As a family in youth ministry for over a decade, the hardest part of our calling has hands down been the times when God has revealed to us it was time to move on and close a chapter with one church family to start another somewhere else. This last Sunday was bittersweet with for us as we shared with our church family the calling God has placed on our hearts to be in Haiti full time. Bitter because words can not express how much we love and adore the students we are serving alongside and can not count the ways this church family has made our lives so blessed. Sweet because we know that God has awesome things planned for our family, our future mission work in Haiti, and the body at Cherokee Hills Christian Church.
In case you were still celebrating the 4th of July and are currently out of the loop… On Sunday, Kurt (our pastor) announced that our family and the Lechtenberg family have felt a calling to become full time missionaries in Haiti and are currently in the process of making plans to do so. We are completely confident in our calling to Haiti yet still unsure as to which organization we would like to serve alongside. We are seriously praying about and considering two organizations in Haiti who do similar work there (lead short term mission trips, orphan care, church planting/support, and medical mission work). Regardless of what organization we end up serving with, we think the preparation (missionary training, budgeting/ fund raising efforts, language study) will take at least 6 months and could possibly take up to 2 years.
Jake and I instantly fell in love with the country of Haiti and the Haitian people on our first trip there in 2005. We joke that “Haiti had us at hello…” but it’s so true. We didn’t know if we would EVER recover from all the things God revealed to us during that trip. Our comfortable life was turned upside down by everything we saw and experienced there. Thankfully, we never did “get over” it… God changed our entire life goals from that point on. We have said that our retirement plan would include serving in Haiti but always saw serving in Haiti as something we would do when we “outgrew youth ministry” or when our kids were grown or at least off to college. Over the last several months, as God has revealed to us his calling over our lives, we have realized that we can not ask God to respect our “timetable” and conditions when it comes to serving Him. We also realized that our numerous short term mission trips there are at times as effective as trying to put a band-aid on knife wound, it may help for a while but if we want to be a part of lasting healing impact on Haiti, we need to be there full time. As God began laying this on our hearts, we tried to reason with him (ever hear the saying “wanna make God laugh, tell him your plan”). In that process, Jake asked God to do three things (if He was really calling us to full time mission work)…
1. Families, not individuals, are called into ministry/ mission work so Jake asked God to create a desire within my heart and our children’s heart for Haiti~ Like I said earlier, Haiti had me at hello, and even though I am the biggest girly girl and scaredy cat you will ever met, I could not be more on board with this. Drew (our 14 year old son) has always been excited about our plans to be there one day when he was grown but previously was NOT interested in going there full time himself. As Jake began praying through this element, almost overnight Drew approached us about living there full time. He came to us in tears on several different occasions just heartbroken and home sick for the people he met in Haiti last November and desiring to be there NOW. Ashlyn (our 11 year old daughter), although worried about staying connected with her circle of friends here (especially Gentry), is also on board and excited. Jimso (our 7 year old adopted son from Haiti) is as well…. Kurt joked on Sunday about having a sneaking suspicious that Jimso will somehow fit right in.
2. The mission field in a third world country can be a difficult and lonely place, so we asked that God would not send us out alone but would provide another American couple or family to join us on the field~ Again as we prayed through this, we waited on the Lord. One night in particular, Jake and I left a Monday night prayer service at church feeling completely burdened and broken over this calling God was placing on our hearts. We went to Starbucks after prayer to sort through and process some of what we were experiencing. I asked Jake if we could call Mark and Belinda and ask them to join us at Starbucks so they could be praying for us too. He said “no, let’s wait” and then not 5 minutes later… who should “happen” to walk into the very Starbucks we were at?? But Mark and Belinda. As we shared with them where we were feeling lead (nothing about the other couple part), they shared with us that God had placing the exact same call onto their lives. Again God provided what we were asking for in prayer with out us even having to approach people! As God is weaving this team He will be sending out together, I am amazed!! With the background Belinda and I have in nursing, Mark’s background in business/agriculture/ animal husbandry, and Jake’s construction/ ministry background… God is sending us out equipped to meet some of the most crucial needs of the Haitian population! 3. As we have read about serving in full time mission work, we have learned that over 70% of American missionaries are unable to fulfill their commitment and end up coming home prematurely. We also learned that having Godly wise counsel and organizational support PRIOR TO AND DURING can greatly increase the effectiveness of missionaries. So we asked God to send us that from the very beginning~ Remember that night at Starbucks? Kenny and Linda McDonald “happened” to be with Mark and Belinda and “happen” to share the same heart for mission work and Haiti in particular as we do. The McDonalds were a part of the team that went to Haiti with us last February and they were impacted by what they experienced there. Since that meeting at Starbucks, the McDonalds have been an essential part of our team and the planning process. They have been faithfully interceding for our families in prayer and have been giving us a lot of WISE counsel since that night several months ago. We feel so blessed that the McDonalds will continue to be a part of our team, only based stateside, through out this journey. As we have shared the news with our church leadership, they have been tremendously supportive and just an answer to prayer as we try to navigate our way through this. Leaving church on Sunday after sharing with our church family (the people we do life with) our future plans, I have never been more in love with the body of Christ or felt more supported within the protection and refuge of that body.
This decision has not been an easy one and hasn’t been one that we have made lightly or emotionally…. With that being said, we have never been more sure or more confident of God’s leading or calling in our entire lives. As time goes, we will share more about how God called us into this, the many ways He has reconfirmed this over and over, our prayer needs, and how you can help us. But I want to close with this bible verse and an entry from my prayer journal back in April….
Philippians 1:5-7 (New International Version) "because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me.
“Lord my head is spinning right now with the things you have been pressing on our hearts and the new things you are stirring within us. Over and over you are confirming this calling to Haiti in a million random and unrelated ways. Now that we are indeed confident in the calling, there is a sense of deep peace mixed with chaos and fear. There are a million reasons why logically this is ridiculous and just plain crazy. I could come with an endless list of “cons” against moving my family there and there is more than enough evidence to justify not going BUT making this decision all comes down to this…. YOU HAVE CALLED US AND CREATED US TO DO THIS WORK! And all the fears and “cons” could never outweigh the calling and our desire to be obedient to you. THERE IS NO PLACE I WOULD RATHER BE THAN AT THE CENTER OF YOUR WILL FOR MY LIFE. At times I am overwhelmed with fear when I refuse to take captive every anxious thought. Yet I am secure knowing that the God who calls me is faithful. You have entrusted these three amazing and precious children to me and as a mom I want to protect them with every fiber of my being. But as much I love them and treasure their little hearts, my love for them is just a drop in the bucket compared to your love for them. And even more than wanting to protect them, I want to instill in these children a love for you and their fellow man. I can think of no better way to teach them this than to devote our entire lives work to serving others. Taking my family and packing up to live in a third world country is CRAZYINESS in the eyes of this world. But being disobedient to you and ignoring the needs that exist outside my comfortable life is even crazier to me. And even if that mean walking away from everything and everyone I love in this life, I will. I believe with all my heart that you have placed me in the position I am in (as a citizen of one the wealthiest nations, as an American educated nurse) for a reason and “for such a time as this”. I want to use all the resources you have given me to love on the “least of these” and to pour out my life as a drink offering to you. Jake and I prayed a dangerous prayer when we prayed that you would “break our heart for what breaks yours” and we do not want to waste our lives chasing after temporary things that do not matter in the end. Take my life and make it matter! The greatest tragedy in my eyes would be coming to the end of my life and realizing that I didn’t make a mark and living only for myself I did not impact your kingdom in the way I could have. I have been singing/praying these lyrics over and over “I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, what if I had given EVERYTHING, instead of going through the motions?” Lord today I am letting go of everything and surrendering completely to you and your calling over my life”
I am a nurse and most importantly mom of 6 precious children( 2 are homegrown, 1 on loan,& 3 are hand picked). Drew (age 15) Ashlyn (age 13) We have adopted 3 Haitian miracles Jimso (age10), Jackson (age 13) a&Jedone (age 14) We also have a foster daughter who is a constant source of joy!We are passionate about orphan/ foster care. My husband is the lead pastor at Cherokee Hills Christian Church in Oklahoma City.