So I feel compelled to share what God has been doing in our lives over the past couple of years and, to a greater degree, over the past couple of months and weeks.
The summer of 1998, Heather attended World Mandate in Waco while I was on a short term mission trip in Mexico. I'll leave the details of her experience for her to fill in, but I remember getting a call and the words, "What do you think about moving to France?"
My response was, "I DON'T think about moving to France, but thank you for asking." I was born and raised in Texas. I love everything about Texas. With the exception of living in San Diego as an infant and in Mississippi for a couple of months as an adult (future book title: Places NOT to Move to as a Newlywed Couple), I have lived in Texas all my life. I am convinced that Austin is the closest that one can get to Heaven without bumping into the pearly gates and if you cut me open, I will bleed Texas barbecue sauce. Though to be honest, I haven't tasted my own blood nor dipped brisket into it. So let's chalk that one up to hyperbole, shall we? Bottomline: I had no intention of going to France, except for maybe a quick European jaunt. However, it has become apparent that God tends to birth big plans for us in my wife first and is content to let me wrestle with them and, finally, submit.
Heather continued to talk about France (as though it didn't matter how I felt about it... HMPH!)and how she felt burdened for missionaries overseas. She found out that statistically, missionaries stay in the mission field for an average of 2 years, with their marriages ending in divorce and completely burned out, spiritually. They feel disconnected from the church due to not having a support community around them and churches not willing to step out of the comfort zone of signing a support check. I, too, began to share this burden. God had allowed me a season in vocational ministry and I know how it feels to have strong support, and I know what it means to have no support. So I began to warm up to the idea of beginning a respite care ministry for overseas missionaries that is located relatively close to Charles de Gaulle international airport.
From the beginning of these "stirrings," I felt the compulsion for this to be a sustainable ministry and I really struggled (and still do) with trying to assess my marketable skills and abilities. I couldn't think of how a former youth minister/music education dropout who loves to eat and hates to exercise could be marketable, much less how I could use that to earn a living, support a family, and support a ministry. I despaired and lamented over the roads not traveled. Why didn't I study harder? Why didn't I focus on this? Why couldn't God have gifted me in that? (Not many people know that the US Navy wanted me as a nuclear engineer because I happened to guess better than 97% of other applicants on the ASVAB!)
I was not trusting in God's provision, but was trying to find out how I could make His plan happen in my own timing and my own ability. I decided that we would bide our time until the boys graduated high school and were off to college. 10 years is plenty of time to get things figured out, earn some more money, pay off some bills, win the lottery, and reinvest more lucratively... RIGHT?
I took another short term mission trip to the Dominican Republic to share in the work of Makarios. With my new burden for missionaries, I worked with the TeenRock and Makarios leaders to compile a list of comforts from hom that the Makarios team couldn't get in the DR.
The day of the trip, we packed extra bags full of Goldfish crackers, A1 steak sauce, Lost Season 5, Ranch Style beans, and a number of other mundane items that we take for granted. That night, we brought out the goodies and it was like Christmas in June. Accompanying these items were various letters from loved ones in the States. It was such a beautiful and fulfilling moment that I begged God to let me live in that moment for the rest of my life! Even now, the faded memories are bringing tears to my eyes as I remember the joy, the excitement, and the sheer exhilaration from knowing that God had used me to love on these (mostly) strangers in such an intimate and meaningful way.
While I was in the DR, I was in awe at how close the Makarios team was and how they seemed to carry each others burdens so well. God showed me that this is how you avoid burnout in the field and then convicted me that we would need a support team in France. Otherwise we would only be in France for about 2 years prior to burnout, ourselves. When I told Heather that we are most likely being called to starting a house church, we both cringed a little.
(to be continued...)