Sunday, April 7, 2013

Leave your homeland, your family, your life

Today was the first of two weeks of world missions emphasis at church. Our speakers were our own members, Bob and Bessie Black. They are retired lay missionaries who have an incredible story to tell. They were a farm family in South Dakota, having a good life but a poor living, as Bessie likes to say. Sensing the call of God, they moved off the farm to take a job in town, only to have that job disappear. Bob found work as a handyman over the next two years while Bessie stayed home with their four children.

Then they sensed God telling them to move to Olathe, Kansas, where they had no family, no roots, no home, and no work. They obeyed, and almost immediately found work and a home, moved their children down, and began worshipping in a large church there in our denomination. At that church they became challenged to give to world missions in a way they hadn't been before.

But then the voice of God spoke clearly to Bob that they weren't just supposed to give money to missions, but go to the field, to serve as missionaries. They were in their early 40s by then, normally past the age where sending organizations will appoint new missionaries. But they received counsel from their pastor, applied for service, and were accepted. After seven years in state-side missions appointments, they were off to Papua New Guinea, where they served for the next eighteen years.

Bob told the story of how he questioned God's calling to go as missionaries. He said he was a layman, and not in one of the professions that sometimes gives people to missions, such as the medical fields and teachers. God told him that He had missionaries on the field repairing air conditioners and water lines and building buildings, when He needed them preaching the word and building up congregations. Bob, in his years on the farm, as a handyman, and working with a water company, had learned the exact skills that were needed on some of our missions fields.

For our Life Group lesson after the first service, we compared Bob and Bessie's call to that of Abram as told in Genesis 12:1-9. Abram, at age 75, was told to leave his home (actually, his second home since he had already moved once), his extended family, and go to a place He would show him. Abram obeyed, and the rest is history. In a way, Bob and Bessie's move was a bigger move than Abram's. Not only in terms of distance (though travel and communication technology negates some of the distance), but in terms of a change of life work. Abram had herds he took with him and simply tended them in a new place. Bob and Bessie changed careers, left two older children in the States, and went where God wanted them. Big change.

In Life Group several shared how they had been "called" to move to the northwest Arkansas area. One couple said the winds in Oklahoma blew them eastward. Another couple, newly married at the time, moved from Iowa to join recently moved parents, but only after two events, one somewhat miraculous and one a life passage, had come to pass. Others had similar stories. None of these were calls to the mission field, or to the ministry; they were simply physical moves. But everyone said they could see God in it.

I hope I still hear the voice of God in my life. I want Him to direct my steps. Just five or six years away from normal retirement, I can't say that if it were up to me I'd make any kind of move at all. But I listen, and pray for the strength to act if that divine direction should come.

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