I (Heather) spoke last Wednesday for the women's Bible study groups at our church here in Woodland Park. It was a "Women of the Harvest" sharing time to let people know about our ministry and our family. I spoke about the Rift Valley Academy and what we will be doing there, but you can read the rest of our blog for that. Here's where I shared what God has been teaching me during this time of transition:
When I look back over the last decade or so and ahead to the next few years, one lesson from the Lord comes to mind. Waiting. It can be awful. It can be scary. It can be tense. It can be hard to stay the course.
We have a 1997 Ford Explorer. I married into it, and we live in the middle of town, so we get by with just one car, and Jim is a rather talented mechanic so he keeps it going safe enough for his family. Until this year. Since we were appointed as missionaries and knew when we were leaving the country, we have prayed that the car would last just long enough for us. In the fall, it wouldn’t start a few times, and so we replaced the battery thinking that was the problem. Nope. We discovered when it wouldn’t start, you just had to shift it to neutral and the key would turn and it would start just fine. We also discovered you only had to nudge the shifter to change gears, and it often never really parked. It was just in Reverse or Drive on a level surface. This was making me more and more nervous as the months went on. I was just WAITING for it to fall apart under us one day while we were driving to the store. Jim looked and looked and couldn’t figure anything out. And it just got worse and worse. So finally, last week, I made a quick run to the mailbox with it. It started like “normal”... whatever that was anymore!... and I got the mail, turned around and came home. I pulled into the driveway, went to put it into “park”, and it went “CLUNK!” It wasn’t close to in park, it just kept driving. Sometimes it helps to put it in reverse and try again, so I did. Two more big “CLUNK”s each time I changed the gear. I thought “I’m going to have to sit in this car the rest of the day until Jim gets home!” So I turned it off to see if it would settle to a stop on our flat driveway. Phew. It did. And then I felt something land on my shoe. Oh no. I dreaded what I would see. It was a screw. Hefty and strong, apparently an important part of something. I just left it. And dreaded what Jim would come home and discover. I immediately began to think of the places we needed to go this week and who I could get rides from. Or who I should send to get milk since we were already out and I put off going to the store that day. And I waited for Jim to get home. Turns out he was a bit relieved when he heard the screw fell out... that would help pinpoint what needed repaired. And he got it all put back together in about 30 minutes. And guess what? The car drives better than it has in a LONG time. But not without months of waiting in dread and panic and confusion, thinking we were going down the road of car failure.
Kind of the same way I often waited on the Lord in the last few years. But God is good and is teaching me to wait WELL.
My love for Africa began in high school. I had a science teacher who grew up in Africa as a missionary kid. His outlook on life was unique, the zebra hide on his wall and the swahili phrases he taught his students were so much fun, and so I decided that someday I wanted to travel there and see Africa first hand. In college, after Jim and I had been dating for a while, I spent three months studying ecology and socioeconomic issues in southern Kenya. Jim heard all about it from the hundred or so letters we sent back and forth. When we were engaged, we talked for hours about how we wanted to serve the Lord with our lives. Jim had a heart for serving missionaries after growing up in a house that had many missionaries come through on furlough sharing stories of adventure on the mission field. So we came up with a great plan for our first five years of blissful, carefree, childless marriage. And like all good plans, God has better ones.
One month into marriage, we were surprised to find we were pregnant. How did that happen?! We laid aside our carefree childless plans and dove into parenthood headfirst. Two years later, we added another child, and only after that did we cautiously adventure down the road we thought we’d be headed on right away. We looked at schools that served communities and missionaries overseas, and after a while, felt called to one in Tanzania. The school had an opening for a High School Biology teacher, the exact job Jim has held here at Woodland Park High School for the last five and a half years. Along the process of application to Africa Inland Mission, we discovered Rift Valley Academy. We thought it was an even better fit, but wanted to be obedient in the application process, and we just gave up our longings to the Lord, wanting Him to be our ultimate leader. At our candidate week in November of 2008, we were told they were excited to have us as missionaries, but would like to have us at RVA instead. What an incredible confirmation that was from the Lord, and it’s hard to believe that we will be on the ground in Kenya learning the culture and settling into a new life in less than six months. A life we have waited on the Lord for over six years.
God has taught me so much about waiting in these years, and I know these lessons aren’t over. The Psalms have always brought me encouragement in this. “Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.”... “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”... “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way.”
I need to be reminded to wait in righteousness and with a Christ-like attitude. When I became a mom, confused about God’s plans for our lives, I would sometimes think about “what could have been.” It sure was easy to fall into that trap when we had a long night or a fussy day. It didn’t do anything good for my attitude, which was evident in the way I sometimes treated my husband and family. Or it would be easy to think about how we could force what WE desired in life instead of waiting on the Lord and being obedient. And in this stage, when the stress of moving and a new culture set in, the same could happen. Or I can lean on the Lord and let him use and direct my life.
I need to be reminded to wait in courage. When we first returned from our candidate week, I struggled with nightmares and visions concerning my children’s safety for over a month. I learned to ask for prayer in the most desperate of times, and learned to allow others to fight the battle with me. We are headed to one of only thirty countries in the world that have travel warnings against them. It is difficult to make choices for my children that don’t seem to be the safest, but still to take the path that I know is right. I will need this same courage when we say goodbye to our dear friends and family here in the United States, and as we wait to see them again for two long years.
And the most important one, it seems to be, is waiting in rest and contentment. I have never had a busier life than I do right now. There are all sorts of things that clamor for my attention. Medical appointments and forms, updates for people that are praying for us, travel paperwork, assigned reading and Bible school courses, and getting our house and things ready. Oh wait. I do have a husband and children too! It has been difficult to set aside some tasks that could easily be done today to instead be done days, weeks, or even months later. My husband and kids are so much happier when I measure out the to-do list wisely, instead of choosing to be overwhelmed and unable to rest. I can even go beyond the next six months and try to figure out how life is going to work once we arrive. What the kids will need, where they will sleep, how we will get around. These are things I can’t plan or accomplish at all, but are worries that I let creep into my mother’s heart. But Jesus said “do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” The best thing to do is rest and wait for the Lord to show me the extravagant ways he has prepared a place for us in Kenya.