Thursday, January 24, 2013

Unlikely Missionaries (Our Story, Part 3)

Whoever says God doesn’t answer prayers should follow us around for awhile. We can’t seem to go very far without God confirming our calling again and again. So much of the time, you hear people use the phrase, “God is calling us there.” And so much of the time we think, Really? Did God send you an email? Did he call you at home? Did you see a burning bush or hear an angel audibly speak your “calling” into existence? We were some of those skeptics as well, but we’re realizing that it’s extremely hard to understand how God works, leads, calls and confirms in a person’s life unless you ARE that person. We are so excited to share a small selection of the crazy, providential ways in which He got our attention this last year and brought us to a place of hearing “Go HERE.” We are even more excited about answering that call in 2013.
Last summer, we were still hurting and healing from the pain of the previous 7 months, but we’d finally reached a point of resolution. God was rebuilding and restoring our marriage with a LOT of hard work, counseling, and quality time. We were finally, consistently seeking Him together and realizing all over again why God brought us together in first place. It certainly wasn’t because we had SO much in common! We will always be polar opposites in the personality department. We don’t share common interests or hobbies and this has always been a cause for a disconnection between us. So, we began seeking the Lord and asking Him specifically to give us common ground, something that we could share and do together. In our heads, we were thinking something more along the lines of “rock-climbing” or “marathon-training.” Mission work never entered our minds. . .Until one late August evening, amidst a hectic travel schedule, we plopped down on the couch for a brief rest, and a little “veg time.” After fumbling through a few channels of news, reality shows, and romantic comedies, we finally settled on the Travel Channel. Finally something that we both agreed on. . .House Hunters International!
We watched as a couple from Chicago moved their family of 6 to the third-world country of Nicaragua to simplify life and teach their children a little something about “giving back.” The husband worked remotely from home and could take his business anywhere there was an Internet connection. The stay-at-home-mom of four had a huge heart for orphans and those stuck in the cycle of poverty. They left everything behind to find something that they could invest in as a family. We recorded it and watched it again. The whole episode gave us this weird “Twilight Zone” feeling. As it ended, we just smiled at each other, realizing that God was stirring something in both of us for the first time in many years. He was answering our prayers and planting some new desires inside our hearts.
We began researching the needs in Nicaragua and the culture. Coincidentally, we had both taken Spanish in school and had a love for the language. (Plus, we could both eat our weight in Mexican food, so that was a bonus!) We were overwhelmed at the level of poverty in this Central American, third-world country. Most of the population lived on less than $2 per day! A staggering 58% of the population is under the age of 18. We were looking at a country, roughly the size of New York State, made up primarily of CHILDREN. Children who were hungry and neglected and uneducated and desperate for change. The more we read, the more we felt in our hearts that we were supposed to go to Nicaragua. We started looking for dates for a short-term, week-long mission trip. We didn’t realize that God would ultimately ask us for WAY more than one week.
As a blogger, I (Michelle) had a nice network of other mothers from around the world that shared my passion for parenting, faith, and writing. I stumbled upon two blogs that really stood out to me. One mom-blogger, named Sarah, just HAPPENED to live and work in Nicaragua. The other, Kelly, and her family were missionaries finishing up their stay in the same area. I hit it off immediately with both of them as they filled me in about the culture and best times to travel. Both women, in separate conversations, suggested we visit during one certain week in November. They were excited to meet us, and both suggested that we speak to a mutual friend, Julie, about getting involved in the humanitarian efforts in the area. BOTH women separately mentioned this “Julie” person and gave me her personal email. I laughed at the coincidence to Bryan. It must be REALLY important that I get in touch with Julie! That night I emailed “this Julie chick” and told her about our upcoming trip. I received an email in return in a matter of 30 minutes! She was excited to help me plan some mission work during our upcoming visit, possibly meet in person, and was also interested in the fact that I, too, was a “mom blogger.” We shared a lot of common interests and enjoyed communication through email a few more times that evening. She had a parenting website herself and left me the address at the end of her last email. As I settled in to bed, I decided to look up Julie’s website, and what I saw totally blew my mind. In Julie’s “about me section,” there was a beautiful picture of her family in Nicaragua on the beach. As I showed the photo to Bryan, we both stared in astonishment. Julie. . .the Julie that BOTH new friends referred me to. . . was the woman from House Hunters! God was so hilarious! This new friend of mine was the very one that played a part in our desire to pursue Nicaragua in the first place! I couldn’t have sought out and found this woman if I TRIED. But in a moment of providence, God was confirming to us that yes, we were walking in the right direction.
We had dates, but no money. We knew God was calling us to go on a mission trip together to Nicaragua, but we had no way of funding it with this “perfect week to visit” quickly approaching. I’ll never forget one morning, as we sat on the porch drinking coffee before starting the day’s activities, we started brainstorming ideas on how we could earn some extra money to fund this trip. We thought of babysitting, canceling cable TV & gym memberships, etc. We were willing to make this work however we could. Bryan, in a defeated tone concluded, “I have NO idea how we’re going to get the money this fast. Maybe I could find someone who needed some extra graphic work done; but I don’t do freelance work anymore, so I don’t even know where a job would come from.” Then, after a thoughtful pause, he added, “I guess if it’s really God that wants us to go, He will provide something.” We sipped coffee and thought about this for a moment, when suddenly Bryan’s phone rang. He answered, chatted business with someone, then hung up and looked at me, stunned. “You are not going to believe this,” he said. “A complete stranger, who got my name through another complete stranger, needs some freelance work done.” I just stared. When God answers prayers so blatantly, you can’t explain them away. They are signs. Plain and simple. And God was going to continue to show up in miraculous ways!
Fast-forward a few weeks. Our “perfect week to travel to Nicaragua” was growing closer and closer, and we were STILL about $1000 short for our journey. We’d prayed, we’d re-budgeted, we’d downsized our Nica lodging expenses, and had still come out short. That $1000 number loomed overhead and the closer we got to “the week,” the more we worried about how God was going to pull it off. We still (tried to) have faith that, for some reason unbeknown to us, God had big things to show us in Nicaragua. There were just too many signs and too many coincidences. In the meantime, we tried not to panic. Then, with very little time and no extra cash flow, we got a call from our landlord, out of the blue. When Bryan hung up a moment later, he rushed into the room with a stunned expression on his face. What in the world?! He just sat there for a moment before I begged him to spit it out. “How much do we lack to go to Nicaragua, again?” he asked. When I repeated, for the hundredth time, that we lacked $1000, he smiled and replied, “The landlord is going out of town, so she just asked us NOT to pay rent this month.” Our rent, my friends, is exactly $1000 a month! Tell me. Someone PLEASE tell me that our God no longer works miracles.
We were funded! From the moment we landed in Nicaragua until the day we left, we were in awe of how God was in control of the entire journey. There were moments, especially while driving through the countryside at midnight with no idea where we were headed, and a cab driver than didn’t speak a word of English, that we DID think to ourselves, What have we done?!? We knew, though, that all of this was not OUR doing. We had not made ANY part of this adventure happen on our own and we were merely along for an amazing ride. Every single evening of our 7 day trip, we went to bed with a sense that God was doing something BIGGER than we ever anticipated Him doing. We felt strangely attached to the community of people we’d only met a few days before. We were blown away by the confirmations that seemed to jump out of nowhere and convince us that this week wasn’t just another mission trip. This week was a preview.
We met Julie and Sarah and Kelly and so many other amazing people. We explored the little fishing village on the bay and accompanied our new friends to do some mission work in a nearby area. What we experienced at Bethel Mission in Rivas was life-changing for us. The connection that we made to a woman named Anita confirmed a stirring in us that we’d felt since our arrival. We had come for THESE people; to help, to give back, to invest, and to share the hope that we had been given in over the last year. What was even more miraculous is that two people, as different as night and day, had fallen in love with the same place and the same thing. We knew as we went back to the hotel that evening that Bethel Mission was an answer to a prayer for us. (We would find out much later that WE were an answer to Bethel Mission’s prayer!)
Our last night in Nicaragua was supernatural. As it was, Kelly and her family were spending their last week in Nicaragua, as their two-year mission had come to a close. We were invited to their “going away” party and debated whether we should accept the invitation or not. How thankful I am that we decided to go that night. What we experienced at that party was one of the MAIN reasons why God brought us to Nicaragua entirely. We sat around people from all walks of life who were there to celebrate the impact that ONE family made on an entire community. Their mission work had helped so many, but what was most inspiring about this family is that they RADIATED the love of Jesus. Person after person raised their glass in heartfelt toasts to the encouragement this family had given to them personally. “I’m closer to God because of YOU.” There were some moments that Bryan and I felt like we were intruding on one of the most intimate moments of someone’s life. We both sat there realizing that THIS was what life was all about. Living in such a way that even those that aren’t believers feel closer to God because of the way we live out love everyday. Kelly and her husband sat down and poured wisdom into our lives that night, explaining that, if God was calling us, then He would provide and equip us, and that we needed to be ready. God could possibly use our story to share the love of Jesus. We left that night, sat on the beach, and made the decision. This is what God was calling us to do. It was scary and exciting and overwhelming and intimidating, but it would definitely be the most fulfilling. God was calling us to full-time missions.
I wish we could say the rest is history and that when we arrived home, everything fell into place. We’ve had a few obstacles to overcome, but God has been closing doors that we would have liked to use as “escape routes” and opening new doors for us to pursue this exciting new adventure. We are trusting in His plan everyday. We feel so unworthy of such a calling. We know we are “unlikely missionaries.” We are real people with a real history who have made real big mistakes in life. We’re reassured by the fact that God tends to use jacked up people to do extraordinary things. Those who are weak, as we sometimes are, get to watch God be strong in their lives. God doesn’t like to share the glory, and with people on His team that simply couldn’t have made it without His help, He doesn’t have to. We are so unworthy to be a part of His amazing story, but He’s chosen to use us anyway. We feel so honored and blessed. We hope our story can be an encouragement to anyone who wonders if God can use them after the past that they’ve experienced. Can I just answer with a resounding YES! Trust us, if He can use US, He can use anyone!
(We hope that God used our story to encourage or inspire you! We do know that there may be some of you that are in various stages of infidelity and trying to restore a broken marriage. We DO NOT have all the answers, but we feel God calling us to step out and help others that may find themselves in this heartbreaking and desperate situation. If there are any of you experiencing similar circumstances, know that you are not alone. If you ever need to talk with someone who has “been there,” please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We can set up a time to connect in whichever way you are comfortable – via email, Skype, etc. Connect with us HERE.)


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you Diane! I hope that it can touch others lives to look to God and not culture for healing. ;) Thanks for reading!