This morning, I thanked God for something I have lamented for the past 3 years: that I didn’t get here sooner. I wonder if my Father in heaven was comforted by this moment each time I cried to Him with impatience. I wonder at His wisdom and love every time I begged Him to provide for the task He had asked me to do. This is one moment, of many, in which I have seen that His way is always best. The richness of His grace has overwhelmed me.
I have been raising funds to return to Germany, as a long term missionary, since February of 2015. My belief was that I would make the switch to long term missions and move overseas again in less than 2 years. I really had hoped it would only take one year. Being in Orlando longer than a year would inevitably lead to new relationships that I would have to part from. I was very aware of this and content to avoid it.
For a year, I was able to focus on the task at hand. I spent 3 months doing little more than seeking the Lord’s will in the mission field I should join long term. I began missionary dating. No, I didn’t date a non believer. I wrote emails and Skyped with missionaries around the world about their fields. My heart had decided on Germany, but I wasn’t sure that God was the one leading my heart at that point. I had to be sure.
After submitting to the plan God had already put in motion, to lead me back to Germany, I began the process of becoming a career missionary with The Evangelical Alliance Mission. This process became time consuming. I had much to do before I could be accepted and much more to do after I was accepted. The only people I spent time with were my family, small group (made of people I already knew), and friends of my mom. I wasn’t interested in making any new friends of my own.
When I moved away from South Carolina, in 2011, I was unaware of what I was really giving up. I knew I would be back in the summer, so my goodbyes weren’t hard. Yet, I quickly learned that I was sacrificing much. I missed weddings, births, and funerals. Most importantly, I missed out on every day life with the ones I loved most.
My “little sister” must have gone through 3 casts, from broken bones, while I was gone. I missed the opportunity to talk to her about her boyfriends, to take her to youth group, and to process her complicated family relationships with her. Skype could not replace the every day. I wasn’t there for dance recitals or dates to homecoming dances. I missed the every day and she continued to grow up without me.
I can barely speak of the one person I am most sad about missing… Madelynn Curtis Nelson. Tears have already made typing nearly impossible. This beautiful soul only dwelt among us for a few years. The few years that I missed. Amanda Jo is one of my dearest friends and I missed the entire life of her precious daughter, taken by a terrible cancer. I had a few opportunities to visit this beautiful girl in healthy and also terrible stages of her life. Yet, I never got to hold her, love on her, and become her buddy. I missed her life completely.
The mission is the only thing which eased this pain of loss. I quickly gained relationships with students and staff of The Black Forest Academy. These relationships were/are beautiful. They felt fated. As soon as I met my small group, I knew they were one of the most important reasons for my sacrifice. The friendships I gained with teachers along the way were/are special, but they were a bonus.
Yet again, these relationships became hard to move away from in pursuit of God’s calling. The only thing which helped me move away from those I loved (as much as people I had known much longer) was the fact that they would also be leaving Germany. My closest friend remained in Germany, but she and her husband were only among a few that I knew who were staying. I was glad they remained, because I hoped to be reunited with them after a year of fundraising. However, they ended up moving back to the US a few months before I moved back to Germany. Again, I missed being a part of their little girl’s life. I am a stranger to her.
Building relationships which I would have to leave was not part of my plan for the fundraising process. It was a pain I wished to avoid. Yet, two situations changed my resolve. First, I realized that the fundraising process would take longer than anticipated and I would need a steady job to support myself in the process. This led me to Publix, where God convicted me about loving others around me in the moment. I couldn’t expect to be successful in building relationships with strangers in Germany if I couldn’t first do the same in my home country. Second, a need which I could not ignore arose in my sending church. Westwood needed a student pastor for a short period of time, while they looked for someone to fill the role long term. I tried to put on my blinders and charge ahead toward the mission field, ignoring the job I knew I could fill. My God given heart for teenagers stopped me dead in my tracks. I had to take the job. I had to give up my resolve to leave Florida without new relationships to sacrifice.
God knew best, of course. My time at Westwood was challenging, but more rich and rewarding than I could have imagined previously. I moved back to Germany with a solid support system from a church I truly consider to be my family. This post would fill many screens if I took the time to describe each relationship I gained during this period of waiting I endured/enjoyed.
I gained relationships with teenagers who will lead the church. I received wisdom and instruction from pastors and mentors. I gained sisters in Christ. I spent time sharing with young women who also plan to join the mission field. I also gained many young friends. These are the new relationships which hurt very much to leave. Yet, I am so much richer.
This period of waiting for funds changed me. God used relationships to eradicate sins which had permeated my life. I had believed they were in my past, but their effect lingered. This period of time also taught me much about love, friendship, and evangelism. I had always struggled to obey God in evangelism because I was simply focused on obedience. During this time, God increased my heart for those who didn’t know Him exponentially.
I lost time with loved ones the last time I left for Germany, but I gained time in this period of waiting. I was present for weddings, births, and funerals which I may have missed if I had moved earlier. More importantly, I gained time in the every day life of my family and new close friends.
None of these relationships were lost. They are all a part of the glorious riches God promised in Ephesians 1, which He lavished upon me. However, I am eager to see which relationships and lessons I gain in this sacrifice of time with others.
I apologize for the lack of pictures and video. This blog was hard enough to write without including them. If I had begun to dig those up, you may never have read these words.