I am continuing on with my little series in answering our most frequently asked questions about moving overseas to Ethiopia. I first answered these two questions: 1. Aren't you scared for your childrens' safety by moving them to a third world country? 2. Your decision to move seems sudden. Why are you moving so quickly? To read these first set of questions and answers go here. You will find the second post here, where I answered the question, why are you serving independently from an agency?
4. Why did you choose not to go to missionary school or obtain a masters in missions?
Jim and I both attended four years of Bible college, including some "missions classes" sprinkled into those four years. I graduated with my bachelors of science in elementary education and bachelors of science in biblical studies. Jim graduated with his bachelors of science in philosophy (he also took every preaching class/pastoral class offered and many hours of counseling classes, but loved all of the language classes - Greek and Hebrew - with the Philosophy major, so stuck with that major). Jim graduated with highest honor and was at the top of his class, and I graduated with honors. Academics were very important to us - too important. We cared mostly about classroom discussion, reading textbooks, debating theology and our orthodoxy; it was years before we realized that orthopraxy mattered, too, and in that people matter. Our first ministry as husband and wife was camp ministry. Jim became the program director, and I was by his side for six years. It was in this ministry that God got us out of the books and into people's lives. It was there that we fell in love with discipling people, and saw how discipleship can change lives. We were hooked. While in the camp ministry, I also taught in a Christian school, and we worked as youth leaders. Kids and teenagers had become a really big part of our life, and as soon as we started a family with our beautiful Cadence Grace, we also became really, really burdened for families. After six years of camp, Jim became an associate pastor, and God continued to break our hearts for people, for families, and eventually for the outcasts and marginalized. The summer after we brought Jamesy home, we knew that God was calling us into missions. We just were not sure of His timing and logistics. We prayed and discussed sending, at least, Jim back to school. We even went as far as visiting Southern Theological Seminary in Kentucky, and researched their missions program. But school just did not feel right. God never gave us a peace about it, and we loved what we saw and knew of the school! But to get back into the academic world after God had so graciously and lovingly pulled us out was not the right move for us, and we knew that deep in our hearts. So, we continued to take advantage of ministry opportunities and invested time into learning about the world around us, and continually found ourselves pushed toward discipleship and counseling of families and teens. In the process, we continued to travel to Ethiopia, and even were privileged with leading a team there. God was slowly and beautifully melding our love for people, discipleship, families, and Africa together.
Jim and I have gained more hands on experience for our future ministry in these past few years than we would have been able to obtain in school. We are daily living out this discipleship and watching redemption unfold, with our oldest son, who we brought into our home from the streets of Addis. Everyday we are getting hands on training in what it means to love and disciple a child in this way with his background and history. Having been invested in Ethiopia for four years now, we have learned so much about the country, the culture, the people, the religions, etc. We have learned a lot from experiencing it on our trips to Ethiopia, but we have also learned so much by living with Habi and investing in his life. I am a researcher by nature, and I am constantly reading and trying to learn everything I can about Africa, Ethiopia, living in third world countries, discipleship, etc. Right now I have three books sitting in front of me about Africa, from the library, and that is pretty typical. We have invested ourselves in the food, and I have learned to cook all of Habi's favorites. We have incorporated the traditions and holidays into our family, as well as the music. We have dear friends who are Habesha. We believe that the language piece will come with time. Because English is prevalent in the capital city, we will be able to get by until we have gotten a hang of Amharic. We believe that immersion will most likely be the best way for our family to learn, and we have a wonderful built in tutor/translator in our Habi! We feel strongly that we have learned far more about Ethiopia, ourselves and our passions and strengths and weaknesses by living out our life, than we ever could have learned in a classroom setting.
And while we call ourselves missionaries, we really only do that because people can understand and identify with that label. But let me be truthful here - all followers of Jesus are missionaries. We are not doing anything unique in that. We are ALL called to spread the good news, to advance the Kingdom, to disciple, and we have been doing that here as a married couple for the past almost twelve years. We still plan on doing all of that, we are just going to do it across the ocean with a specific group of people - street boys and their families. A lot of families move overseas to do life, and a lot of families don't go to school to do that. Sometimes the very best training you can get is real life. We have been training in that for a long time, and we are really looking forward to the mentor-ship that we will be receiving once in Ethiopia from Trent and Carmen. We will not be alone, and we will be mentored every step of the way. I cannot think of a better "education" - to learn and grow AS we build the Kingdom.
Really we are not just flippantly going to Ethiopia with no training. We have been training all of our lives for this moment. It is really about preparation more than formal training for us. God has been preparing us for this for so many years. We really aren't missionaries - we are just a family who is trying our best to love God with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind and love people, too. We want to follow Jesus, and it just so happens that we are following him to Ethiopia. Following Jesus and loving people big can happen anywhere. We aren't defined by being missionaries, or ministering overseas, or being in "full-time ministry". Will we do it all right? No. Will we make mistakes? Yes. But we are going in with eyes wide open, hearts prepared and ready and willing to learn all that we can. No, we will not be training in a classroom, but we will be training while we live life - for us, for now, this is better than a classroom.
Please feel free to ask your own questions in comments below or email me at amomentcherished(at)gmail(dot)com