Tag Archives: Europe

Scratching the Itch

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This week I’m going to walk you through a bit of our personal story about how my family and I ended up on the mission field.  I hope you enjoy our story and find encouragement and inspiration for your own journey.

I grew up in a Christian home.  As a matter of fact, when I was in 4th grade, my Dad was hired as the Youth Pastor at our church.  As a preacher’s kid, I was in the church every time the doors were opened.  But my favorite times, by far, were Sunday nights when missionaries would come with their tables spread with snake skins and bobbles from far away lands.  I love their costumes and slide shows.  I loved their stories and their altar calls.  I can’t tell you the number of times I have responded to the plea of “who will go?”  My little heart was like a hand waving desperately from the back of the room, “ooh-ooh pick me!  pick me!!” I couldn’t wait to grow up so I could be called by God to go somewhere- anywhere.

I had Sunday School teachers and girls’ club leaders who read aloud exciting missionary stories of miracles and dangerous escapes and prayers answered and visions and angels and spiritual show-downs in witch doctor infested jungles.  Oh the adventures!  The thrilling adventures kept me coming back for more.  I searched the library for missionary biographies.  I collected the little picture prayer cards that the missionaries left in the back of the church lobby.  I studied maps and located the countries that I was interested in.  (I was the weird girl who lined her bedroom walls with maps instead of boy band posters.)  I couldn’t get enough of the world!

Time progressed and in Junior High we started studying languages.  I chose French.  Four years later I was a true Francophile.  I was convinced that someday I would live in Paris.  I was sure of it.  My teacher said I had a pretty accent.

The years still continued to slide along evenly, yet too slowly for my tastes.  When the Berlin Wall fell, I remember standing in front of a newspaper stand near our home in a suburb of Chicago and looking with disbelief at the first photos of people embracing across the span of that horrid barrier.  I remember thinking, “I should be there!  I was born too late.  I should be there by now.”  My Europe was changing without me.  And I didn’t even have a drivers’ license yet, let alone a passport.

College came.  I fell in love with a Youth Ministries Major.  I schemed and plotted and maneuvered until he caught me.  🙂  The only problem was, Josh was kind of a home-body and I had the itch to travel.  Before we got married I looked at him and made him promise something.  I said, “Promise me someday we’ll do missions.”  Of course he confessed later that he just wanted to get married, so he said Yes.  But God heard.

For 8 years we worked as youth pastors at the same church where my Dad had been youth pastor.  Life was coming full circle for me, but I longed for what was outside of my circle.  Every other year we took our youth group kids on a missions trip overseas.  This trip was the highlight of my year, and I would beg, borrow and steal to make it happen.  Once it meant I weaned my nursing baby earlier than I wanted to just so I could go on a missions trip.  I was serious about this!  In 8 years, we visited Panama, England, Thailand, and Mexico in addition to a personal trip to the Czech Republic just because I’d always wanted to go to Prague.  For me, those trips were scratching the missions itch.  For Josh, each one was a stretching exercise.  In each country he would ask himself, “Could I live here?” and each time, the answer was No.

To be continued tomorrow…

Hindsight… does this dream make my butt look big?

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Leap of Faith

“Staring in the water like Aesop’s foolish dog

Can’t help but reflect on what is was I almost lost

What I thought I wanted, what I got instead

Leaves me broken and grateful.”

~Sara Groves, What I thought I wanted

I had a dream of living in Europe.  I studied 4 years of French.  I seriously thought God was going to call me to Europe as a missionary.  Europe suits me, and I have the wardrobe for it already!  I love the history, the architecture, the art, the cool youth culture.  I just love Europe.  I kept waiting for the Call from the Lord.  It never came.

When I was 17 I was supposed to be attending my high school graduation.  Instead I was spending a month in Europe with my family on a sort of family missions trip.  We spent 3 weeks in Brussels, Belgium working with missionary friends and then tacked on a week in Paris just for family vacation.  I never considered missing my graduation ceremony to be a hardship in the light of Paris!  I was born for that city!

While we were in Belgium we toured Continental Bible College, where I considered studying for at least a year.  As I walked through the buildings with the tour guide, I prayed in my heart.  I asked God, “Well, what do you think?” and clear as the voice of the tour guide I heard God say to me, “He’s not here.”  I knew immediately that he meant my future husband.  I said, “I didn’t ask you about that,” and we didn’t talk about it again.  I went home and applied to North Central Bible College in Minneapolis, my hometown.  I met Josh a few months later and two years later we got married.  What I thought I wanted pales in comparison with what I got instead.

Fast forward to 2003.  We were on a missions trip with our youth group kids.  We knew this would be our last trip.  We had already felt God starting to stir our hearts, change was on the horizon.  But we didn’t know what it was going to look like.  Sitting on a bench on the campus of the University of Mexico UNAM we felt God speaking to our hearts.  “This door is open.  Will you come here and work for me?” he asked.

I thought about my Europe.  I said, “Mexico??  But God, I took FRENCH!  Remember?   Is this one of those times when I say yes to what you want and then you give me what I really want instead?”

No.  Then he took me to the altar of my heart.  He reminded me of all the times I had knelt before him and said, “Lord, send me!!  I’ll go ANYWHERE!  Just send me SOMEWHERE!”

And he asked me again, “Did you really mean anywhere?”

“Yes, Lord.  I will go anywhere you send me.”  I humbly replied.  Europe slipped from my fingers.  And I had the sensation of falling backwards off a cliff and landing safely in God’s hands.  That free fall, stomach in the throat, adrenalin rush that you get just as you jump was me putting my trust in God, knowing that he was going to catch me.  Faith.  A leap of Faith.

Last year I had a very vivid dream.  The Lord was speaking to me.  In my dream the Lord and I were hovering over a globe of the world.  He showed me Europe.  I saw and felt and experienced in one moment everything I love about Europe.  Then the globe spun and I was over Latin America.  The same thing happened, in one moment I saw and felt and experienced everything I love about Latin America.  Then the globe was pulled back a little.  Looking at the whole world, God gave me a choice.  “Knowing what you now know, do you want Europe or Latin America?”  I was being given a choice, a permanent, real choice.

I hovered over the globe for longer than I thought it would take to make this decision. In my dream I cried over the agony of this choice.  Finally I said, “I can’t bear the thought of leaving Latin America.  I love it more than I ever thought I would.  I choose Latin America.”  As soon as I made my choice, the globe was removed from me and I felt that my decision was made final.  I would not be given this choice again.  But oh the peace that flooded my heart!  I knew I would be happy with this decision.

Something deep inside of me resonated like a bell.  There is a part of me that was made to respond to Latin America, and it thrills me to hear it ring like a bell in my heart.  What I thought I wanted was completely different from what I got instead.  And I am happy.  So happy.