“Sometimes you have to play second base for a while just to realize that you’re really meant to play shortstop.” So far, that is the best way to help me understand why all this has happened, and how I can share the news with you that we are planning to return to Ecuador to continue serving as missionaries.
It has been almost a year since we left Ecuador, thinking that perhaps the Lord was leading us back to the U.S. where I was planning on going into pastoral ministry. We had been serving on the field for about 7 years, and thought that our time had come to an end. But almost ever since being back here in the U.S. there has been an unsettled feeling in our heart. It’s very hard to describe. It had nothing to do with reverse culture shock or readjustment back to life in the states, but rather had much more to do with purpose and calling. Something deep within our soul. We couldn’t quite figure it out, but Maria and I would often talk about it.
Everything was going relatively well. I was an Associate Pastor of a good church in Asheville, which is where we have many friends since Asheville has been our home base since being on the mission field. We were living in a decent house with a lot of land. We were doing okay financially. Things at the church were going well. Overall, life was good. But there was just this deep sense of unrest and unsettledness in both our hearts. We would talk about it all the time, then we both began to pray about it.
Well, it came one morning as Maria and I were sitting at the table in the kitchen, having yet another conversation about what is going on in our hearts, trying to make sense of why we were feeling the way we were feeling. It hit me like a ton of bricks. It was like a room that had been dark suddenly became flooded with light in an instant. “We are missionaries!” As soon as I said it, I just began to weep. I just knew with every single fiber of my being that my confession bore witness to God’s call on our lives. I knew in that moment, that flash of light, with the greatest clarity than I have ever known, that God has called us to be missionaries. And I knew in that single moment, without a shadow of a doubt, that God was showing us that we are meant to be back on the mission field. As I shared this with Maria, she too had a full awareness of this truth and was in complete agreement. And since that moment, our desire to be back on the mission field just grows exponentially.
And once that moment occurred, I knew that it would be time for me to eat some crow, to humbly say “I was wrong” about some specific things. You see, if you look at my last post on our blog from almost a year ago, when we shared of our news that we were leaving the mission field to return to the states, there is a lot of language of “God is calling us”, “We are certain that God is leading us”, “I know that my greatest desire is to move into pastoral ministry”, etc. And yet, here we are, less than a year later, after having sold off all our things in Ecuador to move to the states, after having told all of our support team that we were done serving as missionaries, and after having resigned from our mission organization, that we are now saying with the utmost conviction “We are missionaries. Our call, after all, is to serve on the mission field.” For that, I am eating a lot of crow as I try to explain to people how it is that we are making preparations to return to the mission field.
So, how do I make sense of a seeming contradiction? Well, I don’t. I mean, I can’t. All that I can say is that we really believed that the Lord was calling us off the field at the time, and we really believe that He is calling us to return. I cannot reconcile much more beyond that. This might beg the question of some (which causes me to eat a lot of crow), “Well then, were you really not supposed to leave the field in the first place? Did you hear incorrectly from God? Did you stamp God’s name on something that really wasn’t supposed to be? After all, if you know now that you are supposed to be on the mission field, then maybe it was never His will that you left it in the first place.” The truth is, these are valid questions. Seriously. I understand these questions because I have asked the Lord those same exact questions. I know that I look a little wishy-washy here. One minute, we’re all about coming back to the states and going into pastoral ministry, and less than a year later, we’re all about saying with certainty that our place is on the mission field. Yes, I know this looks wishy-washy. And for that reason, as I said, I have been humbled and have eaten crow with some people with whom I have shared this news.
But sometimes we try to make things cut and dry, fitting into our own little image of God and how we think He must work. And the truth is, He is God, much bigger than any one of us can imagine. He does not fit inside our box. He blows our mind. He offends our little packaged world of theology. And He can do as He so chooses. And He has His reasons for doing everything that He does, whether we understand Him or not. He does not make mistakes.
So, the truth is that I thank the Lord more than ever that He brought us all the way back to the states only to show us that we are made for the mission field. Has it been a roller coaster kind of ride in the last year? Yes. But I honestly cannot thank Him enough for how He has revealed Himself to us. I cannot explain how clear I see my purpose to be. I don’t know if I have ever felt so sure, so convicted, or so compelled to pursue a specific path. It’s like God has lit a fire in my heart, given me a desire that consumes me, something by which I feel utterly compelled. Right now, in this very moment, we are the farthest away from being back on the mission field (living in the states, no support team, no active mission organization, and I am not even working in ministry at the moment. But I cannot tell you how utterly convinced I am that the Lord is going to bring us back. I know that if it is His will, He will provide all that is needed to get us there. I am eager, but not anxious. Friends, this is all Him. He is the One who is revealing these things to Maria and I. He is the One who is giving us a compelling pull to go back to the nations. He is the One who is burdening both our hearts to bring the Gospel once again to people who have very little access to it. He is the One who has put it in us to not desire any creature comforts here in the states. He is the One who is waking me up in the morning with a desire to labor in prayer to see God move in my life, the life of those I love, and among the nations so that His glory can be made known. This is all Him.
I cannot explain it. Many might say that I’m loco (crazy) for giving everything up again. Many would say, and some have said, “Why do you feel the need to minister to those outside of your culture. You are a pastor now, and have the opportunity every day to share the Gospel with those in your care.” You have a secure job, a nice place to live, a place to settle down, etc. To all of that, I can only refer to the call. That’s right. It doesn’t make much sense. But when a man is called by God, seldom does the world see the sense in what he is doing.
And that’s how we feel right now, called and compelled by God to take the Gospel to the nations of the world. And truthfully, I don’t believe that anything is going to stop us, no matter how far away we may seem right now from the mission field. The Lord will accomplish His purposes.
“Sometimes, you have to play second base for a while just to realize that you’re really meant to play shortstop.” That’s what one friend told me as I shared with him of our decision. It has stuck with me. To me, it makes so much sense. I thank the Lord for bringing us out of Ecuador for a season, for it was in being off the mission field that has caused me to realize with the greatest clarity that the mission field is where I most long to be. And I don’t know if I ever would have had such clarity had we never stepped away. “God doesn’t waste anything.” That’s what another dear woman shared with us a few days ago as we shared what God was doing in our lives. I’m thankful for those who have encouraged us and understand some of the roller coaster like life that our walk with Christ sometimes brings. It’s nice to hear people backing you up on your convictions. But I am also truly thankful for the others, the few who look at me with great skepticism, those with whom I have to eat a mouthful of crow, humble myself immensely, and agree with them that they have a right to look at us with skepticism based on what appears to be some wishy-washy decision. So, I am thankful for those people because in having those conversations, I can do nothing but humble myself, agree with their concerns, and then merely stand on a conviction that I know to them just looks like another wishy-washy statement, and trust that it is God alone who must accomplish this work and lead us to where we are meant to be. I can’t make any claims. This must be God who does this. All that I can say is that He has put a desire in my wife and I that is like a consuming fire. We just want our lives to be spent for the sake of the kingdom. We want to put our hands to the plow and not look back. We want to live in the fullest of His will for our lives no matter what happens, knowing that this is all for the glory and honor of His great name.
Our plan, Lord willing, is to re-join our former mission organization and be back in Ecuador within a year or so, depending on how fast or slow the Lord moves us. While here, we have re-joined the church that originally sent us out as missionaries many years ago. We want to just serve the church and build good friendships with the people. I am working full-time back in social work as a means of providing for my family as we prepare ourselves. We trust completely in His plans and are not anxious for how it is all going to play out. We are eager as all can be to get back to doing the work that we have loved doing for the past 7 years, but we are not anxious.
So far, the overwhelming majority of people with whom we have shared this news have all responded positively saying that they are not at all surprised to hear the news because they know that we are missionaries and that’s what we are truly passionate about. It’s always nice to hear positive encouragement and affirmation from those who know us and love us. After all, Scripture does say that “in the multitude of counsel, there is wisdom.” So, its definitely a positive thing when those with whom we share are all pretty much in agreement that the Lord is revealing His plan to us and they affirm our call as missionaries.
So, with everything in us, by the grace of God who compels all our reasons, we have put our hand to the plow and are not looking back. We have surrendered ourselves to His kingdom work among the nations. And we joyfully forsake all in order to make His name known to the ends of the earth.