirit softening my heart were leading me to the life I am now living. Growing up I truly never imagined I would live anywhere besides the U.S. However, I married my husband, Paul Brazle, in 1980, and we moved to Belgium in 1986 with a three year old and a one year old. Our life on the mission field began.
But life on the mission field is not always exciting and exotic. Nine months after we moved here we had another baby, and everyone knows that too many life changes at one time are ingredients for depression; not only moving but living far from home and also trying to learn and communicate in a foreign language. When I realized I was having trouble coping, I just lived in it and functioned as well as I could, and even though my thoughts were on God and I read His Word, I didn’t really get it until I truly let His presence surround me, heal me, and help me.
This is what I learned finally when I was twenty-seven years old on the mission field: God is always near His people, and His Spirit has always helped me even when I wasn’t consciously aware of it, but it sometimes takes a bit of brokenness, a bit of being out there on a limb where you have never been before that pushes your spirit to seek His and to let Him help you. I know when He turned me around, in what I now realize was culture shock after moving, having a baby and all that goes along with that, and having two other children to take care of. I remember that moment when I felt like I could relax in His arms, in His presence, and know that He would see and help me through this difficult time and of course He did. Actually, what was the other choice but not letting God help me? It took almost two years to totally recover, but He was faithful and stayed near.
This new realization of God in my life has served as a witness for me, like an Ebenezer, a reminder for me that God is faithful and He stays close. Unfortunately, many times it takes brokenness or hardship to cause our spirits to call out to God’s Spirit to move in us, to carry us, and to bring His presence close.
I have also learned that sometimes even though God is always near, He doesn’t always come and rescue us at the moment we call. Sometimes we have to walk a time in the valley and learn lessons that we need to learn so our hearts can turn fully toward His presence and grace. The Father accomplishes His will in many ways and sometimes it takes us to a valley. But we must be faithful and continually seek His face. He does reward those who seek Him in spirit and in truth.
God’s presence in my life was never more vivid to me than when I heard the diagnosis of breast cancer in May of 2006. At first it was a shock, it was scary, it was not a valley I wanted to be in. How could I get out? After my mind and my spirit could settle down, God surrounded me with love and confidence. Confidence no matter what the outcome. During this time, my husband and I were blown away by the peace of the Spirit urging us to be thankful for all things. I had a lumpectomy, radiation, and took tamoxifen pills for five years. I don’t live in fear but in the realization it could come back at any time, especially since my mother passed away in November of 2006 due to matastasis of breast cancer. I’ve learned God is in control and He will bring all things to a good end, either in heaven or on earth.
My God story is that God, Jahweh, is near. His Spirit helps me in my weakness. His Spirit shows me the Father’s will. Jesus set me free from the fear of death and the fear of living. My life is in His hands, in His control. I know that His love will never fail. “All things work for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”