My parents have been missionaries for 40 years. I began my missionary journey one year ago. Just walking in their shoes for the past year, I have a deeper understanding of their lives, and what it looks like to live in the “in between.” For years they have lived in Kenya, every four years coming back to the states. When here they travel to many churches, trying to balance their time schedules between visiting family, visiting churches, and finding rest. I have yet to make it to the mission field, and I already find this balance to be a difficult one.
For our family living in this “in between” stage has had its set of challenges. Our kids are making friends and settling into a school that they know they will not be attending next year. Brandon and I find it hard some days to find balance in the juggling of travel, fundraising, and rest. Our minds and hearts are focused constantly on the final goal of getting to Brazil, while our day to day routines are filled with the here and now life of living in a small two-bedroom house. With each passing day we pray that we will be able to find a way to be present here, where we are now, but also keep pressing toward the future of being in Brazil.
The waiting stage is always a tough one. We have been at this stage several times before in our marriage. When Brandon graduated from his Master of Theology degree in Chicago we were unsure where God wanted us to go. We moved to Kansas and lived just a mile away from his sister’s family. Brandon got a job at an AIG processing center, and we waited for what was next. After a lot of searching and applying, “next” finally came a year later when Brandon was accepted into a PhD program in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
For four years we lived in Michigan, and we loved it. God brought us to an amazing church where we grew closer to God and made great friends. At the end of his program we thought that he was going to be a professor in the States. That didn’t happen. We were again unsure what to do, so we moved to Missouri, close to Brandon’s parents. Brandon’s first job with a PhD was pulling staples out of papers, making copies, and stapling them back together again for a mortgage company. The 18 months that we spent in Missouri were trying. We struggled to see where we fit into God’s plan. We had felt that over the past several years God made his plan for us very clear, blessing us repeatedly as Brandon went through seminary. But in Missouri we struggled see where all of it fit into to the bigger picture.
One night while I was sitting in the living room at a card table, working on a puzzle, I began to pray and ask God if we had done it all wrong. What is it that we were missing? Where is it that he would have us go? What does he want us to do? Had we completely missed the sign, and now we are just missing out on what God really had planned for our lives? As I stared at this large puzzle, with the edges all put to together and the middle completely bare, I was given an obvious response that I had missed. How can I put together the middle of the puzzle, without the other pieces being in their place first? Each piece is put together one at a time, and eventually we see the bigger picture. God was putting the pieces in place for us, and it wasn’t yet time for the bigger picture to be revealed.
A few months after that night God put together another piece of our puzzle. We accepted a call to pastor an NAB church in a small town in South Dakota.
For six years we ministered there, and we were comfortable. Then God began to stir in our hearts a call to international missions. This began with him first asking Brandon to pray that God would send a cross-cultural missionary out of our little church. Then he placed a restlessness in my heart that I could not figure out where it was coming from. This restlessness led me to seek out what opportunities for missions the NAB offered. That is when we first learned about the teaching opportunity in Brazil.
For decades the NAB has been working with the churches in Brazil. They have worked side by side with Brazilian nationals, helping to train and teach the men God has called to plant and lead churches in an area of the world that was overtaken by darkness. We learned that only 2% of the population of the southernmost state attend a gospel preaching church. This puts this state right on the edge of being an unreached people group. God planted a desire in us to leave behind all that we knew, and to go. He showed us that all the in-between times that we faced over the previous ten years were him putting another piece in place to prepare us for this mission.
This past November we left South Dakota and moved to Missouri. We gave up our ministry there and began asking friends, family, and churches to invest in southern Brazil. We have traveled thousands of miles, spoken to dozens of churches, and sent out hundreds of letters and emails. Through all this, God has planted a desire for the Brazilian people in dozens of partners. We are excited to see God bring in 50% of our support goal over the past year!
As we continue to wait on the Lord to bring in the rest of our partners, today I am again reminded of the puzzle. We are anxious to get on our way and start the work that God has for us in Brazil, but God is still putting the pieces in place for us.
While we are living in a greater “in between” time in our lives, last week we got a reminder of just how unsettling it is to be without a place to rest, even for one night.
Houston, We Have a Problem
On Friday night Brandon and I got to join the ranks of the many weary travelers who got stranded all night in an airport. On our way back from visiting the NAB home office in Sacramento we connected through Houston. Our flight was supposed to leave at 7:30 pm and arrive in Springfield at 9:30. We were lined up to board around 7:15 when it was announced there was a mechanical issue with the plane. Two hours later we were directed to a new gate and were loaded onto a new plane. By this time a huge storm had rolled in, dumping heavy rains, hail, and even tornados from Houston all the way up to Missouri. We sat on the runway, waiting for a chance to take off for an hour and a half. Then the pilot announced that the crew had timed out for the day and by federal law we must return to the gate. When we reached the gate it was now 11:00 pm. The storm had prevented many planes from taking off, so our flight was rescheduled for 6:00 the next morning. We were stuck in the airport overnight.
At first we sat down trying to ponder our situation. We had not eaten anything since the morning, and with it being so late the entire terminal was shut down. We couldn’t even see a vending machine for a bottle of water. We considered going to a hotel, although realizing by the time we would get there we would only be there a couple hours and then have to get back to the gate. We heard word that the E terminal was open till midnight because of international flights. We were in the B terminal. Looking at the map that was a long way, but it was only our hope.
And so began our hours of walking around the Houston airport in search of food, water, and a place to lay down for the night. We quickly found that Houston is a very unfriendly place to be stranded overnight. By the time we reached the E terminal everything there was also shut down for the night. We managed to score a small 4 oz bottle of water from the United Airlines desk and a free sandwich from the manager of E terminal, who took pity on our weary faces. We finally laid down on a bench in the food court, the only place in the entire airport we could find a soft place to rest. It was 2am.
In the middle of the night, as my tired and weary body tried to get some rest, the minutes seemed to go by slowly. It was hard to keep focused on anything. I welcomed distractions from my situation. The bright lights, constant music, and the routine announcements blaring from nearby speakers about not taking unknown luggage onto your plane, kept us from finding rest. All I could focus on was how I cannot wait to get out of this place!
In the end, after an 11 hour layover, an hour and a half flight, and a 45 minute drive, we were home, feeling relieved and thankful for comfort and rest.
As I reflect on this short waiting place, I was reminded of the other times in my life that God brought us to a waiting place, but those times were not for hours, but for weeks, months, or sometimes years. It is so easy for us to hate our waiting places, finding distractions and wishing the situation away.
But what I have found is that the waiting places of life are where God has taught me what it looks like to lean on him. It is in the waiting that God will bring me to the end of myself. It is in these in between times of life that God reveals his strength, his peace, his grace, his goodness, and his love. It is here that I experience the peace and comfort of God.
Please pray for our family as we wait in the in-between place. I have found that being here makes our hearts restless, and it is easy to focus on where we want to be instead of where we are.