It’s funny how a place that seemed so foreign, so difficult, and so uncomfortable could suddenly be so hard to leave.
I distinctly remember the morning we drove away from sunny, familiar California and set out on a three day road trip to unknown, midwestern Missouri.
We had no friends there.
We had no family near by.
We had no community waiting for us.
We had no church body ready to welcome us in.
We knew no one.
They say Papua New Guinea is the “Land of the Unexpected,” but as far as I was concerned, Missouri was pretty much the state-side version of that, and I had mixed feelings about what we had just committed to for the next two years.
Sure, we had an address to the Missionary Training Center of Ethnos360 and knew we were taking part in a world-class training program with other students, but although we had a map, a plan, and appeared fairly confident that we knew what we were doing, I felt sick to my stomach with every passing mile.
The night before we left I laid awake in bed in my childhood room staring up at the rusty tweety bird keychain hanging from the fan that had probably been there for the better part of 20 years. That room and that house were full of so many memories and all I could think about was how the thought of leaving my family actually physically hurt. I spent the better part of that night with my knees to my chest in tears, processing with Michael, praying, and talking to a mentor on the phone. Were we making the right decision? Why does following in what God has called us to cause so much pain for us and our family?
I wrestled with God that night and over the course of the next 1,659 miles on the road the next day. Every time I took a turn driving, I fought the temptation to turn the car around right then and there; to go back to the familiar. To go back to what was comfortable.
“We all have wilderness seasons in our lives, times when everything that feels familiar, stable, and comforting falls away. But that’s exactly why the wilderness is a place of transformation. With nothing to distract us from ourselves, and with no one but God to rely on, the conditions are ripe for growth and change. If we embrace the wilderness wholeheartedly, it becomes a place in which we are freed from our bondage to fear, insecurity, and disappointment. A place where we move from being self-absorbed to others-minded. A place where we quit trying to be self-sufficient and learn to be interdependent with one another and entirely dependent on God. It’s where we learn to live wholeheartedly - to fully embrace the adventure that comes with the unexpected.” - Christine Caine
Transition is hard.
We came to Missouri not knowing very much about what we were getting into. We had more questions than answers and the whole first semester was honestly rough on our family in so many ways. But God has been so good and so gracious to us throughout our time here.
Missouri is where dozens of unfamiliar faces quickly became some of our closest and lifelong friends.
Missouri is where we’ve had the opportunity to sit under amazing teaching from seasoned missionaries who have years of experience on the field.
Missouri is where God strengthened our marriage and showed us how to function together as not only spouses, but students, parents, and coworkers together in ministry.
Missouri is where we’ve been privileged to live in community with some wonderful students and families with hearts to see the least reached people on earth become mature believers in Christ.
Missouri is where God allowed us to get plugged into a “home” church, Calvary Lake Ozark and feel known and loved every Sunday.
Missouri is where these California natives got to experience all four seasons for the first time (burrr, winter is cold!)
And Missouri is the place where although we came with fresh grief over the loss of our first baby, God blessed us with our sweet boy, Nash.
I see so much of His goodness intertwined with every bit of the transition, change, and unexpected we’ve faced; not merely in our two years here, but in every season. He is faithful, and His Word promises that He will never leave us or forsake us.
As we wrap up our final semester of training here, suddenly a place that I used to say I could never imagine myself living in has become home.
I was challenged throughout our time here by a chapel speaker who encouraged us to be good stewards of transition. He explained how transitions in life are inevitable, even more so with the missionary lifestyle. However, instead of being surprised or uprooted in our hearts when these seasons happen, what if God wants us to steward transitions for His glory?
“The unexpected is never going to stop happening, so let’s be disciplined enough in the wilderness to strengthen our hearts and live wholehearted no matter what is going on around us: Lord even if I cannot see you, I trust you. Even if I can’t hear you, I trust you.” -Christine Caine
As I think ahead towards the next step for our family - moving back to California to plug into our local church and reconnect with supporters - I look forward to what God might do in yet another season of transition. His past faithfulness gives me confidence for His future grace, and His unchanging character gives me a secure place to put my trust in an ever shifting, ever changing world.