As many of you heard yesterday at church, the Lord has been making some changes in our household in preparation for His next calling on our lives. God has made it quite clear over the last 6 months that He is calling our family to the International Missions Field. What does that mean? Please allow me to explain and answer some questions:
We are currently candidates with the International Missions Board (IMB), meaning that we’ve been through the initial interview, filled out some beginning paperwork, gone to a weekend conference explaining so, so, so much about what that picture will look like for our family, and the IMB has chosen to proceed further with our family in anticipation of us joining the missions field in 12-18 months. We are honored that the IMB also sees this Call on our family’s lives and sees the opportunity as now to pursue that Call. I want to be very clear here that we are not IMB missionaries. It’s not until job placement confirmation and the commencement ceremony that we would ever become IMB missionaries, but we are currently past the “seeking the possibility” phase and onto the candidate phase upon the IMB’s approval/recommendation.
So where do we feel called? We feel called to the Sub Saharan Africa region. Where’s that? This picture helps with perspective.And while these aren’t the exact borders that the IMB works within, you get the idea. And yes, the Lord is calling my family of burnable white people to the dry, desert equator. It’s a good moment to reflect on the joy of being called during an era of the invention of sunblock. ;)
Are we aware that we have four small kids? Um, yes. Pretty aware. ;) And it is our responsibility to care for them the best that we can. So we’re taking our missions opportunities seriously, with prayer and discernment. But we also trust that when the Lord calls us, He calls our whole family and He knows EXACTLY the best for every single person in our family. And still He called us. So we joyfully obey, knowing He knows best.
What happens next? Well, next we fill out A BUNCH of in-depth application and deployment paperwork. And then we have another big long interview. Then we’re handed off to the Sub Saharan Africa guy who has a big long interview with us, yet again, and begins to offer us job possibilities. After prayer and discernment, we select a job of our interest, research a bunch and even have an interview or two with the team on the ground in that country. If everyone is in agreement that it’s a good match, then we proceed forward to the Board. After the Board prays through our application/checks off all our paperwork then we get offered the job or we end up looking for a new job to better match us. In general, we are told that while nothing is finalized until the Board agrees, therefore offering us that job, everyone is wanting to get us onto the missions field so it’s more of a matter of job matching and less of a matter of “no more room in the inn”. After job placement match and approval by the board, there’s a commencement ceremony, a month to say goodbye to our things, 8.5 weeks at Field Placement Orientation (FPO) in Virginia with our family and then within 2 weeks we’ll step foot in our new country of residence. Then it’s a 3-4 year apprenticeship with lovely language school for a year and acclimating to our new norm with our new team before we are “free to have furlough or move, etc” missionaries.
Yes, that’s a lot of information. Yes, it’s one step at a time. Yes, it’s a lot to take in.
How exactly does the IMB work? They fully fund their missionaries. There will be no fund raising from us. They will take care of 100% of our medical insurance needs (with no co-pays), cover moving expenses, airline tickets, in-country housing rent/establishment, etc. They’ll walk us through every step, unite us with a team and keep in regular contact to assess God’s Kingdom work. They are VERY good at what they do and their reputation proceeds them. And their recidivism rate from the start of the IMB candidate (our current phase) through completion of the first term of field work (apprenticeship) is 3.5%. The closest missions agency to the IMB has a 12% recidivism rate and they don’t count those that return after stepping foot on country soil.
But what about our heart for adoption? Yes, we still would like to adopt, and plan to. Yes, we’re still praying through that. And it’s looking like “on the field” could be an opportunity once we get through language school and settled. But we are not heading to the field for the purpose of adopting. We are heading to the field for the purpose of sharing Christ with the lost and dying world.
Don’t we know the world is scary? Yes, and so is the US. (Remembers a burglar breaking in through the nursery window while my children were sleeping). But God goes before us and behind us. He has been, is and will always be more than enough. And the IMB is REALLY GOOD about maintaining the best watch on a country’s security. It’s risky to go and it’s risky to stay. We are all living in a world that is passing away. So we will continue to listen to the Lord’s guiding and trust the discernment He has placed without our hearts. He has protected us before and we trust Him to guide and protect us in the future too.
Don’t we realize that we’ll be leaving our friends and family? I don’t think we’ll ever be ok with that part. I don’t think I’ll ever be ok thinking of Eden not remembering a time when her grandma or her Goga held her. I don’t like it. It hurts. But… then I think of the millions of people living without hope. In fear. Alone. And suddenly Skype and furlough feels doable. We will be intentional. Our hearts have to be. You friends and family are dear to us. So dear. But our hearts burn within us for the lost and dying world. And we know that our love with you all will withstand the physical distance between our Skype sessions. When a board of IMB missionaries were asked about their friends and family back in the States there was not a single dry eye. Leaving will always be hard. That’s how you know the relationship is real. It’s deep. And yet one missionary said it best after his 20 year term on the field, “God works supernaturally to build a relationship between us that we never thought possible with the distance. Trust Him. He will take care of it.” Our relationships will be different. But different does not mean shallow. We’ll bring you all. Our contact and communication will look different. But we’ll bring you because we can’t bear to leave you. We love you.
What if the IMB doesn’t work out? Then God is intending to get us to the missions field through some other means and we will pray through the next step from there.
How long will we live abroad? I don’t know. But we trust God to answer that one once we settle in toward the end of our apprenticeship. We may only serve one term. Or two. Or three. Or more. But we trust the Lord, who knows better than we, to show us one step at a time down this path of trust and obedience.
So the news is out and we covet your prayers. Big Time, we covet your prayers!!! Our children are excited and nervous and curious. And we are excited and nervous and curious, too. ;) Feel free to ask questions. But don’t be surprised if we don’t know the answers yet. This is all unfolding slowly and in God’s perfect timing.
To God be the GLORY forever and ever, Amen!
He is the reason that we go.