We stood side by side on the balcony; the sound of children kicking soccer balls behind us and the women chatting in the living room. I looked out over the dirty city. The rebar jutted from the tops of cinder-block houses and the barbed wire wrapped itself across the tops of the concrete walls. But all I could see standing there where the soft tips of wheat bowing in the wind.
The fields were white.
How do you say when you heard the voice of God? What if He didn’t speak audibly or come in the night watch with angels and visions? What if He doesn’t send someone to tell you “thus saith the LORD”? What if instead you are standing with your back to the ocean, praying for a country you have little earthly affection for and His love hits you like a wave and you know in your heart. You know you must come.
Come and tell them that they are loved.
Looking back now it seems not as unexpected as it felt in that moment. Maybe it only felt unexpected because I just really didn’t want to move to Haiti. Maybe it was because I assumed He would send us to one of the other half a dozen countries we’ve already been to. Or maybe it’s simply because no man knows the day or the hour and you can be waiting for something for twenty years and still He comes like a thief in the night.
God is a God of suddenly.
And suddenly, I am here. Sitting below the puzzle that’s hanging on the wall. The puzzle He used to speak to my heart so many months ago now. Don’t give up. I am opening the doors to the nations. Truthfully, I had started to wonder if I had dreamed the whole thing up. I mean sure, I had told my husband not to buy me a diamond when we married so that way I wouldn’t have to take it off depending on where we lived. And sure, I had used “the nations” as the leverage for most of my moral training sessions with my kids… “when we’re in Ethiopia all the eggs are spicy…”
But, does that make it so?
Is it enough to believe that there is something you were simply created for?- Something you were uniquely designed to do. I had felt the enemy in my doubt. I had felt him seduce my heart with reason. You really should just let it go and be content with your nice life. God has prospered here and we live a comfortable life. I stared at my sofa with the throw pillows I had recently purchased. I like the patterns. And in that moment a holy violence rose up in my soul.
THROW PILLOWS! YOU WANT ME TO LIVE MY LIFE FOR MATCHING THROW PILLOWS!?
That’s when He had come to me. He gave me peace and assurance that the call was real but nothing more. Stretched out before me was a dry landscape of daily life and closed doors. There was no foot path, or trail to start down. All I could do was wait and believe.
“Look, I am about to do something new;
even now it is coming. Do you not see it?
Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness,
rivers[e] in the desert.”
Even as I walked off that beach, with the love of God pounding in my heart for that island I “did not see it”. For days I had scribbled notes in my journal; verses about the “islands seeing God’s salvation” and did not see it. In fact, I had prophesied the birth of my fifth child and named her Journey Faith (when I received the above verse) but I didn’t see it…
Until that moment.
God had made a way- right under my very nose but I had not seen it until that moment. There was a stream in the desert. There was a way in the wilderness. It had been fourteen years since our marriage vows and seven since we had first set our feet on foreign soil as man and wife. So much had happened since then.
I had thought it was going to be then.
I had fallen in love with Ethiopia. And Kevin had seen a vision in the night. The family huddled against the wall. “What are you doing here?” he asks. “Waiting for you to wake up.” they reply. But the fear took him and he pulled the covers back over his head. But a second family came in the night. They were closer and darker and this time he reached out. Now looking over at my husband I realize it. We were not ready then. Something has shifted.
We woke up.
The realization that we were being called to Haiti was met with the simultaneous pain of knowing what we had to leave to answer that call. We hadn’t gotten ready by ourselves over the last seven years. God had forged us in the context of community and that community wouldn’t be coming with us. So the last two months have been fraught with shock, excitement and intercession. We have shared with our closest friends and family, and set ourselves before the church we have loved and served for the past ten years. It is agreed.
We are to go to Haiti.
It was only a little surprising to us that after dreaming it two nights in a row, my husband’s job offered him a severance package shortly after returning home. It is also only a little surprising that God would ask us to make that step of faith without a new job in Haiti firmly within our grasp. And though we are uncertain how it will affect our ministry on the ground, it is also not surprising that He called us to a land merely weeks before it was ravaged by a monster hurricane.
But the fields are still white.
Still, how is it that life can be reduced to boxes? How easy it is to see what has value when you have to fit what matters into a suitcase. And how challenging! Each tiny shirt I put in the “for sale” bag is a memory- a memory of a place I am leaving regardless of whether I understand how yet. Every hug from a friend, every moment with a sister, is a reminder of what happens when you let Jesus build a family. And each time I look out over the green grass, rolling down the hill of my back yard, I swallow hard. There are dreams I won’t fulfill in this house. Plans I had, ideas… but we don’t get forever. We aren’t guaranteed anything in this life, save His presence.
And our season here has ended. It is the bittersweet nectar of promise. The laying down of one thing to take hold of the new. But I suspect in this, the pain of diminishing, hides a glory that is to be found in obedience. There is always a cross to following Jesus, but there is also a resurrection. I eagerly anticipate the unfolding of His glory in new ways and I trust that whether a street away or a whole world apart, the glory that is revealed in one of our lives will bear a tandem blessing. It will be a light to warm the wearied and faithful and be a beacon to darkened paths. This is what it is to be of One Spirit.
Still, we will miss everyone so terribly much.
God’s grace to you as you seek Him and strive to let love produce obedience. To all who are part of our life here in Cedar Rapids, please know how amazing you are. How important this place is and how much you are loved. No doubt we will be giving updates as soon as we have them to give. Those of you who already know have been such a support to us and we are challenged and humbled by your love.