23 January 2010

Mission Connexion Connection

Last weekend was Mission Connexion NW, the largest missions conference in the Pacific Northwest. I was there to help staff the Perspectives booth for a couple hours which turned into most of the day. Towards the afternoon I was hungry, Ron was thirsty and tired, so we decided to head to the exhibitors room for a snack. Unfortunately we got there as they were cleaning up and the snacks were almost all gone, except for some pretzels. I really should have packed a lunch. We sat down at a table thankful to rest.

Ron asked me where I am at with missions, what I am thinking about it all. I gave some short answers, enough to satisfy if he was just trying to make conversation. But he probed further, so I took it as a sign that he really did want to know, and gushed everything that has been going on in my head and heart. Something about verbalizing it all, real connections between my mind, heart and reality started to develop. God is leading and directing, preparing me for something; what exactly? I'm not quite sure, but here is what I do know.

At the age of 16 I decided that I was meant to be a missionary. The summer between high school and college I had to memorize the following verse as part of a missions team. At age 17 I took the passage as my life verse ~ Matthew 16: 24 "Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”"

My desire to be in ministry, to be a missionary has never waivered, despite all the setbacks, delays, and lack of direction.

In January 2009 a friend encouraged me to join her & her family for a spaghetti feed fundraiser for a ministry called the Micah Project. She mentioned that it was a great ministry to kids.
I like hearing about ministry to kids.
She mentioned it is located in Honduras.
Um, I had no interest in going further south than San Diego. I was interested in Central Europe not Central America. But I figured it's always good to hear how what other ministries are doing and glean ideas.
She even tried playing the single guy card, explaining that the founder would be talking at the fundraiser and he was single.
That gave me pause. I reconsidered attending, but ended up not going; other priorities took precedence over gathering more information about kids at risk from a random ministry. But Micah Project stayed in my mind, although it wouldn't come back to the frontal lobe for several months.

During the summer, as I anticipated and worried about the quickly approaching back surgery, and dreaded another birthday, I decided that by age 40 I wanted to be back in full-time ministry, preferably overseas. A book I had been reading made the point that most people knew what they really wanted to be when they were young, that it's as we became more aware of social pressures and have disappointments in life that we move away from our true calling. Maybe you're wondering what I wanted to be when I grew up; I wanted to be many things depending on the interest of the day. The most amusing, to me, was an attorney, which I can only explain by the fact I had been watching a lot of Perry Mason. But what I always went back to was running an orphanage. I'm not sure where that came from, but I wanted to provide a home for all the children that didn't have one. In high school as girls are wont to do, we mapped out our lives by naming who we were going to marry and how many children we were going to have. My answer to the second question was always, "at least a soccer team worth, " quickly qualifying that statement with "they'll be adopted." So as I thought about where and what I wanted to be doing by the big 4-O the idea of dedicating my life to loving children without family really resonated deep in my heart. To exhaust my days lavishing what love and care I have to give on them. To do my best to emulate some of my heroes of the faith: Gladys Aylward, Amy Carmichael & Mother Teresa. I recognize that with my health issues living overseas may not be wise in most peoples mind; it could aggravate symptoms, especially if I contract some other weird disease and possibly shorten my life-span. Yet we only have this one life and sooner than we think it will be over, so why play it safe? "When I go, I want to go out like Elijah" (Rich Mullins), with my boots on, not hanging on tight to the balance beam.

It is with this mindset that I started to think and pray about how to proceed. My current job allows me ample vacation time, once I build my vacation days bank back up (surgery was going to take me into the negative count), it seemed reasonable to visit two or so places a year to check them out. I didn't have plans as such, just toying with the idea of an orphanage in Africa that some friends had worked at previously, a boys orphanage/Christian camping center in the Caribbean I had come across during my seminary days, Lebanon has some interesting opportunities that my church partners with, going back to Brno, CZ seemed like the natural choice and then there was a vague memory of a ministry to dump children somewhere in South America that I could have learned more about if I had just gone to a spaghetti feed. Figuring out where to go, which ministries to consider, when to visit was something to do in the future. I just needed to focus on getting through surgery and healing, then worry about all of that stuff.

It wasn't much more than a month after I had started making all these mental resolutions that I got an email from the same friend as before, inviting me to a dessert informational time for the Wiggs family who were preparing to join the Micah Project long-term. As an added bonus one of the older guys from Micah would be there to share his story as well. I already had something on the calendar for that day and time. I hemmed and hawed, back and forth, and again, did not attend. But this time I had my mother pick up any material they were handing out. A few days later I picked up the Year End Report of the Micah Ministry from my mom and read through the whole thing. Then read it again. The ministry seemed pretty amazing, why had I been so reluctant to learn more about it before? I needed to learn more, so I started reading the newsletters and the blog with a greedy hunger for more information. My heart sunk as I read about three of the boys running away. Quickly scanning the next few blog entries to make sure they returned I was left without any news. I jotted an email to my friend, I had to know if they were still on the streets or safely back at the Micah house (they had come home). One day, plopped in front of my home computer, reading an archived newsletter, a voice spoke to me. Actually it was my own voice, but a phrase was uttered aloud before it ever crossed my mind, which never happens with my own thoughts, it had to be the Spirit who said, "This is worth giving your life to." Stunned, I seriously wondered if I was crazy. I couldn't argue though, Micah is worth giving my life to. Since that moment I have read every blog post, every past newsletter, rabidly follow their Facebook page, and, well, there is no other way to put this - stalk - the pages of the staff in hopes of learning what is going on in all of their lives, any morsel of news. And for the record, a couple weeks after the aforementioned informational dessert, there was another one that I did attend and was able to met the Wiggs. Somewhere along the way, it happened before I knew it had started, I became invested into the lives of the boys, developed a love for each one without having ever met them - except Oscar who I met around Christmas - and have settled that if this is truly where God is calling me - “Here am I! Send me.” (Isa. 6:8)
A bold claim, especially since I have yet to experience the ministry first-hand. I may be overzealous. I worry that I am misinterpreting what I see as "words" and "signs;" I'm scared of it being true, and of it not. I am looking forward to visiting Micah this summer and seeing where God leads from there.

1 comment:

Natasha said...

Oh Jennifer...everyone thought we were crazy when we said "the minute we pulled up in front of Micah we knew we were home. It was like we'd been there forever." Your post made me cry, in a good way. I can't wait for you to actually get here and put your arms around these guys. You are going to have a hard time going back to Portland.

Love you much!