In Part 9 I told you how God worked out the details to show us where He wanted us to serve with New Tribes. So in late 2006, we officially joined New Tribes and began the partnership development phase of our ministry. We mailed out letters, traveled to churches, spoke to groups and Sunday School classes, and had plenty of one-on-one conversations about tribal missions. It was so exciting to see God beginning to weave together a team of partners who would pray for us and share with us and work with us toward reaching the world for Christ.
During this time, Patrick and I were praying about when he should resign from his job and make missions his primary focus. We asked a good friend to pray with us and for us about a specific time. And then we committed to pray for two weeks and see what the Lord would show us.
At the end of two weeks, my friend said she had a time in mind. I thought I had a time in mind, but I wanted to pray more. Patrick said he definitely needed more time to pray. So we prayed for two more weeks. At the end of that time, I asked Patrick if he was feeling any sort of direction about the timing. He said every time he prayed, he thought “June or July.” As you may remember, we were planning to go to Brazil for a week and a half at the end of June and beginning of July to work with some missionaries there. So Patrick said he felt like he should give his notice a couple weeks before we were scheduled to leave, go on the trip (using his vacation time), and then come back and work a couple days to tie up any loose ends. So the whole process of resigning would happen at the end of June and the beginning of July.
After he said this, he asked what answer I had gotten while praying. I was about to burst! Every time I prayed, I felt like he should quit in June or July. Once again, God worked in both our hearts the same way to make his guidance obvious. For further confirmation, I called up our friend and asked her what God had showed her during her time of praying for us. She said, “Every time I prayed, I felt like Patrick should quit this summer — like June or July.” God doesn’t want to hide His will from us! He wants us to have wisdom. We only need to ask, and -in His timing- He will guide us.
After a few weeks, Patrick began to second-guess this plan. As the husband and father, he has always felt such a responsibility to provide for us. He certainly would never want to foolishly rush into a decision and leave us neglected. I appreciate this about my husband. He is a hard worker and he was nervous about the idea of quitting his job knowing that we still did not have our needed monthly support. We didn’t have anywhere near the amount of money we needed each month! And so Patrick began to question whether our plan was the wisest one. I want to be clear at this point that I don’t fault Patrick for this and I don’t want you to question his faith. I love that he cares so much about us and takes seriously his responsibilities as a husband and father. I am thankful that he wanted to make absolutely sure that he wasn’t stepping outside of God’s will or getting ahead of God.
So Patrick and I talked about whether we should pray more and whether this really would be the best decision. It was either later that day or the next day that the phone rang. It was a pastor who also directs a youth Bible camp. He had received a letter from us; he knows our pastor; and he wanted us to come be the missionary family for the teen boy week of Bible camp later in the summer.
Patrick, of course, said he needed to talk to his wife and pray about it. As Patrick recounted the conversation, I laughed out loud when he told me the dates of the camp. Remember — Patrick was using all his vacation time to go to Brazil in late June/early July. According to our much-prayed-about plan, his last official day of work would be July 6. We had just been discussing whether this was the best plan and whether we should spend more time praying about it. So the teen boy camp would begin on July 8 and last the whole week. Since Patrick wouldn’t have any more vacation time, he would have to have resigned before July 8 in order for us to accept this invitation. (You may also remember we often ask God to make it like a two-by-four upside our heads!)
So Patrick looked at me and asked what I thought. I laughed and said, “I think God is kicking you in the pants and saying, ‘Stick to the schedule and quit your job in late June.'”
We did stick to the plan. Patrick gave his notice at work, which was received with respect and acceptance -a huge praise!. We went to Brazil, and he came home and worked his last two days. Then we went to the Bible camp. What a blessing that week was! Four teenage boys gave their lives to Christ, and several more re-dedicated their lives to Him. Our family had a good time together, and our children have good memories from that week. We were so blessed to spend a week there where we didn’t have to buy groceries or prepare our own meals, and then we were shocked to find out the boys also gave an offering to us and the church gave us some money for traveling expenses. God used our time there to bless us spiritually and financially, providing for our needs through the campers and the church members. This was further confirmation that we were moving in God’s timing.
Throughout the next several months, our finances really did not make any sense on paper. Some people and a couple churches signed on as monthly partners with us. What a blessing that was! God directed other people to give one-time gifts to us that came at the perfect time. We were still paying our mortgage since we hadn’t even put our house up for sale yet. Within two days God provided two months’ worth of mortgage payments. One of those came from an unbeliever who felt like he should do something for us because he respected what we were doing.
Another time, God divinely appointed a run-in with a former co-worker of Patrick’s. He had worked with her in his first job out of grad school and hadn’t seen her in ages. She is also an unbeliever and when she heard what we were doing, she thought it was “noble.” In her own words, she does not usually give to “right-wing fundamentalist causes,” but she wanted to donate something to us.
God can provide for His people however He wants. Remember how He instructed the Israelite women to ask their Egyptian neighbors for valuable things before He led them out of bondage? Later on, the gold from those mirrors and hairbrushes was used to help build the Temple. God can use the wealth of the unsaved to build His Body and accomplish His purposes.
Of course, we were excited to watch God provide for us in such amazing ways. We were also thrilled that these two unbelievers’ hearts are still soft enough to react to His leading. We are still praying that they will soon accept Christ.
We had hoped to get our house ready to sell soon after our return from Brazil. That did not happen. As much as we tried, we just could not get our act together. I kept thinking if I tried harder or planned better or made more lists and more schedules, it would all work out. But the more I planned and the more lists I made, the less I got done. I would sort through toys and get almost finished and it would be time to make a meal or give baths or change a diaper or fold laundry, and while I was doing that, the boys would dump the boxes back out and mix up all the “keep” toys with all the “donate” toys. I think I sorted the same box of toys five times! I just couldn’t seem to get anything accomplished.
Finally, one Sunday morning, the Lord forced me to ask our church body for help. I am not sure how they understood a word I said, I was crying so hard. But I humbly stood before them and asked for help. What a blessing that turned out to be! I began to understand why I hadn’t been able to accomplish anything before. God wanted this to be a project for His body. He wanted me to sense community. He wanted me to understand that we were not stepping out as missionaries on our own; we were part of a team, just one small cog in the wheel. We could not do this on our own. It was the exact lesson I needed to learn.
I think it was also a blessing for our church family. We could not have sorted through our belongings, finished the work to get our house ready to sell, packed up our house, and moved without their help. We needed their prayers and their financial support, but we also needed their practical help. They cooked us meals; they loved and fed and played with our children; they painted and pulled weeds and hauled off trash and spread dirt in the yard. They saw my house at its messiest. So many of them gave so much of themselves to us. And when we finally left, they had to know that it was because they had helped. Honestly, we could not have done it without them.
Finally, in the fall we realized that if God could provide for all our needs in Virginia without a job and without the full monthly support pledged, then God could provide for all our needs if we actually went where He had directed us to go. So with the blessing of our pastors and the provision of God, we said our goodbyes, packed up everything, put our house on the market, and moved here in December.
We had come up with a very basic beans-and-rice budget and we still needed more than $700 a month to meet that budget. There have been moments of practicing contentment, but we have had everything we need and still much of what we want. God has provided in some surprising ways — perhaps it’s been through you! We have had such a good time watching Him. We just never know when someone will send a check or deposit money into our account.
One evening when we had finished a dinner that neither Patrick nor I really wanted but it was what we had in the cupboard, we got a call offering us the most delicious food, leftovers from a large dinner. We were so excited! You’d have thought we hadn’t eaten in weeks. It was the most wonderful meal we’ve eaten because it was so obviously from the hand of God, a sweet surprise when we least expected it.
There have been other times when people have knocked on our door with a cart-full of food from a health food store or with an offer of an Easter ham. God has provided shoes and clothes and even a pair of roller blades. And when I really goofed and got my first ever speeding ticket, God graciously provided the money to pay my fine. People have given us money specifically for special treats. Guests have bought us pizza and picked up the tab at the grocery store.
And that house we left on the market back in Virginia? We’re scheduled to close on it later this month. Even in what the world would call a horrible housing market, our house was on the market for about three months before we got a contract on it. We had said all along that God would bring along the right buyer — whether in three days or three weeks or three months or longer. If He wanted to provide for us through the sale of our house, He could; or He could provide in other ways. And He did. He owns the cattle on all the hillsides. Meeting my financial needs is not a big deal for Him.
He has also provided in other ways. He has been my strength, my protection, my friend. In the days before our move, the enemy attacked us and tested us, but we cried out to our Father. And He remained faithful. There are more stories than I could possibly tell. Just know that our Father is good. All the time.
So . . . He has brought us here. We are nothing special. We are not doing anything glamorous. We aren’t suffering much. We may never even get to meet any of the tribal people who come to know Christ until we’re in Heaven together. But we know we’re where God has led us. We want to do the small job He has given us. And we are content to be a link in the chain, just one small part of the process of reaching those who have never before been reached.
Paul Fleming, co-founder of New Tribes, once said that when someone hears the Gospel for the first time, it is Good News. When someone hears the Gospel for the second time, it’s still Good; it’s just not News anymore. We want to be the feet that help bring Good News to people who have never heard.
A popular quote around New Tribes is “If men are unbelievers by choice then that’s their business. If men are unbelievers by no choice…That’s our business.”
We are compelled by the love of the Lord our God and by the love He has given us for others to do our small part in reaching those who have never been reached and telling them of the One Who came to rescue them from a life apart from Him. By God’s grace, this is our consuming passion.
That is our story. So far.