Part 4: Why now?
Part 1 here
Part 2 here
Part 3 here
Here's some of the background that led us to this specific call at this specific point in time:
Growing up I (Dan) was fascinated by missionaries. Whether it was a VBS fundraiser we were participating in, or the visiting missionary in our pulpit at church, or the missionary couple that needed a place to say for a few nights that my parents opened our home up to, I was always on the edge of my seat, listening to their stories, soaking it all in. The adventure was probably what appealed to me most as a young kid, but the idea of serving the Lord in that capacity continues to excite me. I'm not sure why, but in my mind, Africa has always been the symbol of missions work. On one of our first dates, I told Courtney if we were to get married, we would probably end up in Africa someday, just so she was aware! Talk about providence - the fact that she didn't run out of Skye Lounge (yes, Geneva folks, I considered a study session in Skye Lounge a date) at that very moment is a small miracle!
So, did the Lord place Africa on my heart early on? Yes. Why? Not sure, but He definitely did.
Courtney's story is a tad more involved. Starting from the other end of the spectrum, on that date in Skye Lounge referenced above, although she didn't say it, she was really thinking, "This is clearly a phase he'll grow out of soon - plus, he's pretty cute!" (I may or may not have added that last part.) Moving to Africa was the last thing on her mind.
Fast forward a few years: much to Courtney's dismay, it wasn't a phase and we reached a point in our marriage where the idea of overseas missionary work kept popping up - this was especially true after I made the switch from engineering to teaching. Mission agencies were looking for teachers and we kept hearing about it.
We didn't even know why this was a need, but we knew the issue wasn't going away. I (Dan) wasn't about to drag my wife kicking and screaming a third of the way across the globe, so I largely kept my mouth shut.
During the summer of 2009, we started praying more specifically about what God was trying to tell us, for abundant clarity. Courtney is the first to admit that her prayers sounded a little like "Lord, please stop bringing up teaching missionary kids in Africa so that we can move on with our nice, neat little lives!"
Wouldn't you know, after a couple months of praying that the Lord would make His intentions abundantly clear, Courtney got a phone call. She was asked to go on a mission trip to the Central African Republic for two and a half weeks, specifically to minister to missionary families, hanging out with their kids while their parents attended a conference and retreat. The idea was to run a VBS program so that the MK's would be cared for, loved and taught (kind of what Rift Valley Academy does) while their parents took part in some much needed and deserved rest and encouragement. Immediately after hanging up the phone, Courtney knew this was God's abundantly clarity.
Over the next several months, probably the most encouraging and this-can't-be-happening-unless-the-Lord-is-in-it experience I've had in my Christian life took place. While Courtney was preparing for her trip, I was able to witness a complete 180 in her heart towards missions. She went from begrudgingly saying yes to being excited and passionate about the opportunity to minister to missionary families in this way.
The trip went really well, and we discerned that as a green light to begin pursuing full-time mission work, with the specific calling to support missionaries in Africa by loving their kids. From then on we've continued to offer the prayer of abundant clarity, asking that the Lord would grant us confidence in His direction and leading and that He would shut the door if ever we walked outside of His will.
So far, doors have not been shut. We've gone through the long process of applying with and being appointed to Africa Inland Mission and we are at the point now where we begin to raise support through prayer and financial partners.
And we will talk more about that next!