When people learn about the journey that our family is being taken on, their reactions are varied. Their questions are many. In the moment, I am not good at answering any of their questions. I don't think on my feet well, and although so much time, thought, prayer, and counsel has been put into our decision to move to Ethiopia, the questions still make me feel insecure and backed into a corner. And to be totally transparent, I have a tendency to become very defensive, because this is such a big deal for us - it is our passion, our heart, and we truly believe our life calling. God has been wooing us and shaping us for so many years to bring us to this exact place, and we have gone through so, so much to get to where we are today. (For the record, God and I are working on this defensive instinct - okay let's call it what it is - pride issue - in my life.) For those who have not traveled this five year long road with us, when I step back and take a deep breath, I realize that their questions are mostly just curiosity and care for our family. So I am writing this post in an attempt to answer our most frequently asked questions in a forum where I am most comfortable - behind my screen.
1. Aren't you scared for your childrens' safety by moving them to a third world country?
Sometimes. But sometimes I am scared for their safety right here in the United States of America, too. God absolutely wants us to use wisdom and discernment, but He does not want us to live in the bondage of fear. We do not want to pass this fear down to our children either, as we believe it is such a crippling heritage. And to be blunt, safety really is just a big, fat illusion. We believe in a sovereign God - One who will protect us and keep us safe if that is what He desires for our lives, or One who will allow us to go through struggles if that is what will ultimately be good for our lives. No matter what, we know He goes before us and stands beside us every step of the way - we are never abandoned. It doesn't matter where our home is - we firmly believe that we can never leave the care of our Father in heaven, and because of our views regarding eternity - there is very little that we can really risk in this life. We know what our ultimate future holds, and for us there is no fear in that beautiful, eternal future. There is no use in trying to take the reigns of this one life, and control it by padding it with safety and comfort (we tried that at one point and finally found freedom in giving our life back to Jesus - it was never ours to begin with) The comfort and security and safety could all be lost in a moment regardless of where we live - there is absolutely no guarantee for tomorrow. There is not guarantee for my next breath. So we boldly step up and out with God, knowing that we are in perfect hands. We move to Ethiopia not to follow the American dream, common sense, or safety, but to follow the call of God on our lives. We are called to follow Jesus. If Jesus followed the way of safety, He never would have died on that cross.
I hope that my children learn courage from this journey, and that some day when God places a dream in their hearts for His Kingdom, that their first instinct is not fear, nor safety, nor comfort, but simply the desire to follow God in that dream,and to follow Him boldly to the ends of the earth, if that is where the dream takes them.
2. Your decision to move seems sudden. Why are you leaving so quickly?
This answer is lengthy, as there are so many pieces to it. I will try to answer it the best that I can.
From an outsider's perspective, this choice probably does seem sudden and rash, but for even my long-term blog readers, I am guessing that you saw this move coming years ago. The truth is that God began growing this seed for missions when we were both children, but he really began intensely watering that seed back in 2009. When Jim and I were between ministries for a brief time in 2009, we casually tossed around the idea of missions, but because my heart could not fathom even moving a few cities away from my family, the yes was just not ready yet. I still had a lot of growing up to do, and Jim and I still had a lot of growing together to do. God had so much work to do in us, and so much to show us. We had grown pretty cozy in this life here, but slowly over those years, God was drawing us to finally say yes. He did it in such a perfect way - He knows us and loves us so well - so perfectly. Jim and I both knew in our hearts, in January 2010, that God was calling our family to Ethiopia (we whispered the truth of it well into the dawn almost every night that we stayed in that beautiful country), but something happened when we returned home, because of fear of man, of our family's reactions, of leaving our comfort, we continually squelched that call - over and over and over, and we became stuck where we were. It was not until God brought us to a place that we were so miserable being stuck, knowing that we were not doing what God had created us to do, that we knew that we had to stop, be still, and listen to the dream that He had been fertilizing for so many years. It was a scary, beautiful time, and so SO much peace came crashing into our lives when we finally surrendered that yes last summer. I wonder if God was thinking, what took you two so long?! (Scroll back through my posts for the past 5 years, and the wrestling and pressing of the Holy Spirit for this decision to move to Ethiopia is startlingly clear. The angst is easily read in almost every post. I just didn't acknowledge it then - I was not ready.)
Last summer when God swung open wide the door to Ethiopia, we were to take over an existing Guest House for a family friend - this was "the bait" that God used to get us to finally agree to missions overseas. God knew that Jim always wanted to do business as missions, and that this would open up some big possibilities for our family to actually be able to do this. In order to do this, we were told at first, that we would need to be in country by October 2013! Now THAT would have been fast. Looking back we can now see that much of the occurrences of all the beginning time line was just for God to get us to finally give a firm yes and for us to actually step out of the boat. For the past few years we have been saying we would move to Ethiopia - it's easy to say that, but then we would just leave it all up in the air. We talked about maybe going after our children had grown or when Habi had graduated high school - everything was always theoretical and in the distant future - it was nice and safe left there. In my heart, I knew that without a firm departure date, I would get cold feet, and we would find any excuse to stay - whether it be fear of family, fear of what people would say, fear of failing, or fear of finances.
So God orchestrated things to allow us to give a firm yes. We were told that we needed to get to Ethiopia as quickly as possible in order to take over the Guest House, so we sold our home and most of our earthly possessions in order to do so. Things changed with our family's friends' Guest House, and while we will still be running one - it will be our own from scratch - so the time-line changed and stretched and we stretched with it. In praying and fasting about the timing, knowing that with our personalities we needed to have a targeted date, so as not to stay comfortable in limbo forever, we strongly felt the Spirit urging us to target this summer as a departure date. So we plod forward with that date - pushing and praying while continuing to be sensitive to the Spirit's leading. It is a tender, vulnerable place to be in. Again, I do believe that none of this was by accident. God knew that we needed a reason to actually act on His call, so He gave us the reason (the Guest House and a deadline of being in country), and we stepped out in faith. This is how God has historically worked in our family's life - because of our personalities when God moves big in our life - it is always fast - He is the one that intimately knows Jim and I and knows what we need. Some people believe that if it looks crazy, if it looks fast and impossible or dangerous even, then it can surely not be from God! For us, when it is fast and furious, and looks way too big for us to handle, that is when we know we are on the right path in following Jesus. Because Jim and I are usually planners who are methodical, careful, cautious, etc. when left to our own devices - we are not innately spontaneous, risk-takers, so when something happens like this, we can be certain that we are being led by the Spirit and not by our own flesh. And those who loves us, and have watched us go through moves of God in the past will agree that this is true of our lives.
It's messy. It is hard. I would prefer to take my time, make a checklist, weigh all of the risks, plan, research, analyze etc. And if I did all that, I know in my heart I would never, ever be ready to leave - I would stay stuck right here. This is right where God wants us - following Him when it looks crazy - pushing and jumping into the unknown - our feet are right smack in the middle of the Jordan - and there is no going back. The only real peace we have is about going, and so we continue to take steps to GO.
We also feel a tremendous urgency to go. It's not because we are running from something, or because we cannot serve God here - because we have and we do - it is simply because this call on our life is so real and so all consuming. Again, our life is just a vapor, and we are not guaranteed tomorrow - we get one shot with this one life - we believe that the great commission is a priority, and we are so excited to participate in the Kingdom work that God is doing in Ethiopia. We know that He doesn't need us - we are not rescuers - but we are so thrilled that we get to participate! We are anxious and eager to begin doing life in Ethiopia - our lives have been pointing us there and God has been preparing us for years. We are at the point where we are just feeling tremendous urgency to finally GO. It is so, so hard to put even into written words the divine compulsion that burns inside of our hearts day and night - it is a passion that is impossible to resist. And I have no doubt that this urgency and passion was placed inside of us by a God who is gently and clearly drawing us to Ethiopia. Our eyes are fixed on Ethiopia and following God there.
We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. John 9:4
I will continue in another post with more questions. In the meantime feel free to leave your question in comments or email me at amomentcherished(at)gmail(dot)com