“Are you the one?” asked the presbyter. “Are you the one who didn’t want to go to Mexico at first but then went after God birthed a love in your heart for the people?”
“Yes. Yes, that was me“, I answered. He remembered our being at his church twelve years ago and me sharing the story. It’s a story women especially are curious about as it relates to the wife and mother: The Call of the Missionary. (Not to be confused with The Call of the Wild, although some similarities may inadvertently be found between Buck’s cross cultural travels and those of some missionaries I know).
It was 1995 and we had been serving as lead pastors in a city on Lake Erie. Having recently purchased our first home, we were in for the long haul. We began making memories in that quaint little abode and anticipated many more to come.
Then came a day- that day my husband said he felt God’s call to the mission field. “Would you pray?” he asked, “We really need to hear God clearly in this.” Interesting how words like that feel like an invisible two by four knocking you off your feet, causing all kinds of thoughts to tumble out; thoughts of your kindergartner leaving his school after just starting, thoughts of your toddlers’ safety in another country; thoughts of the kids growing up without Grandpa and Grandma close by, thoughts of leaving the tiny home that is your nest and refuge, and so on.
Yes, I would pray. Prayer is talking to God and boy did I do a lot of talking! I reminded God, who knows everything already, that we were quite happy where we were. “Why don’t you call someone who is miserable?” I asked the Sovereign. Surely He had a very long list of disgruntled ministers he could transplant. Picking one of them instead of us seemed like a reasonable option.
He was silent.
So I kept talking. I told God every reason I could think of that this was not a good idea. I even tried to convince Him we could do more for missions by remaining where we were, as the church had begun to catch our passion for the Great Commission and by then was supporting more missionaries than in its recent (and perhaps entire) history. It was a cause/effect discourse that went something like this: “Just think, God, if we stayed here and the church kept growing, how much more income that could mean for the budget to support and send even more missionaries.” It sounded like a good, sensible, logical plan to me.
He was silent.
Then I did what any desperate mom would do: I tried making deals with God. I’m not kidding. I promised Him an increase of our personal pledge to missions if he would pick someone else and let us stay. (And if you knew what my generous hubby had already faith-promised prior to that…hijole! como sera posible!?!) I even toyed with the idea of giving my oldest son to the prophet like Hannah in the Bible did until I realized that the closest person in modern days to a prophet would be my preacher husband and my son would end up back with me in our home since preachers (for the most part) don’t live in their churches anymore. So that idea back-fired. (Believe that last part if you want; I just threw it in here to make my story more interesting and more spiritual). But you can believe I was beginning to grasp at straw solutions to this I-feel-God-calling-us announcement.
Until God spoke.
It wasn’t thunder, nor was it by lightning. It was His leading in His Word, piercing a passage into my soul by the mysterious power of the Holy Spirit.
“Tell me,” Samuel said. “Does the LORD really want sacrifices and offerings? No! He doesn’t want your sacrifices. He wants you to obey him. Rebelling against God or disobeying him because you are proud is just as bad as worshiping idols or asking them for advice. You refused to do what God told you, so God has decided that you can’t be king.” I Samuel 15:22,23
It was God speaking, without any shadow of a doubt, to me. Frankly. Directly. Strongly, yet lovingly. What pierced the most was the part that said, “…just as bad as worshiping idols…”. In another translation it reads, “…just like witchcraft…”. That knocked any further hint of back talk and worthless remonstration from me.
To obey is better than sacrifice. There’s a series of messages in that statement alone! I’ll leave those messages to others and simply say I yielded to God’s rebuke in that passage. I realized at that moment that to stay and pastor- which is a good thing that God calls many to do- would have been an act of disobedience on our part. We had to obey. We had to go.
I came out of that God moment ready to go. Scared, but ready. With many questions, but ready. Ready in my heart to go. I was already beginning to wonder, “where”? But just as soon as I began to wonder, in my mind I knew: Europe.
God was calling us to Europe.
Except we ended up in Mexico. The Call, part 2 will explain that one!