Our journey to Jinja

 

“Oh God, please don’t send me to Africa, I don’t think I’ve got what it takes.  I’m just a man; I’m not a Tarzan, I don’t like lions, gorillas or snakes.” This is a line from a song a missionary sang to my (Rob’s) first grade class. But for some reason the song has continued to play in my head to this day. So the moment an opportunity came for me to serve in Africa, my first thought was “God, is this a joke? Me, in Africa?” Little did I know that an experience that happened so long ago in first grade, planted a seed in me.

I (Becky) grew up in a mission minded family.  We supported many missionaries and I remember seeing their pictures on our refrigerator growing up in different places all over the world and it always just excited me.  We read their stories of faith and trust in God that we couldn’t understand in America.  Maybe one day I would get to do that!  We had several families very close to us growing up that left for the mission field full time, my two older siblings both served for extended periods of time with Cru, and part of the reason I went to nursing school was so that I could serve on the mission field one day.  On my second missions trip to Keszthely, Hungary, after my freshman year in college, I ruptured a disc in my back and came back a very different person physically.  After college, I dreamt of further missions, but had back surgeries instead.  After God graciously gave me healing, Rob and I went on our first missions trip together with Cru to Croatia.  This was Rob’s first missions trip. 

Growing up, I never was missions focused. I knew of missionaries that left from my church, but it was never something that I thought about doing myself. My first opportunity to be a part of a missions trip came in 2010 when Becky, Susan (my mother-in-law), Brian (a good friend at our church) and I were able to go to Croatia to help out Cru. I remember walking through the support raising process looking at the amount I needed to raise and thinking “can I raise this much money?” Becky and Susan would keep reminding me that God would provide and He did! Looking back on this I realize that this was the beginning of God breaking me down of my views on who the true Provider is. That was the first time I really had to ‘let go’ of my perceived control of finances and give it to God. This was something very new to me. On that trip itself, I was doing something that I felt very gifted in such as games coordinator and small group leader with middle and high school kids. My favorite part of the trip was the relationships that I built while there. Even though the trip was very positive for me, I still would not say I had the desire to jump into missions full time at that point. It was just a good trip and I moved on with life.  After we settled back in from our trip, life picked right back up for us. We ended up having our first child Zade the following year.  I joined the Sheriff’s office as well as remained a teacher in Williamson County. Just two years later, God gave us our second child, Eliana.  It was a couple years later that God took a proverbial wrecking ball to my view of financial dependence when, after much prayer and discussion, we decided for Becky to quit her job and stay home with the kids. We often laugh at how little teachers get paid and now we were going to live in Williamson County on only a teacher’s salary? Over the past three years of living this way God has shown us provision in ways we never anticipated, and we have learned to live in a new reliance on Him.  

It always amazes me as we move in to a new chapter of life to look back at how God works in our lives to prepare us for what He is moving us towards.  This season of having kiddos and staying at home has been a time of God breaking me of me.  My identity has been challenged.  I never planned on having kids at all, much less being a stay at home mom.  I am so grateful God knows what we need and does not give us what we want.  God was not only teaching me a new dependence on Him as the one I live for, the one I find my identity and worth in, but also teaching me to trust and depend on Rob as the leader of our family.  Obviously, He is nowhere near done teaching me these things, but He is taking me to a deeper level of living in that trust.

During this time, Becky and I felt God stirring in us the desire for something different for our family.  We found ourselves living in one of the most desirable places in the country, yet we felt restless.  We couldn’t quite put our finger on why we were feeling this way, but the feeling remained.  At this point, missions was not on my radar at all.  I began applying for teaching and law enforcement jobs in lots of different places.  I really thought God had something specific planned for our family, so I was using my job hunting as a way to help find where it was He wanted us to go.  In the mean time, we felt God tell us, “you need to be serving Me where you are too.  And serving well.”  This is when the need for youth leaders at our church opened up, and we felt sure God wanted us to serve in that area.  Also, this helped challenge me to remember Who I am working for.  My work as a teacher was to be serving God.  Even with a fresh mindset of how I was to carry myself professionally as well as plugging in more at church, I still felt unsettled in where I was. The final job I applied for I ended up turning it down even though I was hired. I realized then that it was me pursuing what I wanted individually and not what God was wanting for me or my family. I realized that it was my own desires that was guiding me at that time and I was not willing to listen to God. I then said a prayer just before school began at the end of the summer and gave up my pursuit of jobs and told God that if he wants me to change jobs or move that He would need to bring that opportunity to me.

As we continued to feel the pull to serve God somewhere else, we both struggled with what that feeling was about.  We cried out to God and asked Him for clarity.  Was that unsettled feeling from Him or were we just unwilling to be content where He had placed us?  I began to ask God if this feeling wasn’t from Him, could He please just take it away?  Let us feel “content in all things” as Paul did.  During this time, I was going through Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer (for a third time), and one of the things God spoke to me very clearly from the study is that “it is our job to get to know God.  It is His job to keep us from wandering astray.”  God does not want us to miss His plans.  Rather than waste all my time and energy seeking His will for my life, for our family, I needed to spend my time seeking Him.  He would not let us miss His plans if we were faithfully seeking Him.  He wants us to find Him.  I know this isn’t new information, but somehow it rang true in my heart in a new way at that moment.  I quit seeking His plans and started seeking HIM with a fervor I never had before.  Even with a new focus, off me and on Him, that feeling of restlessness remained, but peace was there too.   

Remember that prayer? Within a week of that a friend called me and offered me the possibility of a job in a different career. I was floored at the quick response from that prayer. Even though the timing and details of the job did not work out, I was greatly encouraged by the offer. God illustrated to me how quickly he can bring about a change in our lives. It reminded me that He does hear our prayers and loves us deeply.  What we are confident of is that we serve a God who is faithful to pursue us as we faithfully pursue Him.  God has been changing my desires and heart over the past year from desiring a new job altogether to confirming to me that teaching and education is where He has gifted me.  He was waiting on me to rest in that and trust Him.  It was this point, this past fall when my mother in law brought home a piece of paper with one word on it, “Amazima.” She handed it to me and told me how some close friends of hers were going to be heading there this coming year and it sounded like something that would fit Becky and I really well.  My curiosity immediately began to grow. I began thinking, “was this the opportunity I had been waiting for?” When I finally looked up where the school was, I found out it was in Africa. Africa, God? Really? Absolutely not. No way am I going to Africa was my immediate response.  Also, in looking at their website, they did not even have an opening for a teacher in my subject area.  Easy no.

Africa?  Not my first choice but let’s look into this.  I looked at the website a couple weeks after we initially looked, just out of curiosity, and low and behold, a history teacher position was now listed.  I told Rob and he still was not interested.     

Becky placed the piece of paper with “Amazima” on it on my bathroom counter just so I would see it and think about it.  Days began to go by. Then weeks and then months and I still did not touch that piece of paper or look into going to Amazima. All I needed to know was that it was in Africa and that was an automatic “NO” for me. So, at the end of 5 months, the piece of paper was still sitting on the counter. 

I left the piece of paper there because I knew Rob had not considered it and God was asking us to.  I would pick up the piece of paper, clean the counter (not as often as I should in all honesty) and then put the piece of paper right back where it was.  For months.  During this season, I also felt the Lord calling me to a place of prayer for Rob.  Not how I usually did it, here and there.  But to real, consistent, focused prayer for him.  God put on my heart that every time I was nursing the baby, I should pray for Rob.  With a less than one year old, this was multiple times a day when I sat in my rocker, quietly and undisturbed.  So, this became our routine.  Nurse the baby, pray for Rob.  I don’t know that I’ve ever prayed so consistently for anything or anyone in my life.  One unusually warm day in February I opened all the windows in the house to get some fresh air and when I walked in the bathroom, a gust of wind had blown the paper in the toilet “Amazima” side up.  I immediately took a picture and sent it to Rob…..

  I received a picture text from Becky with the piece of paper laying in the toilet with the caption “what does this mean?  Is this what we’ve done with a good opportunity…” Immediately, I felt my heart fill with regret. Did I let an opportunity go to waste? Did I ignore God’s calling?

After months of Rob ignoring the “Amazima” paper, even after the toilet incident, he still had not mentioned it again to me to even discuss.  I felt the Lord telling me to remind Rob that he had asked God to bring job opportunities to him and now He had.  And I asked Rob, “have you even once asked God about Amazima?  Have you been open enough to pray over it all?”                      

No.

I felt the Lord prompting me to continue to challenge Rob with the fact that he was basically holding out a closed fist to God.  Inside that fist were the job opportunities he was interested in and those were the ones that he was ok with God bringing to him.  And God was saying, “You need to open up that hand and let go of the things you want and be willing to pursue the things I want for you.”  And then I knew the Lord told me to be quiet.  Now was time for the Holy Spirit to do the talking, not me.     

I knew then that I needed to walk out my faith. I knew I trusted God but I was not acting like I did. I had a picture of what I wanted, and Africa was not a part of that.  I needed to be willing to give up what I thought of as a ‘perfect’ job and let God’s plan for me and my family take priority.  So, I took time to process and pray and really ask God if Amazima was something I needed to pursue.

On April 18, God gave me a very specific dream that I knew I needed to share with Rob and John 15 is the section of scripture that went with my dream.  That day, before I was able to share my dream with Rob, we met, completely by accident, Matt and Tory Angell (my parents friends who wrote “Amazima” on the “toilet” paper that sat on our counter).  They began to tell us all about Amazima and even challenged Rob about being willing to go (which they didn’t even know much about other than my parents had said they thought we would be a good fit for Amazima).  They had no idea what we were processing at that time but were led by the Lord in conversation with us.  That night I was able to share my dream with Rob.

 Becky and I stood in the kitchen that night talking over all the Lord was showing us and trying to process what all He was speaking. As we were talking, I felt in my Spirit God’s plan become very clear. I began to feel emotional, which doesn’t happen very often, and began to see direction for our lives. At the same time, we had a worship mix playing in the background and while we were talking, the songs began to align with what we were discussing that God was showing us.  We felt God speaking through the music to confirm what we knew He was already saying…

Rob:  “So I feel like God is saying we’re supposed to be willing to go…”

Music:  “Cause if you never leave home, never let go You’ll never make it to the great unknown”

And so on….

I also felt God bring to mind the conversation we had earlier that day with Matt and Tory, that went something like this:

Matt: Are you thinking about going to Amazima?

Me: yeah, sort of.

Matt: What is holding you back?

Becky: Support raising.

Matt: Get over it! It is not your money anyway, its God’s money. Its never been your money.

Me: (jaw drop)

It was pretty blunt advice, but it resonated with me.  God used Matt to speak to me what I really needed to hear in order to really begin to be free of my views on financial dependence.  What else could I say, he was right. He had only a minute of time before he had to be somewhere, so he said exactly what I needed to hear. He was direct and truthful. It isn’t that I didn’t know this before and hadn’t had others speak it, but somehow this is when God freed me from that burden of fear over finances and that was it for me.  I was ready to commit the financial part to God and let go.  I knew that it was my job to obey.  So, I filled out an interest form for the Amazima School. 

One thing about Rob that has always, and continues to, amaze me is that once God shows him something, bam, he receives it and then lives it.  It just seems so simple.  God shows me something and first I need to be upset about, whine about it, wallow in my emotions, then I will do it (often begrudgingly), and then half the time we do this same thing, literally the same thing, all over again.  During this time of processing for Rob, the Lord was speaking to me through the story of Isaac and Rebekah, that I was to do as Rebekah did when the servant came to her village when looking for a bride for Isaac.  When asked, she simply replied, “I will go.”  She didn’t ask a million questions, she didn’t really know where she was going, she didn’t need to give her advice on how the servant should take her.  She knew it was the Lord moving and asking her and her job was to simply say “I will go.”  Obedience.  God was going to lead Rob and I was to follow him and say, “I will go,” wherever God led. 

I quickly received a response from Amazima that they would like for me to fill out an official application.   With all that had occurred leading up to now I knew that it was clear God was opening up a door for my family. He was clearly leading me.  I knew I was to continue in obedience so long as God was opening the door.   

I feel like I need to be clear here:  I do not usually hear from God this specifically and consistently.  This season has been a time where I have felt the Lord leading and speaking so clearly it has blown my mind and drawn me to His Word with a new expectancy – God is at work and I know it!  I truly believe that God knew Rob had absolutely zero time to just sit with the Lord in this season.  He was working three jobs and most days he was working 14 hour days and barely getting sleep.  We both really believe that God in His great mercy, was speaking through me to Rob because that was the only way Rob would have time to hear.  I would text him things or share things at 11pm when if Rob had tried to read he would have just fallen asleep.  So as Rob prepared to try to find time to fill out the application for Amazima, I was spending a lot of time in Deuteronomy and Joshua.  Joshua 6.17a kept standing out to me over and over again, ”The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD…”  The Hebrew term there for devoted is “Cherem” and “refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the LORD, often by totally destroying them.”  The Lord was telling me that we were to give over our lives to Him, our plans to Him, irrevocably.  And He reminded me of Matthew 16:25 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”  Our plans for our life, our very LIVES, must be given over and destroyed so that God could rebuild them into HIS PLANS!  These are the things we know but struggle to actually do.  As I studied this section of scripture God told me “you are to march around Rob’s application for Amazima in prayer just as the Israelites marched around Jericho, for six days and on the seventh day march around it in prayer six times and the seventh time, pray aloud and then Rob will send it.”  Well that seemed pretty specific to me.  In all honesty, I was scared to do this.  What if God didn’t actually say this?  I knew I couldn’t tell Rob I was doing this until day seven, and how on earth was he going to send the application on day seven if I didn’t tell him?  I wrestled a bit and finally said “Ok.  I will do it.”  So, I began marching.  I pulled up the application on my phone and prayed over each question, every day for six days.  On the sixth day, Rob sent me a text that he planned to be home the next day so that he could finish his application, it brings tears to my eyes as I write this.  How good is our God?!  He had asked me to march in prayer and He was doing the rest!  He was going to give Rob and I the seventh day to pray and send in this application.  Why do we ever doubt Him? 

 I felt that I was doing my part to follow through with filling out the application. I had no idea that Becky had been praying so fervently for those six days prior. Little did I know that God had orchestrated my life such that I would be able to stay home on this particular day to finish my application-day seven. When Becky told me, I felt so humbled that a God so big would orchestrate something so amazing in my life. How could God be so powerful yet have time to put me into His plan? Once Amazima received my application, they asked to set up a phone call with the new Head Teacher (Principal) of Amazima. It was not an interview but an informative conversation letting us know what the position would look like and what I would be doing to see if I would be interested in further pursuing this.  Up to this point, all I knew was that a history teacher position was open.  I had no idea what specific grade level or content.  When the conversation occurred, I fully expected the conversation to go one way. I knew that the possibility of going to Africa was a longshot, but this conversation would only confirm that we weren’t supposed to go, right?  I had a list of questions and concerns about this position and as the conversation went on, Adria addressed each one before I even had a chance to voice them.  When she discussed the learning environment of the school and what I would be doing, she was describing an ideal teaching scenario for me. As the conversation was winding down I had a peace over me about pursuing this opportunity. Adria gave us week to pray over this position at Amazima and if we wanted to continue then we would have a formal interview. Over the week I couldn’t think of any reason to say no outside of fear. I knew that God was telling me to obey Him and pursue this opportunity as far as it took me. I had no other reason to say no. I had to realize that as much as those fears were very real, the God I serve is much bigger and calls us to obedience no matter what. During this part of my journey, God took me to Joshua 1:9 “Be strong and courageous.”  After our formal interview and much prayer from both sides, Becky and I decided to walk out our faith and accepted the position at Amazima.

I can not even begin to list all the ways God has confirmed this move for us.  Morning after morning, He has spoken through His word to confirm each step along the way.  Every time I begin to fear, He directly answers that fear with His confident, calming Word.  We are humbled beyond words that God would entrust this journey to us and anticipating His continued guidance and goodness each step of the way.