Thursday, April 5, 2012

God's Plans

Well, we've moved into a new phase of our journey. Since we returned from Tanzania in February, we've felt a new sense of clarity about our decision. When we looked back at what we had been praying for in a location, we realized God answered our prayer exactly. Here is what was on our wish list to God when we started our search last July.

-          A place in Africa to fulfill Eric's childhood dream (or perhaps a better word is "call") to work in Africa
-          A place where we both can use our skills meaningfully (preferably with a job description, accountability, and team environment)
-          A place that struggles deeply with issues such as poverty, malaria, HIV, lack of education, etc.
-          A place where we can learn and grow and step out of the fast-paced, perfectionistic culture of the U.S.
-          A place that is consistently warm, but not so hot at night that my sleep would be further disrupted (related to my fibromyalgia diagnosis)
-          A place that has access to medical care should we need it and/or should God bless us with a child (just to be clear, no plans of that right now)
-          A place where we can feel safe to walk around and visit our neighbors
-          A place where we feel supported by the local church and can have meaningful friendships with people native to that country
-          A place with at least one other missionary family in our area who can guide and encourage us as new missionaries
-          A place where at times we can step away from our work and have new adventures (even missionaries need a vacation sometimes)
-          A place where we can use English in our work, though we are willing to learn a new language as well
-          A place where we have the ability to step out of the urban environment and see God through the beauty of nature
-          A place where we could speak about our faith and share the love of Christ

As the months of searching for a place like this wore on, we started to lose hope and considered compromising. We thought maybe we were being too picky and asking too much of God. The call to Obot Idim, Nigeria fulfilled many of our desires, but we left Nigeria with several concerns.
1)      The heat can be incredibly intense there and we weren't sure how that would affect my fibromyalgia
2)      We would not have been able to visit with our neighbors on our own due to safety concerns.
3)      There were no other missionary families in the area where we would be.
We were willing to go to Nigeria despite our concerns, but then God surprised us by giving us exactly what we asked for in Tanzania! We are amazed and truly grateful.

The only item on our wish list that God did not grant was our wish for paid positions (i.e. a salary). Yet, as we begin our journey of "Support Discovery" in earnest, we are starting to realize why God may have said "no" to our previous request.
1)      The numbers are daunting and scary for us. We need about $35,000 to pay for our one-time out-going costs (items such as a vehicle with four-wheel drive, extra luggage costs, a refrigerator, a stove, furniture, etc). Then we need about pledges for $60,000 a year for our ongoing costs (rent, gas, electric, gasoline, medical insurance, legal fees, etc). We know that we can't do this on our own, and that knowledge truly humbles us. We need other people and we need God to move in a mighty way if we are going to leave by September.
2)      If we had found a position that paid us, then we would not have nearly as many people praying for us as we begin our new lives. When I moved to Papua New Guinea years ago, I found such strength and comfort in the fact that so many people were praying for me and supporting me. There were many days in PNG where I took the knowledge that people were praying for me and God was with me dried my tears and gave me hope. I see now that had a lot fewer costs as a single missionary supported by a family of missionaries in PNG than we will have as a married couple trying to set up a household in Tanzania. However, greater cost means even more people are going to be invested in our ministry. Even more people will be praying for us. The thought brings tears to my eyes- happy tears.

In the past few weeks something happened that put an end to any remaining doubts we had regarding if we should be going to Nigeria rather than Tanzania. The LCMS decided the risk was just too great and pulled out their missionaries. While we were in Dallas, TX in March, we were able to meet with the Rasch family, a missionary family we grew very close to during our time Nigeria. We still aren’t exactly sure why God had us go to Nigeria only to change our plans right after the trip, but maybe it was for this reason: that we can now be an encouragement to families who had only a few days to say goodbye to a life and friends they have known for many, many years. Their lives are forever changed by this experience. Our prayers are with all the missionaries of Nigeria and the church at large. We pray for peace.

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