So, we had a request from someone that is working on the field in Africa that we tell the story of our callings...each from our own perspective...this is a long, deep, trench that my feet have been dragging through for many years...
I am a Nazarene. My blood actually bleeds in tones of John Wesley red and Southern Nazarene Crimson Storm....since the first church that I have memories of attending I was sitting in Sunday school with Janice VanFleet and reading mission books for kids provided by Beth Barker. God was growing in me a passion even while I was young. When I was 8, a missionary was home on "furlough" and they spoke of a wonderful culture of people in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Africa. My heart was stolen that day to the African people. Keeping in mind that I was 8 and the whole continent of Africa in my mind consisted of one type of people who spoke French. I told my Mom I was leaving to Africa to be a missionary when I grew up. She never doubted God called me that day.
Throughout my teen years I participated in the district Impact Team and we traveled and sang. As we met different people in different churches I thought WOW, now I know why we are called the Impact Team. Each person we met was our mission and we could make an impact in their lives. Again, this group being lead by Teri and Kandra Dilts, more strong Nazarene women who were molding my life.
Each year I participated in the NMI convention and as a child I packed boxes, made care kits, and heard the wonderful stories from missionaries invited to speak at our convention. In high school, this grew to a service project each year that varied from soup kitchens to cleaning out closed/re-opening churches. Each project made my heart yearn for service opportunities.
In my senior year of high school I had a friend Stephanie Jankowski who was serving as a volunteer in Jamaica. With my parents blessings I saved enough money from my paychecks to purchase a flight and go volunteer at the School for the Deaf in White Sands, Montego Bay, Jamaica. It was a feeling of awe as Dawn and the other volunteers at the school taught me about water preservation (short showers and turning off the water while you brush your teeth and how valuable rainfall was to fill the tanks we used at the school). The children were full of wonder for this red-headed American high school student who had vigor and love for each of them. When I left, part of my heart stayed on that mission field.
Off I went to college, Southern Nazarene University! The one and only! (yes, I am proud to have been blessed with my opportunity to attend here) I met such wonderful Christian people in college- Dr. Howard Culbertson, Pastor Mark Brown, Dr. Finkenbender, Dr. Nancy Halliday, and our then dean of spiritual ministry, Dee Kelley. The cohort God brought into my life was equally matched by the missionary kids who I went to college with- Jeff Myers, LeCrecia Mosher, Arianne Udd, to name a few...and guess what they had in common-AFRICA!
In 1997, I served with A Christian Ministry in the National Park, out of Maine for five months. I worked in Yellowstone and preached alternating Sundays to park visitors in Grant Village. I hiked, sought God, learned more about me and more about what I was and what I wasn't. God did a work in me and I took a friend with me, Leslie Hart, and God grew us both.
In 1999, back at SNU I was working towards a degree in the field of Nursing and I went to Mexico. That year we went to Tampico. Oh it was a great experience for my life. Again, a growing stop in my growing into a missions minded person, and again directing me at the fact that all of life is our mission field.
I graduated from SNU (finally) and married Anthony. We were instantly aware of the calling on our life together. We attended Victory Christian Center in Oklahoma and had many opportunities to work there, including directing the Wednesday evening children's ministry program, a mission outreach and a lot of fun!
We didn't commit to foreign travel for missions for many years, rather focusing our mission on family needs (extended family) and completion of my degree as a Family Nurse Practitioner. The year before I graduated with this degree, we took our then 5 year old daughter and went to Mexico with Dr. Culbertson and the Southern Nazarene University campus. This trip provided me the opportunity to see patients in a "clinic" setting for five days and to witness and minister to them. Gloria a Dios! It was marvelous!
The following year I took at position in rural South Dakota. People, I mean rural, three hours drive through the reservation to the nearest WalMart. My dependence was in the Lord. It was cold. I hit a deer. I walked the 2 mile road in to the church at the bottom of the hill in Wounded Knee on the reservation many Sundays. We cooked for the church people every Sunday. We sang specials. We fund raised at our "home" church when we returned to Normal, Illinois to see friends. We held outreaches. We visited people. We learned what it was like to live without a hope. We learned that a cold winter was even colder when the Pastor didn't have any propane to heat her house or church, but the overflow from her heart kept us all warm each Sunday. It was a long year in South Dakota. But the Lord was working, he was conditioning us. He was teaching our daughter that all of the United States didn't look like Chicago.
Finally, we completed my contract to work for the government in South Dakota serving 25,000 patients between just two providers and it was a day mixed with sadness and hope. Hopeful we left part of our hearts there and that the people would be closer to Christ because of our hearts.
The next winter, we went back to Mexico (can ya tell I like it warm?). This time, I challenged my parents who were former Nazarene Pastors to go with us. My Mom is now a Nurse Practitioner and my Dad a hospice nurse, I thought what better fun could a family have than to go on a vacation together in MISSIONS WORK! My family thinks my sense of vacation may still be a little distorted from the America themed Disney vacations (though I did take my daughter there once). This trip, oh this trip, WOW! God linked me again with new missions friends as we worked with Gavin Fothergill (second time around)(border ministry/Mission Corp/YouthInMission) and Stephen Heap (life missionary to Brazil). Stephen speaks Portuguese in his home country, but God gave him the gift of crossing barriers to speak as my translator in the clinic. Through him I learned patience and a new sense of gratitude for my gift as a Nurse Practitioner. His purpose of being there was that he was one of the few that gathered for the initial Commission Unto Mexico trip some 40 years prior as a student lead initiative. What a great time we had together...all showing me God was at work!
We returned from Mexico with BURNING desire, so we booked a flight to Africa. I would finally get to go. Our friends who work in the Creative Access had willingly opened their home to us (and let me tell you- I realized that day how AMERICAN I was-traversing the airport in Senegal)...God blessed us on this trip and it was powerful. Again, I learned of food shortages, slavery, modern slavery, trafficking, water shortages, power shortages, immunizations and daily pills, and family life as missions workers...how amazing...it wasn't for a missions trip...it was more a "Work Experience Evaluation" of the life of missionaries.
As I returned home, my heart was changed. This time I only brought back a little bit of my heart and the rest remained in Africa...where it waits for me in sweet surrender. Confirmation came through the missionaries Jon and Margaret Scott faithful servants and excited recruiters.
I forgot one piece of the African puzzle, my Aunt sent me an article about running an orphanage in Malawi some time before I married Anthony. That article has silently continued to replay itself in my mind for many years.
In August, I will leave my family practice and go to Malawi. I pray that I stop and listen for the still small voice that gives us direction, peace, and hope in our times of discerning prayer with God.
A praise report for the day:
Our first gifts were received on the convio website that Anthony posted about last night and I am happy to announce that we love those who gave. I also added two new facebook friends after they read and followed our blog...stoked! Keep it coming God cuz this is the joy of my soul and the passion of the fire in my heart...I love you Lord! Thanks friends for hearing my story...or rather the Story of God at work in my life...
To give: http://web.nazarene.org/site/TR/Events/MissionCorps?pxfid=4660&fr_id=1090&pg=fund
To send us a shout out or a prayer request: firstname.lastname@example.org
Take care and blessings!