my previous post concerning our recent trip to Little Rock described what happened, a sorta timeline of actual events. this post will instead concentrate on my (abe) mental, emotional, and spiritual journey leading up to and while there.
[in case you're wondering what FamilyLife's decision is about us joining staff: sorry, we can't tell you yet via this blog or anything else public on the inter-webs until July 1st. if you really wanna know call, text, or email me, or actually come over and visit in person, what a concept.]
our story with the Ministry of FamilyLife begins as far as I can remember in 1999. deb and I had only been married for a couple months when we were given a scholarship to attend a Weekend to Remember conference in Bellevue, WA. i was finishing up my senior year of college and deb still had another year till she finished up her AA. we were both working at a daycare not too far from the college and i wasn't really sure what i wanted to do with our lives after i graduated. i had gone to school and gotten a BA in Biblical Literature. i knew that i was called to do full time ministry, but what i wasn't sure of was where, how, or what?
at some point during the conference they mentioned an extra session they were going to have early sunday morning describing staff opportunities with FamilyLife. i didn't remember it till just now but i think deb slept in until the main session, but i decided to check it out. i was immediately drawn to and excited about the ministry FamilyLife was doing for marriages and families. and then they got to the part of the presentation or video that mentioned that staff members were required to raise their own support.
in my heart i knew that i should pursue the application process anyways; but in my flesh, i was immature, unsure, and maybe also slightly cowardice. mentally i knew that God was/is able to provide for all our needs. but i was newly married now and i had a wife to take care of and provide for.
i mean seriously, didn't God know what a big responsibility that was? was i really supposed to step out in such faith and raise support as a missionary? wouldn't it be wiser to get a "real" paying job (ministry or otherwise) to provide for this young family of two?
so that was the end of that. we did go to another Weekend to Remember conference a couple years later into our marriage. i didn't even bother going to the "staff opportunities" session that year.
and then we went again, last year; feb 2008 in Pasco, WA. at the time we had been a part of our church for 4.5 years. our families were close by, our kids had friends at school and church, and we had a nice little life in Grandview, WA.
but this time i again felt that draw, that tugging of my heart, that prompt in my spirit to attend that early morning session to get more information about staff opportunities with FamilyLife. (that is called the Holy Spirit leading, guiding, stirring for those of you playing along at home).
i remember sitting in that ballroom, watching the ministry of FamilyLife intro video and thinking, "this is something i want to be a part of. this is what we were made for."
and so we filled out the postcard, checked the box, asked some questions, and then waited. no, FamilyLife hadn't changed their policy about staff needing to raise their own support. yes, the thought of doing that sill scared me. not only did i now have a wife to provide for, but 4 little girls and twins on the way! but i knew, that i knew, that this time i couldn't turn my back.
and so we waited. and waited some more. we waited for an initial contact phone call. then we waited for the ministry application paperwork. then we waited after it was turned in for all of our references to turn in their forms. we waited for various interview phone calls. and then we waited for the phone call where they told us whether or not they decided to invite us to the Ministry Preview weekend.
and then we were told to wait some more. due to the amount of school loan debt we had, the fact that we were soon to be parents of twins (kids # 5&6), and also some other issues we needed to resolve/work out in our hearts we were told to wait till next year and then give them a call back if we were still interested pursing staff placement.
it's hard to wait.
we called back in january. and told to wait again until mid March till a full year had passed. we did, and so the phone interviews, references being called, and once again waiting for the phone call again that would tell us if we were invited to Ministry Preview.
i have to say that when that call finally came, it was a HUGE relief. all of our stress and worry about not getting our hopes up too high was over. we had been invited. we had been validated. they wanted us.
we were SOOO EXCITED. we had to wait again until the actual dates of our trip. but this time we waited knowing that we were going to Arkansas. we honestly had such a peace and calmness about what would happen once we got their. we had no worries or questions about what the outcome of the weekend would be. we had been waiting for over a year to hear those words, "i'd like to officially invite you to Ministry Preview" that it didn't matter what happened after that. and after a year, what was another 84 days of waiting?
we were confident, at peace, and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were walking in the center of God's Will for our lives.
we got to Little Rock and had more interviews, meeting people, learning about the ministry, and hearing how lives were being changed through the ministry. we cried a lot. what can i say, i'm in touch with my emotional side and i'm not ashamed to show it. :) i was even more certain now than the day that we filled out that post card that God was calling us to this place. this is what we were made for. this was where our passions, talents, abilities, and life experiences intersected to point us to work with FamilyLife.
then at one point during the week we were challenged find out what God was calling us to, and then would we to be obedient to his calling whether it was to minister with FamilyLife or elsewhere. would we be obedient to the calling; instead of our desires, preferences, or wants.
[PS. i love ascending and descending through clouds. "The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship." Psalm 19:1 - i'm writing this in the middle of flying to MN to help my bro-in-law move.]
i woke up saturday morning (decision day) really wrestling with the challenge presented the day before. you see, in my mind, i had come to Little Rock with such peace and rest. i felt like i knew God's Will. and that it was for us to be a part of the ministry of FamilyLife. but through the little exercise i realized that instead the call that God had for deborah and i was to minister to families, to marriages. so would i be faithful to that calling even if FamilyLife said they didn't feel like it was a right fit for us to work there, at their ministry?
and if so, what would that look like? would it mean my role at our current church would change? would it mean we pursue ministry opportunities elsewhere that more directly impacted marriages and families? or something else entirely?
all of a sudden i was standing in the shower and now there was uncertainty. there were doubts about whether or not FamilyLife would invite us to come on staff. there was the unknown of what the future holds.
yet, at the moment that i submitted in my heart to God that i would be obedient to his will regardless of what FamilyLife's answer to us that afternoon was; once again there was peace. there was still the uncertainty, doubt, and unknown; but there was peace in the midst of it.
are you living in that peace?
stay tuned on wednesday, to find out what we were told and what we said in response.