“The Lord said to Abram: “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land I will show you.”
What if God said the same to your husband? What if God called your family out of the land of your kinsfolk and out of your father’s house and sent you to a faraway distant land of wilderness? What if you were asked to leave all that you’ve ever known and set off for a foreign country abandoning your home, your friends, your comforts, and all that is familiar?
What if these were not what ifs?
We have spent a lot of time lately asking ourselves those very questions, especially that last one. Yesterday, Tim had a conversation with someone about a missionary job in Africa. If he decides to pursue the job and we, as a family, discern that this really is what God wants of us, we will be leaving in a matter of weeks for a two year commitment to live and work in a mission located in the impoverished and somewhat unstable country of Liberia.
How do I express the thoughts, feelings, and conversations that have surrounded this possible change in our lives? Tim applied for the job about a week and a half ago. He did mention it to me first and my reaction was the same as his, let’s try it and see where it goes. Within 24 hours of applying, he heard back. They had a few questions but were willing to consider him.
I freaked out a little. We can’t move our family to Africa! We are used to cheerios for breakfast, peanut butter and jelly for lunch. Sometimes we order pizza for dinner and it gets delivered to our door (okay VERY rarely, but still-- it is an option). We’ve never known life without air conditioning when the temperature reaches over 75 degrees. We have always had indoor plumbing, bottled water, shopping malls, grocery stores, convenience marts on every street corner.
But even as I thought all these things, I thought about Abraham and how he was called out of his ordinary comfortable life and when called—he did not hesitate.
And I thought about exposing my children to different cultures, about having the opportunity to really drive home the lessons of charity, gratitude, loving God above all other things (even pizza delivery and air conditioning). I thought about the amazing blessings associated with mission work and the chance to see the world. I thought about the reality of living and working in Africa and the once in a lifetime opportunity this might be. I looked at the mission’s website and studied the pictures of the compound, the children, the school over and over trying to picture my family there in the midst of it all.
I was terrified and excited all at once. In the end, I did not tell Tim to please call the mission people back and remove his name from consideration. I told him again, let’s see where this goes.
So then this past Tuesday, he got an e-mail from the mission requesting a phone call and a chance to talk about it all. I freaked out again. Could I really pack up a few of my worldly belongings, say good-by to my family and friends and leave for two years? Could I really walk out of my house not knowing if I would ever come back to it? Could I really live in a place practically on the equator with no air conditioning, no Wal-Mart down the street, no weekly visits to Starbucks for a vanilla rooibos tea and a few hours to talk with friends? Could I really take my children from their friends, from their comforts, from all they have ever known and plunk them down in the middle of a simple rustic Franciscan mission full of poor, orphaned African children in the middle of the “bush”?
Tim and I prayed about it and decided, if God wants us there, then yes we could do all those things (I think). We figured if it is truly God’s will and He is really calling our family to mission work, then first of all we cannot say no, and second of all, He must know the blessings would far outweigh the sacrifices. Still, Tim said he wanted a “burning bush” that would tell us, undoubtedly, one way or the other, if it really is God’s will for us.
So, we prepared a list of our questions—is there indoor plumbing? Is it safe? What are the health risks? How about medical care if we need it? Etc…. And yesterday at noon Tim had his phone call. I sat by my cell phone praying and anxiously awaiting his report on everything. Was God calling us, like He called Abraham?
Here’s the scoop-- we could get cheerios for breakfast if we wanted even in Liberia, there is indoor plumbing and even private bathrooms at the residence we would likely be in, the compound is very safe with security guards and safety precautions in place, there are health risks but vaccinations before we left would take care of those, there is medical care available and insurance would cover the cost. All our questions were answered even better than we expected.
Then, the woman mentioned that though Tim’s travel costs would be covered completely by the mission, they could not afford to fly the rest of us over and that expense would have to be covered by us.
We crunched a few numbers, checked out the cost of flights and figured out it would cost us roughly $18,000 to fly six of us to Africa. Before that there would also be passports to secure, visa fees to pay, the cost of the medical exams and vaccinations, etc… That would be another $2000-$3000. Then, of course, we’d need to get back home- another $18,000 for that and we were looking at a cost of nearly $40,000.
We don’t have $40,000. We cannot come up with it within weeks, and even if we could raise the money, there are so many other unknowns—what about our house and mortgage payment, the car payment, the fact that when the two year commitment is up we would be facing unemployment and re-adjustment all at once, and maybe homelessness too.
We figure this is our burning bush. Tim told the mission that we would not be able to further pursue this amazing opportunity. I am slightly relieved and surprisingly, a little more than slightly disappointed. I am sure this all happened for a reason. I am sure there are a million lessons in our discernment process and prayer of the last 10 days. Not the least of which is that there is much to be done right here in America and that must be where God wants us to concentrate our missionary efforts.