When I Grow Up…

When I was a kid, my favorite week at church every year was mission’s week. Every night of the week we’d go to church, where in the foyer we’d be greeted with cultural relics from distant lands lined up on the table that usually held sign-up sheets for the potluck dinner. Masks from Africa; dresses from Asia; beautiful lacy tablecloths from post-communist countries in Eastern Europe; Bibles with the swirly lines of Arabic replacing the familiar block lettered text. Entering the darkened sanctuary, we began a journey to a new country that we’d get to explore via grainy photographs punctuated with the sounds of the clickety-clack slide projector. I suppose one could look at this (when other kids were coming up with excuses to play in the gym and avoid the “weird” missionaries) and say that perhaps the seeds were planted early in my life, but I never thought “I want to be a missionary when I grow up.” No, I wanted to be an optometrist, a nurse, a magazine editor, and– of course — the President. I did want to travel, but I think my early interest in mission’s week was motivated more out of my fascination for these new cultures than a desire to serve. The funniest thing of all is that I swore I would never, and I mean never, go to Asia. Too many people, I thought. Ironic…

Jacob had the same sense of adventure as a child — a desire to learn about new cultures and explore new places, but he doesn’t remember any distinct desire to serve overseas. He has always been a kind, compassionate man with a servant’s heart, but not someone who considered quiting his job to move to the other side of the world.

So how did this come about? It all started in the car with my friend Kineta. We were both working at an international adoption agency in Dallas at the time, and we both agreed that we should go and see for ourselves what an orphanage was actually like. Fast-forward a couple of months, and Jacob and I find ourselves on a plane to China to work in an orphanage for 2 weeks. Those 2 weeks changed our life, and it couldn’t have been better timing. We were 1 month away from our wedding, and we came back with a new vision for what we wanted our new life together to look like. We knew we didn’t want a big mortgage, car payments, and anything else that would own us to the point of taking away our freedom to do what we cared about — the precious kids that we couldn’t get out of our hearts or minds. We did a lot of crying in those first few weeks home as we tried to sort through our emotions… anger at the injustice of some having so much (us) and others having so little (95 percent of the world), sadness at the loss those children experienced — a loss no child should endure; appreciation that our hearts were truly changed by the experience and that with changed hearts came changed priorities; thankfulness for the fact that each of us felt the same way; and mostly love — a love for these kids that we didn’t know we could have for children we’d only known a week.

It wasn’t long before we began talking about the possibility of moving over there. At first it was very hypothetical and quickly brushed aside conversations, and we were still talking about other goals — buying a house, replacing a car, having a family. But then, over the course of a year and a half, the conversations began shifting to where we were talking more about China and less about buying a house. Without either of us realizing the exact moment it happened, we became very serious about going. With the change in goals came a change in emotions… at first we were very scared about moving so far out of our comfort zones, but as time went on we became more afraid of not going and the regret that we would live with if we never tried. Last October we went back to China with a group (mostly our families) to test the waters again. We came home even more committed to the vision, and in November began seriously exploring our options for service. Since then, we have narrowed it down to one organization. Stay tuned for more info about them!

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