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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Asking God Questions: Our Missionary Call

Do you ask God questions? We have learned that God’s answers to our questions have led us surprising places.

The Lord's First Whispers

When I (Sue) was in college studying psychology, I asked God how the subject I was learning related to His Word. At the time I didn’t see clearly how the two interconnected. But I married Jeff shortly after I graduated from college, and thoughts about psychology and the Bible faded for a while.

Shortly after our second child was born, Jeff and I attended a missions conference at our church in Oakland, California. We identified with the need for people all over the world to know the One True God who alone gives eternal life. We pledged to God that we would go wherever He wanted us to go to spread the Gospel. Our church leaders directed us in a way we didn’t expect after that. They had us start developing skills and trying out different ways of serving our fellowship. Jeff started leading Bible studies and Sunday school classes. I led the young married women in prayer for the needs of the church and reached out into the community with a preschool moms’ group.

It wasn’t long until Jeff was offered a job at the AT&T National Sales School in the Denver area, and we saw it as an opportunity for Jeff to get further training in teaching skills. While in the Denver area, our first son began having difficulty in school. We were perplexed about it. When our business assignment in Denver was finished we took an assignment in the Washington, DC, area because it looked like Jeff would have a job he liked and the schools were good in Northern Virginia. We thought we would live on the East Coast two years and then return to California.

The years flew by in the Washington area. When Jeff asked God what to do about being unemployed, or “between opportunities” as he preferred to call it, a Christian friend offered to have Jeff teach telecommunications classes, which surprised us by developing into Jeff’s own consulting firm. And when we asked God what to do about the troubles we had with our school, He directed us to home school our children. God was directing us into paths we had never expected!

Leading to Papua New Guinea?

A few years later, a gal from our church, Deb , took part in a short-term mission to Papua New Guinea. When she returned from her initial mission, she felt God was leading her to stop working at her job, and become a full-time missionary with Pioneers. A novel idea! Over time I became the editor of her prayer letter. It was fascinating learning about the nationals Deb was ministering to and their animistic view of life in PNG, and Pioneers, the mission she served with.

As Jeff was approaching his 50th birthday, he started evaluating his life. The goal of the Rotarians he was spending time with was to retire to a nice home overlooking a golf course. It sounded pleasant, but it wasn’t what he wanted. We started asking God if He wanted Jeff to go to seminary to sharpen his abilities to teach the Bible. God answered by giving Jeff the most lucrative work contract he’d ever had. We were able to save up money for seminary.

Mid-life Seminarians

Jeff enrolled at Capital Bible Seminary at the turn of the century. Because our children were out of the home by then, I went along to take a free course offered to spouses of full-time students. What did I find there? The answer to my question 30 years before about how psychology and the Bible fit together. In fact, there was a whole program which explored the question in depth! God didn’t forget to answer! While Jeff earned his Master’s of Divinity, I earned my Master’s in Christian Counseling and Discipleship.

While we were at seminary, we started asking questions again: Where would You have us serve You after seminary, God? God introduced us to people who worked in Papua New Guinea (PNG). A student at our seminary was home on furlough from his teaching position at the Christian Leaders’ Training College (CLTC) in PNG. He brought another family to our attention. They too served at the CLTC and just happened to be on home assignment. When we saw a video about the place they were serving, we were excited to see that CTLC fit our criteria. It trained nationals to reach their own people, so they could lead their own church biblically. It was ministering in a place where there was not much good biblical training already offered for church leaders. We could teach mostly in English. The college had a good library for students to have the resources they need and internet access so we can stay in touch with our family and friends far away. And…our friend Deb told us that the people of PNG honor people with gray hair. God’s sense of humor amazes us.

Continuing Evidence of His Presence

After completing our first term in PNG, two other amazing events stand out.

We asked God to help us to learn the PNG trade language, Tok Pisin, or Melanesian Pidgin. What is interesting about this is we are both in our fifties. Before we left for PNG our mission’s agency gave us a language aptitude test to determine our ability to learn a foreign language. Jeff did not do very well on it. Knowing that language is a bridge to people, we prayed that God would help us learn Melanesian Pidgin, and He did. By the time we left PNG Jeff could preach and teach in the language, and I led a Tok Pisin class for non-speakers!

While we had lived in Northern Virginia we asked God to help us find some country property to buy. A really small farm with gardens and animals would have been ideal. God did not answer that prayer for us in the USA, but he did in PNG. We now live on a 600 acre farm complete with gardens, 500 cattle, and 40,000 chickens! The Lord answered our prayer, but in a totally unexpected way. Instead of a small farm located outside of Washington, DC, He had a large one in mind that was around 10,000 miles from our former residence!

Over the years, we’ve asked God questions. His answers have led us unexpected places, but the blessings of following His leading have been something we wouldn’t want to miss.

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