In late 2004 I
decided demanded suggested that we should take a week-long family vacation in the summer of 2005. We had never driven to a beach and spent a week there as a family, and I thought it was time for that. My husband agreed, and so I began searching the internet for the perfect vacation spot.
Lauren and Rachel had fallen in love with Misty, the horse from Chincoteague Island, Virginia. Lauren had read the book by Marguerite Henry, and we had all watched the old movie based on the story. I discovered that vacation rentals on Chincoteague are MUCH less expensive than vacation rentals at other beaches. So that settled it. We’d spend a week in a large red beach house on Chincoteague Island. We would play in the sand, collect shells, hike to the lighthouse, scope out wild ponies, and taste ice cream from all three ice cream shops on the island. It would be a dream vacation.
We received our paperwork so that we could reserve the house for a week in June. But we misplaced it. A few weeks went by. Finally, we found it under a stack of junk mail and bills and Sunday School coloring pages on our desk. But we still did not sign it. I didn’t feel a peace about it; Patrick didn’t feel a peace about it; we decided to pray about it. Maybe that wasn’t the house we were supposed to stay in.
I really wanted to go on this vacation.
In January of 2005 our friends Chris and Lynne, who are missionaries with New Tribes Mission, were home visiting for a few weeks before returning to the Philippines. They were scheduled to speak in church one very snowy morning. We bundled up our five small children and braved the slick roads to get to church.
Chris and Lynne wanted a team of people from our church to come to the Philippines that summer. They were preparing to move into the jungle to help an Australian couple who are translating the Bible into the tribal language. The house in the jungle needed a great deal of work before Chris and Lynne could live in it, so they wanted a team of people from our church to come work on their house. This particular Sunday in January, they were going to update us on their ministry and challenge our church to send this team of people. So we went to church to hear them and visit with them because we love them.
A couple months before, Patrick had mentioned that he’d love to go on the trip. I had laughed and said, “Yeah, I bet you would. Me too.” He didn’t say anything. I laughed again and said, “I’m sure there are other people who don’t have a wife and five small children who can go help them.”
As you know, we had both been on at least one short-term mission trip before. I knew how amazing and fun that experience could be. I knew how God could use a time like that to change a person. I knew that two weeks in a foreign country would be amazing. But I knew that I couldn’t up and leave my five children, all ages seven and under. So, it stood to reason, that Patrick couldn’t do that either. I did not plan to be left behind for two weeks while he traveled around the world having some amazing experience. He traveled enough for his job. Besides, we were taking a family vacation to Chincoteague. And that was the end of that conversation.
So there we sat on that cold January morning, listening to Chris and Lynne, looking at their pictures, hearing their stories. My heart was softened by their burden, by their retelling of their experiences, and especially by their pictures. Finally, Chris challenged our half-filled church about sending a team of people. It would cost tens of thousands of dollars for plane tickets and building supplies and meals and other travel expenses for a group to go for two weeks. Our church would have less than six months to give this, in addition to all of our regular tithes and mission giving. It was a big goal, and God would really have to pull it together.
Then Chris asked everyone to bow their heads and pray, asking God to put this team of people together. He asked God to call forward those He wanted on this trip.
I bowed my head to pray and immediately felt a strong knowing that Patrick should go on the trip. Inside my head, the conversation went something like this:
“But God, I don’t want him to go. Four-day business trips are hard enough. I don’t want to be left alone for two weeks with five children.”
nothing, just a strong feeling that Patrick had to go
“But God, we are supposed to go on that vacation to Chincoteague. If Patrick uses two weeks of vacation for this trip, we won’t be able to go.”
a flash of remembering how neither of us had peace about signing the paperwork for the rental house
“So that’s why we didn’t have a peace about it? But I really wanted to go. We deserve a family vacation, Lord.
a quiet whisper saying, “You don’t always get what you want, Jennifer. There is always next year for a vacation. This is only happening this year. My plans are better than your plans.
“But we were going to use our tax return to pay for this vacation. It was all going to work out so perfectly.”
Oh, about that tax return money. You should use that to pay for Patrick’s plane tickets to the Philippines. He has to go.
“Lord, I want to obey you, but it sure is hard. I really don’t want to give up the vacation and the money and my husband for two weeks. *sigh* But I will.
And this was the conversation inside Patrick’s head:
a strong knowing that he had to go on this trip
“But God, you know how Jenn feels about that. She’s already told me. If you want me to go, you have to convince her. I don’t want to force this on her. Please change her heart. I’m leaving this one up to you.”
Of course, all of this happened rather quickly because the prayer only lasted a short time. Finally, I leaned over and whispered to Patrick, “You have to go. It’s OK. We’ll give up Chincoteague for this year. It’s OK. You have to go.”
I don’t know that I have ever seen Patrick look so relieved. As he walked up the aisle to commit to the trip, I wept. I knew that when God asks us to give up our plans and greatest dreams, He has something even better planned. If He was asking me to sacrifice our vacation (my dream vacation), He was going to do something incredible.
Little did I know then just what He had in store for us!