If you have read parts 1 – 6, you know that in the spring of 2005 my husband and I both – at the same moment – felt God’s call to full-time missions. Together, we prayed for God to further reveal His will for us. We asked God, “OK. What next?”
We decided together to not say anything to anybody until we had prayed about the whole thing some more. So we prayed and we asked God what this meant. What mission board should we join? What country should we go to? Did we have to go to Bible college? There were so many questions. And, at that time, not very many answers.
At some point, we met with our pastor and associate pastor and shared with them what God was doing in our hearts. God used their reactions to confirm in our hearts His calling. They said they weren’t at all surprised. They were very encouraging, and they promised to pray for us.
Our pastor said something in that conversation that struck me. He said that again and again in his ministry (more than 35 years of ministry), he has watched God call those who are already involved in ministry within their church to a full-time ministry. He had watched us since the early days of our marriage and had seen our willingness to serve in the church, so it came as no surprise to him that God would call us to full-time missions. My husband and I were very blessed to be raised by parents who were and are willing to be involved in the ministries of their churches. We had had excellent examples of how to serve in the local church. Really, we volunteered and served without giving it much thought; it was just what a person does in church. But I think my pastor’s point is a good one — it is very rare for a person who is doing nothing in his church to be called to full-time ministry. Why would God call him to greater obedience if he’s not already obeying and serving?
So . . . back to our story. Our pastors were praying for us, and we still had not told anybody else. We hadn’t mentioned it to our children because . . . well, because that would be like taking out an ad in the regional newspaper. I didn’t even tell my children who my secret sister at church was because they were too small to keep secrets.
Finally, one Sunday morning in church the worship service was drawing to a close and Patrick leaned over and whispered, “I think God wants me to announce this morning. It’s time to tell the church.” OK, I thought, here we go! There’s no turning back now.
We walked forward and I stood beside my husband as he announced to the church how God had impressed upon our hearts His desire for us to serve in full-time missions. Patrick told our church that we had no idea what this meant, but we were going to follow wherever God led. Some people in the congregation looked surprised — remember, I was expecting our sixth child in seven years and my husband had a pretty good, steady, reliable job. Some people probably thought we were out of our minds. Others, though, smiled and nodded, and I could tell they could see that God was all over this. I mean, it is just like God to do something that seems so crazy to us. It seems impossible for a couple in their thirties with a larger-than-average family to chuck everything and go into full-time missions, but our God specializes in the impossible.
As soon as church was over, we decided we should hurry and get our children and sneak out the back door so we could tell them about becoming missionaries before they heard it from someone else.
Once in the car, we explained to the children — ages 6, 5, 4, 2, and 1 — that we believed God was calling our family to be missionaries and that Daddy and Momma didn’t know what that meant, but we were praying for God to show us where He wanted us and what He wanted us to do. The boys were all too young, really, to understand any of it. Lauren, who was 6 and who is, by nature, resistant to change, immediately expressed her displeasure at leaving our home, our church, our family, her friends, and our dog. Rachel, who was 5, beamed and exclaimed, “You mean I don’t have to wait until I’m grown up to be a missionary?”
In all fairness to Lauren and Rachel, I will tell you that they have both felt all the range of emotions displayed in their very different initial reactions. Lauren has felt great thankfulness that God has allowed us to be part of reaching the world with the Gospel. She has prayed heartfelt prayers of gratefulness and joy, and she has told us many times that she believes we are doing exactly what God has called us to do. Rachel, on the other hand, has had moments of deep sadness at leaving friends and family members and, especially, at losing our beloved dog. She has struggled with the changes and the leaving behind to follow God’s call. Both of them, and the boys too, have experienced the same battle of emotions that my husband and I have also experienced. The battle between that great joy of knowing we are in God’s will and the sadness of counting the cost to follow Him.
In Part 8, I’ll tell you about telling our parents that we were going to become missionaries and about our search for direction and some long months in which God seemed silent.