After our vision trip at the end of 2018, we set upon prayerfully discerning which of the places we visited, if any, we were called to join. At the same time, the leaders of those organizations also prayerfully discerned if they felt we would be a good fit and/or felt we were called to serve with them. This included an extended time of back and forth emails and Skype or equivalent conversations, answering follow-up questions We pretty quickly felt God saying “no” to two of the three opportunities from the vision trip. We were thankful for the clarity, but it is always difficult to say “no thank you”. When praying about the third, an International Church in Vietnam, we felt like we should be hearing a clear “yes”, but we didn’t. We kept our prayer team informed of our discernment progress and asked them to keep praying for us and to let us know if they heard a word from the Lord. Interestingly, almost universally, they heard nothing. At one point Suzanne heard in a dream,
“It is not that you are not ready to know where you will go, it is that the place is not yet ready for you.”
We then renewed our conversations with a mission training center in Colorado, and set up to do a face-to-face interview with them while we were nearby on a family ski trip in January. It seemed to go well, we prayed and prayed about that and Vietnam… still no direction from God that felt concrete. One of our TMS Global Colleagues, serving in an undisclosed location, heard we were still searching for our next appointment and contacted us with an idea of joining her in delivering various trainings in the city in which she serves. We had several discussions with her and one of her colleagues, and while it seemed a good fit for our experience and skills, we told her that we felt that Steve was being called back into pastoral ministry. It turns out an international church in the city in which she serves has had an interim pastor for several months and was looking for a pastor! So, Steve had an e-interview with several of their elders, and we are now invited to visit them, which we will do in conjunction with a conference in Dubai after Easter.
All along we had been praying, and not hearing no (or yes) to Vietnam, and seeing all kinds of connections and synergies between the now three possible locations: Vietnam, Colorado, and the undisclosed location*. At another point Suzanne had another dream in which she heard
“If the way you are praying isn’t working, change the way you are praying.”
Last fall a friend of ours in Central Texas had told us that she engages in the Ignatian Examen daily. After talking about it with her, she gave us more information and we had been doing the Examen many evenings. After the “change the way you are praying” dream, we doubled-down on that, and added in some 1 to 3 hour prayer times in which we adapted the Ignatian discernment process to our needs, and unplugged the phones, locked the doors, lit a candle, and PRAYED. One time we each heard something different, and one time we both heard “not yet”. During this time, we heard from those praying for us either conflicting messages, or, “you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing right now.” We felt most strongly that the message from God was, “wait.” We continued along the process with the training center in Colorado, and completed a set of psychological evaluations with them, and are set to “shadow” some of their trainers in June.
We’re not sure why God has us waiting this long. However, we are so very thankful for the time. We have seen our first grandchild born and been around to watch the first 9 months of her life. What a JOY. Around Memorial Day we’ll (finally) get Suzanne’s childhood home on the market to sell. And we’ve been doing all the deferred maintenance on our house and yard, and figuring out what we own and what we don’t need anymore. At the same time, we have been working on ourselves – getting ourselves mentally, physically, and spiritually prepared for our next calling. We have also been doing a lot of shared ministry together, for the first time (in such quantity) ever. We have led a Bible study, including an Ignatian Examen practice and some Taize music at our church throughout Lent. We have pitched in and shared a listening and prayerful ear on several occasions with friends. Steve (and in one instance Steve and I) have preached some, and we have shared about missions at two churches’ special mission events. I would say most importantly, though, we have come to incorporate significant margin in our lives, not in the leftover spaces, but as an integral part of our days. We look forward to being much more fully present in whatever path God lays before us.
It has been a blessed 9 months, and we are so thankful to God for his grace in allowing us this time. Thank you for supporting us through your prayers and gifts.
*Note: we have to say “undisclosed location” since it is not always advisable to disclose that someone is a Christian working in a “closed” country, even if the work does not directly entail proselytizing.