This morning I found the following comment under the post announcing our desire to obey God in moving to Ethiopia.
I thought that perhaps these were some of the questions others were thinking, but had not addressed so boldly or at all. In an effort to continually live our life transparently I decided to answer the questions to the best of my ability right here.
Dear Anonymous Guest,
Thank you for being so concerned about our family and the welfare of our children as it pertains to our decision to be obedient to God's leading us to Ethiopia for missions. I am saddened that you felt that you had to hide behind an anonymous guest posting for your comment, but that aside I hope to answer your questions in a gracious manner.
First, let me say, that I believe Jesus calls us to live an authentic, transparent life, and that many of us Americans hide behind our supposed right to privacy. Our family has been trying to live counter-cultural for several years, having said that, even with blogging openly, and sharing a lot of our lives via facebook, there are still very intimate things and ways that the Holy Spirit works with us that never make it onto a blog or any other social media. I believe that the Holy Spirit is alive and active inside of followers of Jesus. I believe that He moves in extraordinary, supernatural ways that sometimes (actually very often - if we are truly in tune with His desires and leading) make absolutely no human sense, and I believe He does this so that God gets all of the glory in the end. Left to my own human nature, my life would look very soft, safe, and "normal". Left to my own human nature, I would not be moving to Ethiopia - heck, I NEVER would have set a piggy toe on African soil, I would not have two Ethiopian sons, I would never have left the camp ministry, and I would be chasing after the glitz and glamour of this world. Because honestly, that is a whole lot easier, safer, and less questioned.
So many times in the past five years, the leading of the Holy Spirit in our family's life has not added up. It didn't make logical sense, it was CRAZY, it didn't fit inside a box, and yet each time we have obeyed the Spirit's leading, we have been blessed beyond anything we could ever imagine. Every single time that we took a crazy leap of faith, God came through. We endured people calling us foolish, crazy, questioning our motives, our heart, our decisions. We have endured lost friendships, biting words from family, and people turning their back completely on us and our crazy-train. Although, it is still not easy, we have seen the faithfulness of God every single time and the confirmation that this is what it is to be a follower of Jesus. We have continually seen our faith look foolish....and many, many times it looks the most foolish to the people who claim to profess the same, exact faith as us.
In this point in our journey, while we do and always will count the cost of every decision we make (Luke 14:28), we no longer need to let the how get in the way of the what that God is calling us to. We have allowed the Spirit to get us into so many this is crazy and makes no human sense situations that we know without listening to His promptings and leadings we will never get to the awesome, incredible moments that only come piggy-backed to crazy. So, with that being said, I will try to specifically answer the many questions that you are concerned about for us, but please know that as I said above sometimes the leading of the Spirit just makes NO human sense.
Yes, we were planting a church. Yes, we truly believe that God called us to do that this summer, and no, we do not believe that we misunderstood the Spirit's leading us in this direction. In hindsight, as I indicated in my first post, looking back over these past months, we now can see and truly believe that this is exactly what God used to make us move away from our former church. We never would have left the church for just a different vocation, and we now know that we never would have said "yes" to moving to Ethiopia without first getting a little uncomfortable. That was not going to happen in our old church - we were comfortable there - things were easy for us, and we were able to give God so, so many excuses as to why we could not possibly move our family to Ethiopia. God, who knows us so perfectly, knew that the one thing that could draw us out of our hometown and church was the desire to plant a church and make a difference. We had fallen so in love with the simple, worship-filled, action-filled, Spirit-filled church in Ethiopia, and we were desperate to replicate that here. So, with starry-eyes we moved out of our home, away from our church and started our plant. It has been an amazing summer with these precious people, and surely God allowed this body to meet together "for such a time as this", but we are also now confident that He is not including us in the future of the church plant. That was probably the thing that we wrestled with the most, but through a myriad of circumstances - for example our church not being able to gain its non-for-profit status, and it being very clear that there was no human reason why it could not be done, but rather God was not allowing it to happen and several other circumstances just like this, it became very, very clear that the Spirit was leading us in a different direction. Again, we do not believe that the church plant was a mistake, we believe it was part of His divine plan all gently nudging us to finally surrender to His ultimate desire for our lives. We are very thankful that God was so gentle and gracious with us in this, and that we were able to spend the summer with such an amazing group of people. We learned a lot doing the plant, and we now have a better understanding that we can never, ever replicate Ethiopia, here.
We have prayed about the impact that this move will have on all of our children, but perhaps on Habi, the most. We have sat down with him and had very serious, hard conversations with Habi. We have prayed with him, and we have given him opportunity to speak with other people about this plan. We in turn, have spoken with other familes who have adopted from Ethiopia and then returned to live there. We are not making a rash, foolish decision in any of this, although it may appear that way to those on the outside looking in. Yes, it is true that Habi has only been here in America for one year. Let me be very clear, though, we absolutely did not bring Habi home, so that he could "be in America", have American advantages and prosperity, or even to receive an education. We brought Habi here because he was a child without a family who was desperate to have a family, and we are his family. Of course education is important, and we are very thankful for the way that his private school has worked with him this year, but he will still be getting an education in Ethiopia. I am a certified educator, and I will be homeschooling our three oldest children. Habi and I work very well together, I understand his learning style, and I am able to best help him as there is no other person in this world that knows Habi like I do. Homeschooling has always been our first option for Habi, being that he comes from such a different educational background than that you find here in America, so we are very, very excited that we will be able to homeschool him in Ethiopia. America is not the answer for these children. There are wonderful privileges that come with living in America, but there also so many horrible distractions that make living for Jesus and trying to be a godly teenager here in the states very difficult. Habi loves Ethiopia and the people of Ethiopia, and He desires to share Jesus over there. He loves his culture and he is proud of his rich, beautiful heritage. America was never, ever a permanent choice for Habi. Almost weekly he would tell us how he was going to move back to Ethiopia one day to share Jesus with those he loved. It was never America or an education that he sought, but rather it was a Daddy and a Mommy who loved and cared about him, and that is permanent no matter where God leads us.
For a long time, Jim and I used Jamesy as our biggest excuse as to why we could not follow Jesus to Ethiopia. Yes, it is true that Jamesy has many special-needs. Once again we strongly believe that God divinely orchestrated our summer to erase these excuses. We have been living with Jim's parents since May, because of that all of Jamesy's therapies have completely stopped. And since May, Jamesy's vocabulary has doubly increased, his sensory seeking has slowed-down a bit, and he is over-all doing better than he ever has. We are so encouraged! It is true that Jamesy needs 24/7 monitoring and help, and we are very excited to be hiring a full-time nanny in Ethiopia to help be an extra set of hands and eyes. It is such a blessing to be able to hire an Ethiopian woman and give her a source of employment and to expose Jamesy to so much of his culture and heritage. We obviously do not know exactly how everything will work in country, but we trust that God does and that He is already paving a path. With the kind of visas that our family will be getting, we will be returning to America every six months. So twice a year (exactly what happens now), Jamesy will still be able to be seen by his specialists at the children's hospital in Philly, we will take all of his medication over with us, and we are hoping to sit down with his therapists and work out a plan that we can carry out for Jamesy in ET to continue his therapies on our own. Yes, Jamesy does like to run and escape (although CPS has only been called on us one time), and actually the house and compound that we will live in in Ethiopia will be completed fenced off and gated as well as monitored by a 24/7 guard. We are very happy to know that it will be impossible for Jamesy to escape from our home any longer! This is something we could never provide for him here in the states - nanny included. Also the culture is very, very different in Ethiopia. We will know our neighbors. Neighbors are much more like family and literally "the village" cares for each other. Jamesy will be very well taken care of and loved, as will all of our children.
I hope this answers a few of your questions and your concern for our family.