I will try my hardest to summarize this…. but details tend to get the best of me. This is a two-part; our journey to missions as individuals and our journey to missions as a couple.
My call to missions begins at a stairway in Greentown, Indiana, a stairway that led from my farmhouse second floor bedroom to my family’s living room. It was a stairway that I would take one step at a time until the morning sleepiness lifted and I was so lucky as to open up another package of chocolate pop-tarts. It was also a stairway of greater significance than being an in-between to my pop-tarts; it was a stairway I would descend daily to see my mother in her favorite chair reading her morning devotionals. It was a practice that registered with me quite early in life and highlighted the importance, joy, and love that’s found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. So the backdrop to being involved in a fantastic youth ministry, attending a few short term missions trips, and eventually making this decision to go to Ethiopia is a Father and Mother that taught me the importance of serving God and serving others. So, from a young age I had an interest in ministry.
But fast-forward to my sophomore year at Johnson Bible College (Johnson University) and skip some fun details of a conviction felt at Rainbow Christian Church Camp at eighteen, and you find me stepping foot off of a plane onto the hot summer ground of Ivory Coast, West Africa. An experience I described later in my journal as, “It felt like my entire body was drenched in a slushy.” Not because of the temperature but because of the sticky feeling my skin was experiencing.” Needless to say, it was humid. This trip was the culmination of many experiences in which I thought to myself; is God calling me to be a missionary? Whether it was simply a broken heart after watching a video shown by another missionary, or an excited heart after missionaries spoke at College Chapels, or just the continued draw my heart always felt toward the word Africa, I could sense that missions would be a big part of my life. It was on this trip that I was able to flesh out my interest in missions.
At one point on the trip I found myself standing alongside a doctor at a CMF clinic acting as his emergency nurse, helping the staff triage and care for people. I remember a nineteen year old girl who arrived to the clinic alone and stood in the back, both of which were unusual. She was called in and the curtain was drawn (the curtain was drawn few times during my short time at the clinic). Her arms were covered with a rash and open sores, likely from a skin infection that was slow to heal due to her (what I quickly came to realize) HIV. The other intern donned his gloves and began cleaning the wounds as I continued to help check people into the clinic. Her head was down most of the time not making eye contact with us or anyone in the clinic until she saw the familiar face of CMF’s clinic doctor. Her head raised and a smile came over her face. They talked, he shook her hand, and I knew there was something much bigger happening in this moment than a simple exchange of pleasantries. She was being treated with dignity, respect, and love,something she would rarely experience due to the cultural misconceptions of her disease. I knew in this moment that my calling to missions was confirmed.
Ethiopian HIV/AIDS patients have the same need, the need for respect, love, and a relationship with Jesus Christ. A need that manna and I cannot wait to get involved with. Our goal is to be motivated by love and to operate in faith through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior everyday.
My first mission trip ever was to help with the clean-up of Katrina; I think this was the first time I truly experienced a heart ache greater than myself and my personal experiences. Of course I knew of people going through a difficult time with family, at work, with friends, or financially and most of those I had experienced myself, but Katrina brought a sense of reality and devastation that I had never captured before.
My summer after Junior year in college was completely open and I was searching for some way to minister to women and children that had been victims to human trafficking and prostitution. The Lord had opened my heart to this tragedy from my small apartment bedroom at college where I would read articles and watch you tube videos that broke my already small world to pieces. I wanted to hold those children, smile and laugh with them, play with them, and tell them about the hope that was awaiting them in Jesus. I started to research mission organizations and found that NMSI (New Missions Systems International) had not yet closed their registration for the summer and I had 3 months to raise over $6,000. Jesus provided and I spent two months in Thailand at a hostel in the mountains just outside Chiang Mai and in Yangoon, the capital city of Burma.
This was my first experience out of the U.S. and God used those two months to change my entire life. I could go into the deepest detail of the people of those places, of the national missionaries or missionaries, of the women God strategically placed on my team, or of the people I met at NMSI for training, but as wonderful and significant as they are, I have to tell you about the God I met. We would wake up every morning with a devotional; time spent reading scripture, journaling, and in prayer. I also did this at home but there in a land far away from home, my devotionals became desired, needed, and necessary. Rather than checking my God time of my to-do list… I found myself needing more. I needed to be in prayer throughout my day, I needed that scripture in the morning to reflect on, and I needed His presence more than ever. I found a reliance on Christ that I had never experienced.
Coming home to finish my senior year of college was… different. I noticed that in worship I couldn’t get those people, that experience, or that God out of my head. I started to pray on this and ask why my heart in worship was constantly reflective upon that experience. I didn’t know immediately after that trip that Christ was calling me to missions but it was confirmed in this scripture found in Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship.” I called my aunt to who had been a missionary in Africa for 30 years and I expressed how I knew my act of worship, my call to be a living sacrifice, was to be a missionary. She then shared how this was the same scripture that called her to missions… I was confirmed.
OUR JOURNEY TOGETHER
It is a blessing to have been called to missions as individuals and then be called together as a couple to serve in the mission field. Yesterday (February 14th), we have been married for a year and a half. It has been a year focused on learning how to be married and serve one another as well as praying and seeking how/where we can serve together. After a lot of prayer and conversation we decided to meet with David Giles, the Church Catalyst representative of CMF.
We told David our some of our passions and gifts and asked his opinion. David strongly suggested Ethiopia as a great fit for us; we took this as God using David to speak to us. After we went to Assessment Center and became affiliated with CMF, our next step was to take a vision trip.
God provided for us to take that vision trip this past October. We traveled to Ethiopia for 2 weeks. We were lucky to travel around Ethiopia and meet most of the team and experience their current ministries. We knew David was absolutely right concerning the team; we felt like a perfect fit with them but we were looking for God to confirm overall that a ministry in Ethiopia was His “Will” for us. We had learned during our time in Ethiopia that a proposal for a Hospice Program in the slums of Addis has been written up by Becky Cox, a current missionary in Ethiopia working with the Urban Poor team. This was really neat considering Nick is a Hospice nurse in Lafayette right now and has a great passion for it.
Upon returning we were sure that through prayer God would somehow make our decision clear. After 3 weeks had passed we quickly realized that the choice was going to be ours to make. We knew deep in our hearts every door had been opened for Ethiopia and we decided to step forward in faith, despite the natural fears and concerns. Very soon after we made the decision and handed it to God, we were overwhelmed with a sense of peace and joy… as if this was just the right decision and we should have known all along.
We are excited to return to Ethiopia (projected by June 2013) and start work with the Hospice Program that has recently found and signed for a new building as well as hired the first national nurse (eventually there will be 6). I (Amanda) will be in charge of the updates for our newletters, blog, facebook, etc. I also hope to coordinate short term mission trips for the Urban Poor team and work in one of Ethiopia’s red light districts building relationships with and ministering to women in prostitution.