My wife, Pam, and I based our marriage on living out the promises of God: “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart, commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him and He will do it” (Psalm 37:4,5). One morning I was telling God how He had already accomplished my “desires” list after 11 years of marriage—with the exception of one thing—children.
God gently spoke deep in my heart; “Mike, am I enough for you?” What? Would this mean God was never going to give us physical children of our own?
With brutal honesty I answered, “No you are not enough, you promised us children!” Again, gently the words “am I enough?” came to mind. Was God truly enough or did my demands set my purposes in life higher than God’s? More than 20 years later, the memory of that day is strong. I decided right there in my small office to not leave the room without settling the question: Was God enough for me, or not?
After a couple of focused hours in prayer alone with God, I emerged from my office and told Pam that I didn’t think we were going to have children. Pam and I went through much anguish in our souls, wondering why God would not give us children. We struggled to define what makes a family. Were we a family although we had no children?
During that time, God spoke deeply to Pam’s heart from Isaiah 54:1: “Sing O barren one … For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married” (ESV).
As I prayed for Pam through this passage, the next verse struck me: “Do not hold back, enlarge the place of your tent, stretch out!” (Isaiah 54:2). God truly was enlarging our family, as He gave us many sons in the faith from our ministry to Marines—we just needed to see our family through God’s eyes.
Throughout our 27 years of serving on staff with the Navs Military at Camp Lejeune, we poured the love of Christ into young Marines, sailors, and their families—people like Jon. Jon shares, “When I first came to Camp Lejeune I got involved with The Navigators and met Mike. He created a relationship of trust so I could share almost anything! He became like a spiritual dad and taught me so much about following Jesus!”
And the most amazing thing happened … Jon and others shared what they learned about God with others in the military, who shared with others. We do have spiritual children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren!
We don’t have to look far for people to invest in, sometimes they come ready to be discipled! When Steven* and his wife, Nancy*, recently moved to Camp Lejeune, they already knew about our ministry from others who had been through the base.
Steven shares, “I met Mike even before we were at Camp Lejeune. I knew of him from friends involved in Navs Military, and he visited a Bible study I was leading at another base. When I got orders for Camp Lejeune, I called Mike. While my wife and I still hope to have a family, we have learned the importance of spiritual children from Mike and Pam. Their kingdom-minded approach to life helps us focus on intentionality in our relationships with coworkers and neighbors. We decided to live on base while we are at Camp Lejeune, so we can connect deeply with others in the military; we consider ourselves missionaries on base.”
Pray that God continues to grow spiritual generations among those who serve in the military.
Thank you for sharing this. I think sometimes people can’t fathom that God might have a different plan than our desires. This reminds me of Peter and Jesus’ conversation in Matthew 16:22-23: when Peter said of God’s plan “Far be it from you, Lord!This shall never happen to you,” And Jesus responded “… you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” This is a difficult thing to wrestle with but prayer is definitely the place to do it.
Lord bless you my dear brother for the word of encouragement. God’s clearly in control at all times and blesses us and others in the way we may not see it at the time. God bless your ministry and continue to multiply it to stretch your tents and reach many more for Jesus Christ. And our prayers but his love in Christ Jesus, Will and Connie Accardo 1st Timothy 6:12
Great words Mike! Appreciate you both and the huge family you have “parented” in 27 years at Lejeune.
Great words. Mike and Pam Darnell are the true example of life time laborers and they love people so well.
May God bless you as you minister God’s love and peace at Camp Lejeune. There are so many young people there who are lonely and love and guidance.
By now I am an LOL: Little Old Lady, and my husband and I have learned to Joy in our own two daughters and in our stillborn son Eric and in our two grandsons. They are enough, But God was not finished with our “parenting.” In our teaching careers, Norm and I took on other young people who needed a place to be loved and nurtured, and in Norm’s case coached in basketball or tennis.After retirement for for my dear husband, while I was teaching ESL at Johnson County Community College and at KU Norm and I opened our home to students and athletes who also needed a place to stay or just hang out. A widow now since 2010, my ministry has been the little ones we call Kingdom Kids at our church and the children for whom moms, aunts, grandmothers have prayed for as part of Moms in Prayer for the last 10 years.
If you long for children, God provides them and the love and time it takes to nurture them. Praise Him.
As you longed for children, I longed for brothers, and God provided them in an unexpected way. I had 2 older brothers by blood who never came to Christ. One chose to be an atheist and died at 70; and the other died by his own hand when he was only 32, leaving a grieved family who loved him: his parents, his wife and 3 young children. That was 53 years ago. Since then I have been blessed by the Lord in countless ways – to be chosen by Him to be a child of His, to walk in His ways, to serve Him and love Him with the Spirit of Christ in me guiding my steps and loving many brothers in Christ that He has graciously given me in the jail and in the juvenile detention center where He has faithfully shown His love for them through me, a volunteer chaplain, for over 18 years. I would have never known the riches of His grace had I not accepted Christ as my Savior. And I would have never known so many brothers in Christ who will be with me forever in His kingdom. Praise God!
Thanks for sharing Mike and Pam! This was beautiful!
Thank you for sharing this truth, it is such a great encouragement to my wife and I have who have no biological children, although we do have one adopted son. I thank the Lord that He has given us many spiritual children and the opportunity to provide input in their lives and help to disciple them. Thank you for opening my eyes to this truth.
Mike, what a thoughtful and moving reflection. I’m proud to be in your family!
This is the ELCA Year of Prayer, and I was lifted up to open the January Newsletter to see “Prayer” emblazoned across the front page. 30 years ago I lost my only pregnancy and prayed about how our lives would go. Surely we would have children, but, no. And a few years later God spoke to me through Proverbs 16:33, and I knew He was in charge. We have had a more significant role in our community, our church, and the care of our parents as a result of God’s leading. Thank you for sharing lives and being part of our family of God.
You two are a treasure. As someone who has loved your wife since we were kids, I so appreciated reading this. I’ve always said, “Everyone’s script is different.” But more to the point, God has a plan for all of us and sometimes it doesn’t conform to what’s considered normal but your life can honor God and be a joy and sometimes a surprise if we live for His Kingdom and you and Pam certainly do that. The world could use so many more like you. Love you Both
I admire and love both of you. I’m thankful you have been there for our precious military families.
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