Monday, June 9

The Whole Story

I honestly don't even know where to start! I wanted to give everyone a timeline of all the events so that you can feel like you've been with us from the beginning. So here it goes...

We moved to New Jersey a year ago after getting married and I left everyone and everything I had known for the past 24 years. I started working in Manhattan at Deutsche Bank and Luke continued working for Fireman's Fund Insurance in New Jersey. This past year has been a year of learning, of growing into ourselves and into our marriage, learning to integrated into a new community, finding new friends & fellowship and really taking a break from any kind of formal ministry. We just wanted to be able to spend time with each other and build a solid foundation. It has been wonderful! I am a multitasker by nature. I love to be doing a million things all at once, so taking a break from doing anything "extra" was a bit foreign to me but it was definitely the Lord's plan for that chapter of my life. I would get home later at night after commuting on the train and we would head to the gym and then stop at Whole Foods to pick up what we were cooking for dinner. Then Luke (my wonderful and amazing husband who likes to cook!), would tell me to relax while he cooked dinner. Rough life huh? As the winter neared both Luke and I were feeling a nudge to start praying that God would allow our hearts to stay open to what His plan is for our lives. As we continued to walk forward we entertained and prayed through many opportunities like business school, moving overseas with our current jobs, seminary...etc. In the end we didn't feel peace about anything that was coming across our paths.

At the end of March Luke's parents told us that some friends were staying with them from Africa, and of course that meant free homemade meals and fun fellowship so we joined in on a lot of dinners and chatting over good food. Throughout the week we talked more in depth with Evan and Jewel about their ministry in Dakar, Senegal. They have been working for over 2 decades in the Christian international boarding school setting. They started as dorm parents and their roles have evolved into chaplaincy and overseeing the dorm parent minnistry. I still remember the 2nd or 3rd night we had dinner with them and then spent the night over at Luke's parents house. Both of us couldn't sleep because we felt this intense nudging and excitment in our hearts. We ended up talking about it late that night and even though it was completely irrational for us to even think about something like this, we started that night to pray. On Sunday Jewel gave a sermon at our church about her testimony and experience of God's power over her life. The verse that was central in her sermon was:
2 Samuel 24:24 " But the king replied to Araunah, "No I insist on buying it, for I wil not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing."

This was the final piece that confirmed in our hearts that God was calling us to start praying about ministry. He has blessed us abundantly and sometimes His callings come with a cost, but there is so much joy in offerring that cost to the Lord. We have whitnessed this and felt this immensely in the past month. When we began to pray about being missionaries in some capacity we really evaluated and counted the cost. In the end we both came to the answer that obeying God brings far more joy and fulfillment than anything we could plan for ourselves.

Evan and Jewel spoke with us more about a possible position that they might have open at the school and we started to make plans to go and take a vision trip to just see what the Lord would say to us in Senegal. We were so excited and felt that each day God was confirming more and more in our hearts that we were to follow His open doors...whatever they looked like. When Evan and Jewel got back to Senegal they found that the position was no longer in their budget as a school, along with that news they also sent us a list of 8 other Christian international schools that they encouraged us to contact. Even though our dissapointment was evident, we started to send out emails to all the schools they gave us. Through that time Luke and I grew in having to trust that God had a plan for that initial feeling of a call towards Senegal, even though we didn't see it working out. We got response after response of positions not being available for a couple years and then Black Forest Academy replied to us within a few hours. The email they sent us showed evidence that they had taken the time to see where we might fit into their ministry and expressed desire to have us officially apply to work at BFA. This process took several weeks of filling out applications and simultaneously applying with Janz Team, the missions organization we are going through to work at BFA. Weeks went by and we asked ourselves many times "Are we crazy?" "Is this even possible right now?". The Lord continued to confirm us in our daily times with Him, even in our doubts He strengthened us in His will. I remember asking myself one night if I really thought I could move to where I don't know anyone again. The next morning the scripture that was in my reading was Genesis 12:1 "The Lord had said to Abram, "Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father's family, and go to the land that I will show you." I almost laughed outloud on the train at how directly I felt the Lord confirming His call.

2 weeks ago we received emails saying that we are both officially accepted to both Black Forest Academy and Janz Team Ministries!!! Right away we started putting a plan in place for all the things that we can be doing in this time of preparation. We gave notice on our apartment, began listing all of our possessions on Craigslist, Ebay, name it we're selling it! God has answered so many prayers along the way including:
1. Finding someone to rent our apartment who is willing to move in early and save us rent
2. My work being supportive of our move and allowing me to work up until we leave for Germany
3. Selling most of our big furniture items

We are moving out tomorrow (Friday June 13th) and moving in with Luke's parents until we leave. It has been a huge test for both of us. All of our furniture and "stuff" is brand new since we just got married and to act on the calling we feel God has led us to means that we will be basically possession free. It was a challenge watching each piece of furniture walk out the door to someone elses home. I always thought that I would be ok with this, but it is funny how comfortable I got with my home and attached to everything that made it my home. To go through the process of detaching myself from the world and know that my home is really wherever God chooses to use us and the relationship that I have with my husband-it has been a growing opportunity for me! As far as next steps....which I'm sure many of you are curious about! We are almost done writing our letter that we will send out this weekend to let you all know a little bit more about what we are doing and what our financial needs will be, along with major prayer requests. We leave on Monday for Winnipeg, Canada for training from our missions organization for a week. As I learn more about the school, I get more excited about what kind of ministry we will be able to have there. Through college I loved working through YoungLife with highschoolers. For me, to have the chance to mentor students again and to be a part of their spiritual growth and integration into the "real world" is a dream come true. Being able to be a support for the hundreds of parents who are missionaries in remote parts of the world is an honor. I can't wait to get to hear all their stories of how God is moving in their individual ministries and countries!

Once you get our letter, we're going to be setting up a couple informal dinners here in New Jersey and in Oregon so that we can have an opportunity to talk to you all in person. We'd love to answer any questions you have or hear your hearts on what we're about to embark on. I just got an email with our new German address which was exciting (except that I have no idea how to pronounce it!). We both wish we had the time to call all of you individually, but I hope that with this update you were able to get a glimpse of the process and hear our hearts in it! Please continue to pray for us as we move this weekend and start to raise our support!

In His Grace- Steph


Mrs. Chappy said...

We love you both so much and are so excited to see you follow in faith. It's so scary, but you are doing what many don't have the courage to do: to follow Christ and realize that "stuff" is just "stuff." I got goosebumps reading about your journey, even though I knew most of it. God's doing big things!!!

Erica Hanson said...

Wow! I am so excited for you guys! I'm so encouraged by your faithfulness to be obedient to God's call. I look forward to hearing more in person!