So back in the spring of 2005, my husband and I felt called to full-time mission work, but we had no idea what the specifics would be. After praying about it, we talked to our pastors and, rather spontaneously, announced to our church that we felt called to missions.
That afternoon, we called our parents to let them know what God had been doing in our hearts. Now, our parents are totally supportive of mission work and missionaries. My in-laws, as I’ve said, have gone on short-term mission trips overseas, and their church is very committed to evangelism and outreach and world missions. My parents’ church, though small, is extremely committed to supporting missionaries and reaching the world with the gospel. Missionaries speak in the church regularly, and my parents visit with them and feed them. Our parents love missionaries and have a heart to reach the world with the good news of Christ. However, we know there is quite a difference between supporting missionaries, in general, and supporting the idea that your children will be missionaries and may take your grandchildren far away. So we prayed before we called.
We called my parents first. My dad was at a meeting, so we spoke with my mom. I was on one cordless phone. Patrick was on the other. I told her about the mission conference and the missionaries from Papua New Guinea and how God had softened my heart. And then we told her about how God brought Patrick home for the Sunday evening service . And then we explained how we both felt such a burden for missions and just a sure knowledge that we had to spend our lives reaching the world with the gospel. And then I sort of held my breath and waited for her reaction.
I’m telling you that God handles every detail. My mom said, “I am not surprised. I’ve been waiting to hear something like this.” God had been working for at least a year preparing her for His plans for us. She said that a year earlier, she may have been really upset at the idea of our taking the children and going far away, but God had prepared her and given her a peace about His plans. She was very supportive. And when my dad got home from his meeting, he also was very supportive. He even talked with a pastor he knew, which led to our visiting that church and sharing a missions challenge with them.
Encouraged by that, we called Patrick’s parents later that day. Once again, we were both on a cordless phone. This time, Patrick gave the news. Would you believe what his mom’s first words were? “I am not surprised. I’ve sort of been expecting something like this.” I’m not kidding you! She said EXACTLY what my mom said! Talk about confirmation! We asked God to make it as obvious as a two-by-four up-side the head, and He surely did. Though they would also miss us terribly, Patrick’s parents have been amazingly supportive of God’s call in our lives.
So now our family and church knew that we wanted to obey God’s call to full-time missions. But we still had no idea what the next step would be. We searched the web-sites of various mission organizations. Some mission organizations list their needs — a teacher, a builder, an English as a second language teacher, a church planter, a nurse. So I searched those and made lists for my husband. I wanted to come up with a plan. He was asking God for wisdom. I was passing on every idea I came across, every opportunity I thought might fit us. Finally, the Holy Spirit convicted me that He would not need my help to guide Patrick. I could lay off. I could relax. I could wait on Him. Asking Him to give me that kind of self-control, I quit trying to work it all out. And I just waited, trusting God and trusting my husband to hear God.
In the meantime, Patrick continued planning his trip to an island in the Philippines. You may remember he was going there in the summer of 2005 to help get a house ready in the jungle for our missionary friends. We continued in our activities and ministries in our church and community. I was involved in leadership at a MOPS group. Patrick helped teach an English as a second language class through a campus ministry at Virginia Tech. Our children played soccer. We served in church. Patrick continued at his job. And we waited.
In July Patrick and the group from our church went on that mission trip, and God really used that trip and Patrick’s experiences. Our friends who were moving into that jungle house serve with New Tribes Mission. Because of that, Patrick met several NTM missionaries while in the Philippines. He was impressed with the humility and the attitude of service he saw among those missionaries. He was impressed with the lack of any superiority or pride or arrogance among the leadership he met. While he was in the tribe, Patrick met Ross, who is the chairman of NTM Australia. Patrick was so blessed and encouraged by Ross’ testimony and heart for service and desire to reach the world with the gospel. Before he left, Ross shook Patrick’s hand and said, “Patrick, if you find a better missions organization, please let me know and I will come and serve with you. Otherwise, please join us and serve with me at NTM.” What an impression that made on my husband!
After Patrick returned, we still didn’t hear any clear Voice of God telling us what to do. There was no “NTM” or “ABWE” or “World Outreach” written on our bedroom walls when we awoke each morning. So we continued to pray. And wait.
Finally, in the spring of 2006, a full year after we’d told God we’d go anywhere and do anything and that we wanted to spend ourselves reaching the world with the news of Christ, Patrick and I were talking. Chris, our friend in the Philippines, had told Patrick in a chat via Skype that a ship has to be moving in order to be steered in a certain direction. He encouraged us that it was time to stop waiting and just start moving and trust God to guide us. Then Chris said, “Just make the best decision you can about which mission organization and which people group and start moving in that direction. Trust God to close any doors or steer you differently.”
Then Chris said something that really caught our attention. He said, “When you get to heaven and meet Jesus face-to-face, I don’t think He will fuss at you for going to the wrong group of people with the gospel. Just go.”
So Patrick and I both agreed that our burden was greater for the people in the world who have never had a chance to hear about Jesus. Jim Elliot had once said about the gospel, “Why should some hear twice when others have not heard once?” God used that quote to prick our hearts. Yes, we agreed, our heartbeat for missions was the same heartbeat of New Tribes Mission. And so we went online to fill out the questionnaire.
We sat with the laptop in our bedroom filling out the questionnaire while our children played in the living room. It was the weekend of our church’s mission conference. One year before at the mission conference, God had moved in our hearts. That weekend, after a year of praying and seeking wisdom, we finally were stepping out in faith.
Just as we finished the questionnaire, we heard screams. Our son Caleb (5 at the time) cut the tip of his finger as he was closing a folding chair. It was very nearly completely amputated. We wrapped his finger in cold, wet paper towels to hold it together, instructed him not to try to look at it, and prayed it would stay barely attached until Patrick could get him to the hospital. I tried not to throw up. We calmed the other children. And Patrick rushed Caleb to the hospital where it was determined the bone had not been fully broken, only chipped a bit, and his finger was sewn back together.
We agreed this was Satan’s reaction to our stepping out in faith. And then we got ready for our mission conference dessert night. Caleb’s hand was still numb, and he didn’t want to miss it.
We knew our questionnaire answers were in somebody’s in-box at New Tribes. And so we waited again. We were moving. Now, we’d see if we were headed in the right direction.