God Did It.

 

 

Today we purchased our tickets to Italy.

Like, “we’re leaving in three short weeks,” purchased our tickets.

Like, “all our belongings are being shipped over the Atlantic Ocean this week,” purchased our tickets.

We are finally moving. Wow, that feels good to write.

As many of you know, our journey has been long. Very long. Who’d have thought our journey would take us through places like San Diego and Atlanta? Who’d have thought we’d have over 70 ministry partners from every corner of the country and even parts of the globe? Who’d have thought we’d be re-routed from Spain to Italy? Who’d have thought it would have taken so long?

Spoiler Alert – we sure didn’t.

A few weeks ago I received a little message from our good friends in Spain reminding us just how long this journey has been. He sent a copy of one of the first messages we had ever sent to him and his family as we were exploring mission organizations like CRM and ministry in Europe.

That message was dated 9-7-11.

9-7-11

Hey Deric, Thanks for your message…sorry it took me so long to get back to you, for some reason I can only see your message on my phone, not on my computer…but I digress. It is true we are very interested in missional community living and CRM. Both my wife and I are looking to serve overseas in some capacity and are exploring opportunities right now. We both feel like God is moving us toward cross cultural ministry but really are praying and seeking God as to what that is supposed to look like. I think Jenifer and I are certainly interested in Spain, learning Spanish, etc. However, at this point obviously we know very little as to what you are doing out there and would love to know more. I would love to talk with you more and see what God is doing over there and what your vision for ministry in Malaga looks like. Thanks again for contacting me! Blessings, Jeff

As we reflect back on our journey toward cross cultural ministry I can’t help but think of a simple prayer we prayed almost 6 years ago as we sensed God moving us toward this type of ministry. As we sat in our apartment in Tacoma, Washington, we simply prayed, “God, wherever you lead us next, and whatever you lead us into, may we look back at the journey and only be able to point to you and what you’ve done. May it be your work from start to finish.”

Now, as we stand just three short weeks away from our move, we look back upon the past 5, almost 6 years, and say – “God did it.”

Our journey has been long. It has not been easy, but it’s been one of the most life shaping, transformative seasons of our lives. And we are grateful. We look ahead with great anticipation; more trusting than ever before of His faithful and sometimes painfully slow work to sustain us and carry us as we follow Him.

The wait’s been worth it. Thank you for waiting with us.

God did it.

 

When God takes you the long way…

The Long Way

I love efficiency. I love when things are streamlined with as little resistance as possible. I love when things fall into place with very little effort. Really, we all do. If there’s an easier way, we’ll take it. If there’s a way we can cut down the time it takes to get something done, we’ll try it. Our culture celebrates efficiency. In fact, we tend to grow irritated when someone asks us to slow down or to take the long way.

So what happens when our values for efficiency rub up against God’s plans?

Well, if you’re like me, it probably leads to frustration and maybe even anger. But as I read through Scripture, I’m reminded that I’m in pretty good company.

A couple of weeks ago we shared our story here in Atlanta with some new friends. We shared how we had moved from Tacoma to San Diego so that we could prepare to help launch a ministry in Spain. It was a pretty straight forward plan as far as we could tell. God however, had other plans. Support raising didn’t go as we thought it would. We ended up doing much more ministry in San Diego than we had originally planned. Our timelines didn’t line up the way we thought they would. And to top it all off, God shifted our family and ministry toward Italy instead of Spain.

As we shared our story, our friends looked at us, sensing our weariness and confusion as to what the past few years had been and simply said, “sounds like what God did to the Israelites when they left Egypt. They had a pretty straightforward road to the ‘promised land’ and God took them the long way – on purpose – for their own good.”

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle. (Exodus 13:17-18)

Over the past year, many people have said to us, “God wastes nothing.” In our heads, we know that’s true. And yet, for some reason, on that day with our friends, it hit us differently. God knew if the Israelites had gone the “efficient way,” that the first sign of trouble would have put them on the express train back to Egypt. God purposefully took them on an epic journey of preparation to build His people’s trust and faith in Him.

If you look on a map, the distance between the two paths is pretty dramatic. Clearly God’s not in the business of efficiency. If he were, he’d have taken the Israelites as quickly as possible to the promised land. But, what we see throughout Scripture is that God is actually all about intentionally developing His people’s hearts for the long haul.

When you look at the Israelites journey, you see that God did some pretty incredible things while they were going the “long way.”

God fed them with manna from heaven every day they were in the wilderness.

God provided water for them out of a rock.

God protected them from the heat of day and the cold of night.

God kept their clothing, shoes and tents from wearing out.

God gave them victory over enemy after enemy.

God did these incredible things along the way to grow and develop His people and their trust in Him. It was far from easy. It was anything but efficient. But it was entirely on purpose. In fact, “the long way” would serve as the back drop by which generation after generation would reflect on and point back to God’s faithfulness.

As we ourselves continue to step forward toward Italy, we have seen God’s intentionality in so much of what we’ve encountered. If I’m honest, some days I’m grateful for God’s process in taking us the long way, other days not so much. One thing is for sure, we are grateful to have already been able to see God’s faithfulness throughout our journey. God has been using the long way to intentionally grow our faith and trust in Him and prepare us for what lies ahead in Italy. It’s our prayer that when we look back on the “long way,” we’ll be overwhelmed with gratitude for all God’s done, and our whole family will be able to point back to God’s faithfulness for generations to come.