We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 WEB)
It all began with an airport. At least for me it began in an airport. I was sitting, minding my own business, glancing up from my book to watch the strange passengers wander to and fro, when I felt the Lord trying to tell me something. No audible voice, no graffiti on the airport walls to make things clear. Just some time reading and my heart starting to talk about mission work. Granted, the previous couple of years at bible college probably laid some groundwork in my thinking. I shared my feelings with Beth, my wife, and she received the same inclination while I was away. Things seemed to fit together. But, where, when, and how were the questions yet to be answered.
An application here, an application there, and then we waited. We heard from a couple missions who talked about raising support. That didn’t appeal to us so we said our polite, “Thank you. But, no thank you.” Then there was silence. A year of silence until our son was born to break up the quiet of our home. Like a birthday present we received a call from the mission asking us to come and be interviewed.
After months of waiting our application for missionary service finally bubbled its way to the top of the perspective missionary stack. The initial information was sufficient to garner their interest in our family. We were asked to come to their home office, in New Jersey of all places, for a personnel interview.
As a young couple just finishing school, we couldn’t afford such a trip. We could barely afford to pay rent and then eat. We often observed there was too much month at the end of the paycheck. We knew God called us to consider missions and He was opening a crack in the door. But, God also knew we were poor as church mice. A newborn baby, Joel, and a two year old, Ellice, stretched our finances to the limit. How could we make the trip.
The Lord provided someone, although I cannot remember who, to pay for our plane tickets to New York City and back. With Joel in a basket and Ellice holding my hand we climbed aboard our first air flight as a family. Beth’s brother and his family offered us a room in their home while her Aunt provided a car. Cold, unsure what was ahead, and ready to see what God had in mind, we looked forward to our first face to face meeting with a mission board.
The next morning we arose, looked at a map, and began our journey. Our first stop was a local church. Although Joel would accompany us to the meetings, Ellice was scheduled to enjoy the day at the church daycare center. That was another provision from the Lord. We couldn’t afford to pay for daycare. The Lord placed the need on the pastor’s heart and the costs were covered. Locating the mission offices was next on our list.
I discovered, quickly, I didn’t like the roads in New Jersey. I’m sure there is someone, somewhere, who understands the flow and pattern of the highways and side streets but it escaped me as we wandered from place to place. Did you know, you can’t turn left in New Jersey? At least that was my impression. I’d get a bead on our destination and be thwarted by the ubiquitous no left turn signs. This gave new meaning to the phrase turned around.
Eventually, we located the office on Main Street and entered the hallowed halls we read about in the history of the mission. We are greeted by a friendly Mr. L and met other potential candidates awaiting the barrage of questions and meetings scheduled during the evaluation. Armed with the meager information gleaned in reading the history of the mission we thought we were ready for the challenge.
Most meetings were straightforward and direct. Even the psychiatrist was quick and felt we just might fit in with the missionary mindset. (It goes to prove you really can fool some of the people some of the time!) The most grueling and nerve wracking interview was with the board.
We were ushered into a long conference room and instructed to sit at one end of the long conference table while five board members occupied the other end with the President of the mission in the center. I asked to move closer and was promptly told to remain where I was seated. The questions followed.
We were not sure how to answer, or, what they wanted to hear. It’s a strange human habit to turn over in our minds and try to discover hidden meaning behind a question instead of just answering the clear question.. We knew God brought us to this point. We were taken off guard as questions centered around many cultural issues and none surfaced in relation to my work as a broadcast engineer. Beth and I provided answers which were honest and direct. Our response to some questions was, “We don’t know.” We finished, exited the room, and waited. We were not sure how things would turn out. We sat in the front room as deliberations were held behind closed doors.
Chatting with other candidates helped to pass the time but didn’t assuage our concerns. One candidate couple departed after meeting the psychiatrist. Another couple departed promptly after their board interview and another was instructed to undertake some biblical studies and then return at a later date. Whew, I’d been to bible college. In the end we were the only couple left in the room.
Members of the mission passed through the room making a particular fuss over baby Joel. It was quiet and tense as we waited.
Finally, we were asked back into the board room. We were accepted as missionaries. Praise the Lord! We weren’t sure what God had in mind when we left Lexington the day before. Now we were sure. This was a definite answer to His plans for our life.
With relief we left the conference room and relaxed on the couch in the foyer. We were IN! Into what was still a question. Neither of us were familiar with all the details of becoming faith missionaries. This we would learn in the years to come. Right then we were in the door. God called, we listened and we were accepted. Whew!
Little did we know, at that happy juncture in our lives, what God was going to do in and through us in the years ahead. With excitement in our hearts and on our lips we returned to share the good news with family, friends and our home church.
It’s like that between us and God. He leads, He guides, but He doesn’t reveal the answers until we persevere to the end. Maybe you’re in the midst of a change. It becomes clear at the end. At least we can count on that.