I grew up attending a small Baptist church in Indianapolis, Indiana. From my earliest memories, I can remember being in church. My grandfather was the Pastor and it was during a week-long revival one summer, that I accepted Christ as my Savior. Through the preaching of God’s Word that night, I understood that Satan was in control of my life and that I was on my way to Hell. As an eight year old boy, I did not know what the words redemption, or propitiation, or justification meant. But I did know that I was a sinner and I needed to accept Christ as my Savior. I went to the altar where I was met by my grandmother. She led me in prayer and I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins and be Lord of my life. Now I know my eternal home is in Heaven.
I can look back and see God’s plan in action in my life. Going from a small church of 30 or 40 people to a church of 800, can be intimidating. Immediately we were presented with many ministry opportunities that did not exist in our smaller church. I had never heard of AWANA, care groups, discipleship groups, or missions committees. At that time, I did not even know what a missionary was. When I was asked to take part in and be a leader in some of these ministries, Satan was right there trying to cause doubt and discourage me. Yet, God was and always has been faithful in enabling me to do whatever He calls me to do. We are all commanded to make disciples. And whether it means walking across the street, or moving ½ way around the world, Phil. 4:13 says “we can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
At the age of 16, Jan surrendered her life to missions. And in 2005, she went on a missions trip to Ireland. Over the next two years, God burdened her heart more and more for the mission field. So much so, that in trying to support what God was doing in her life, I went forward with her at a missions conference. But I knew God had not called me to be a missionary and I knew if He did not call both of us to this ministry, it would not work. It is not by our might or our power that we can do anything for the Lord, it is only by His Spirit. So we began to pray about the situation. Specifically I prayed for God to show me His will, prepare my heart to do His will, and to grow my faith to carry out His will. That was our prayer for 7 years. I believe when I began to pray, God began to prepare. When I began to seek, God began to show. And when I began to trust, my faith began to grow.
In 2011, Jan and Lauren went on a missions trip to Jamaica. During that trip, Jan wrote in her journal, “Wonder if we will end up on a foreign mission field. If not that is OK. Just want to be in God’s will.” While she was on that trip, I was home reading “The Jungle Pilot”, a biography about Nate Saint’s call to be a missionary. God’s plan of events of bringing us to our knees in prayer, seeking out His will for our lives, and desiring His will more than our will, culminated into a life changing experience for the both of us. In that moment, in a blink of an eye, God reached down and turned my heart to His will. In one fell swoop, He changed my hearts desire, and then gave me the desires of my heart. God said, ““Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And with every cell in my body, I cried out, “Here am I! Send me.” When Jan returned from Jamaica, I told her what happened and she showed me what she wrote in her journal. We just sat there and looked at each other with tear filled eyes as we realized what God had done.
We leave for Papua New Guinea for a three week field visit Monday, November 4th, 2013, exactly two years to the day when Jan wrote in her journal about wanting to be in God’s will on November 4th, 2011. God is in control and our desire is to serve Him with our lives no matter what He calls us to do or where He calls us to go.
“In simple terms, [God’s] call is a unique series of events and revelations that culminate in someone bowing to the Holy Spirit and offering up their life to go where God sends them and do what He commands. I found it striking that even though the circumstances to each person’s call were unique, there was also a recurring theme: hearing it always took a listening ear and an obedient heart.”
– Dr. Jim O’Neill, President ABWE