(Eric) What are you willing to sacrifice?
This question has been on our minds and hearts a lot lately. As you know for many years, I have felt called to work in Africa, but the time never felt right. When I married Linda, who also had a passion for international ministry, we strongly sensed that the time was now. We knew that it was going to take a lot of sacrifice. Honestly, one of the hardest sacrifices I had to make was leaving a place I loved and students I cared for (i.e. you). Yet, sometimes God calls us to make these sacrifices.
(Linda) As we started down the process of finding a placement, we soon had to sacrifice something else. Our timeline. We had hoped to leave by the start of this school year, working in positions that would pay us. The months wore on and nothing seemed to be coming together. Either a placement would want Eric, but not have any position for me. Or they would have a spot for me, but not a married couple. We finally realized the best way was to raise our own salaries and go with a volunteer missionary organization. But this takes a LOT of time. We waited until we had two options and after praying about it, we felt that we were called to Jos, Nigeria. We knew there were safety risks there, but there were also a lot of other missionaries there and a system in place to reduce the risk.
(Eric) In December, we traveled to Nigeria, excited about the ministry we thought we would be doing in Jos. When we got there, our story took another turn. The Lutheran Church of Nigeria didn’t want us in Jos. They wanted us to work in Obot Idim in Southeast Nigeria. This change would mean more sacrifices. There were no other missionaries in that area, so we would lose all of that support. The place also had a long history of kidnappings. People looking for money would kidnap ex-patriots (i.e. non-Nigerians), government officials, or wealthy Nigerians in order to hold them for ransom. Sometimes those who were kidnapped did not survive. As we saw the needs at the school there and in the community, it wasn’t a perfect fit for our skills, but we knew we could help. So the question was before us “What are we willing to sacrifice?”
(Linda) Our story took yet another turn. While we were in Nigeria, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania contacted our organization asking if we could come there. We dismissed the idea, because we were in Nigeria. It was too late in the game to make any changes. We came back and talked with family and friends and the head of Global Lutheran Outreach. He asked us if we wanted to consider Tanzania, and we said the only way we would is if their needs fit our skills exactly. We also realized that we felt more called to Obot Idim than we felt to Jos. Yet, we still felt unsettled. Why were we unsettled? We didn’t know. Then, we found out a little more about the jobs in Tanzania. They seemed to fit us. What were we going to do? To consider Tanzania meant more money and more time. And I struggled with this. Why did I feel more called to Tanzania than to Nigeria. Was it because I was afraid? Was I really willing to risk our lives? In my quiet time, I started to focus on stories where God called people to sacrifice. One day I landed on the story of Abraham and Isaac.
(Eric) In the story, Abraham was told by God early in his life that he would have descendants more numerous than the stars. There was one problem though. He had no children. Until one day God performs a miracle, allows his wife the age of your grandmother to give birth, and they have one son, named Isaac. God knew that Abraham was faithful to him, but for reasons Abraham did not know, God tested him. God called Abraham to go to a mountain. Then God called to him to sacrifice his only son. Now, this means for Abraham, that if God allows him to go through with this, he will possibly not have any descendants. But Abraham trusted in the promises of God. He took Isaac on to a mountain to sacrifice him. Abraham raised up the knife to kill Isaac. God saw that Abraham truly trusted in Him, and provided a ram instead.
(Linda) As I read this story, a prayer came to me. “God, is Tanzania the ram?” God didn’t provide the answer immediately. However, as the weeks went by and we got more information and talked with more people, we realized that while we were willing to sacrifice and potentially give our lives wherever we went, God had provided a ram. When we went to Tanzania in February, we realized the work they needed us to do fit EXACTLY with our passions, our interests and our skills. So this is where we are headed.
(Eric) There is still much sacrificing. It’s not over. And there will be many struggles. But we know it’s going to be ok, because God made the ultimate sacrifice. He provided the ultimate ram. When it looked like Isaac would be lost, God provided the ram. When it looked like we would be lost, God provided his son. That knowledge is worth sacrificing everything.
So we ask you, what is God calling you to sacrifice? Time? Money? Popularity? Don’t worry, He’s not calling you to sacrifice school ;-) But this is a question that we all must ask ourselves. And no matter the sacrifice, God promises that He will always be with you. Forever and ever Amen.