After our mission trip to Haiti, Brad and I knew that we needed to attend a come-and-see weekend at the Family Missions Company base in Louisiana. This is a weekend that FMC puts on to help people discern missions, and is sort of like a mini version of Intake, which is their full-time foreign mission training program. It’s a chance to study scripture, pray, work and eat together in community, ask any questions we have and meet other missionaries. So we booked the soonest we could find and off we went again on a plane with our five kids.
Leading up to the trip a sickness began spreading through the family. The morning we left, Benny threw up. The first day at Big Woods (nickname for FMC) Aaron threw up in the kitchen. We were under the impression there would be a kids ministry (which I was getting mixed up with Intake). There wasn’t. So while we had the same first impression we had in Haiti when we had arrived – like this felt like home – that feeling quickly changed into misery.
We couldn’t delve too deeply into the discerning process because our kids were so high-maintenance. As frustrating as this was, we were also being bombarded with negative thoughts. We’re too old for this. We have too many kids for this. We aren’t holy enough. Our kids aren’t holy enough. We should’ve left our kids at home so we could properly discern. And on and on with the downward spiral. I was fighting despair as I began to think that the past three years of prayer and desire were just a tease from God. What kind of cruel joke was this? We said we would give it all up, essentially professing our love to the one and only, only to have him reject us? That is what it felt like…
And then it was our turn to meet with the directors of FMC to go over any questions we had. As we sat across the room for them, I tried to be emotionless as we explained that we were absolutely miserable. That we shouldn’t have brought our kids, that it was too hard… and so on. As we’re speaking it hit me like a ton of bricks that none of these thoughts were from God. We were getting spiritually attacked. Yes, they said, it sounds like that could be true. And yes, you should’ve brought your kids with you, because you need to know how hard this is. You don’t want any romantic notions of what missions will be. It’s hard work and definitely not glamorous. But it is glorious. It’s good to know exactly what you are getting into. And then we prayed together.
After the prayers, we were both immediately lifted as if any negativity and down-cast thoughts fled the room. We felt so much lighter; so joyful. For the rest of the weekend the Holy Spirit was tangible and we were walking on air. We are able to participate in a deeper way, without all the negativity distracting us. That is… until we tried to leave.
We were getting ready to leave Big Woods and fly back home where Brad was due to go on a work trip. As we packed up our things I asked Brad where he was at. I was convinced that he would say we should fill out an application after feeling all the peace and joy for the remainder of the weekend – but he didn’t. He said, let’s just go home and think about it some more. He needs more time?! Even after discerning for two years and going to Haiti? Even after reading a verse in group prayer and saying that God spoke his language, saying “There are two types of people… those who make it happen and those who don’t. Are you going to make it happen? How long do I have to wait?” (This was one of Brad’s trademark phrases.) It was Pentecost Sunday. I’d never seen Brad so joyful before. I knew God was going to take care of it. So I surrendered, packed quietly and said nothing more.
We drove about an hour to the airport and got settled in to await our flight. Suddenly we got news that our flight was delayed due to an incoming storm. No big deal, another hour. It’d be a struggle with the kids, but I’d offer it up. Delayed again. Brad needed to get back on this flight so he wouldn’t miss his work trip. We had to fly into Minneapolis and then drive for four hours. I was juggling to keep the kids happy and busy. Brad was searching for the quickest make-up flight. Elizabeth accidentally pushed on an emergency door and the alarm goes off. Finally, in all the stress, Brad lost his cool. “Just so you know – we will NEVER become missionaries. Mark my words.” He said. Zach, my oldest who was 9 at the time, turns to me and says, “Doesn’t dad get it? The flight got canceled because God wants us to go back and be missionaries!”
A kind soul graciously agreed to pick us up at the airport and take us back to Big Woods. Once we got back to the house we had stayed in, we unpacked everything and had to re-make the beds and undo all the packing we’d done earlier. Zach told his dad that God wanted us to be missionaries. He was very quiet; still understandably upset.
The next morning a missionary family generously offered to host us for breakfast. We asked a lot of questions, got a lot of answers and the kids enjoyed playing together. I know that visit was meant to be for all that we learned that morning. It seemed to make up for our lost time at the beginning of the weekend, and solidify our calling even more.
As we were packing up to leave for our make-up flight, Brad spoke from across the room, “So I think we should apply.” I was thinking of what he said in the airport. I’m thinking, did he just say that? He continued, “Last night I couldn’t sleep, wondering why God brought us back here. Look at how far God has brought us in the whole missions process? Filling out an application is our yes to God.” I was filled with joy, for it confirmed what I’d been feeling at the airport; that God had a reason for this canceled flight.
These joy-filled feelings, this desire for missions – it’s not that we think this choice would be better and we definitely know, not easier than how we’ve lived – it’s just that it feels so right. And it feels like it’s not coming from us and our wants, but from what God wants.
In conclusion, we tried our best to make it to intake last year, but we own three businesses we needed to figure out, and suddenly I realized I would need a series of oral surgeries that would take a whole year to complete. We knew it wasn’t the right time. Also, in October we found out we are expecting our 6th baby! This year of waiting has been one of the most intense years of our life, almost feeling like spiritual boot camp. But here this desire is, going on stronger and stronger for the both of us, and here we are planning on arriving for intake in Sept., totally relying on God to get there.