Growing a Tree of Faith
As this ministry grows, the Lord continues to remind me of where it all began. He brings me back to a specific place and time, a beautiful sunny day in the northwest area of Haiti in 2008.
It was a quiet afternoon. The children’s camp had ended and we were in a week of leadership training. Everyone had taken a bit of a break for an hour or so. The ministry leader’s wife, though only in her young thirties, was sick in bed for a few days. She had stomach issues that took her out for days. The ministry leader had asked me and another girl on our team to pick the weeds in the gravel pathway in front of his house.
I had a conversation with the Lord while we worked away. It was actually quite relaxing to have an easy task and time to process the trip so far with the Lord. I was praying for the minister’s wife when an idea came into my mind. This wasn’t just any idea. It was one that deeply stirred my heart. A great passion and burden overcame me to help missionaries. I wanted to be able to help those who were in need. I had been on a short-term mission trip to Texas and now to Haiti. Both had missionaries that were struggling with health issues and facing exhaustion. I saw the needs and felt compelled to do something about it.
The Lord laid a picture of a retreat in my mind, one that missionaries could come to, to be rejuvenated and find rest. I knew in that moment that this was a calling God placed in my life. He planted a seed.
That seed continued to grow throughout the years. I had gone on a trip to Ireland feeling like I was being called there to serve. I went in 2009 to explore that idea. I went into mission candidacy training after that to return to Ireland full-time. My plan was going to be to live there and serve the nationals. Eventually I would build the retreat and reach out to the European missionaries in need. Circumstances happened that led me to resign from my training a couple of years later.
I approached the mission agency and asked if I could have permission to return to Ireland in 2012 to test out my idea of what I felt the Lord wanted. Instead of serving the nationals, I would focus my attention on the missionaries themselves. I cooked meals, cleaned the houses, minded the children, took the wives out for dinner, sent the couples on a date, etc. Something interesting happened from that. The more I dedicated my time to the missionaries, the more the nationals opened up to me because they didn’t feel threatened. In fact, they were surprised that someone would go to help like that.
My heart rejoiced. This was something I really knew I wanted to do. I wanted a place missionaries could come to in order to receive practical help and to spiritually hit the refresh button. But I felt like I was missing a few pieces. I wanted to find a husband that would serve alongside me in this. I saw the void of help I could offer the men. I knew I wouldn’t be able to fully do what I felt was needed on my own.
As I continued to pray about it all, I thought about where it would be best to live in Ontario. I had thought of near Windsor or Toronto, Ontario because they were both near international airports. I met with the Canadian director of our mission organization and explained more of what my vision was and where I was thinking of doing it. He asked me if I had considered London, Ontario. London? Why would I pick there? I didn’t understand it from a ministry or travel point of view, but as I shared in the “Which Career to Choose” post, I had always had an interest in living in London. I worked and saved what I could and kept in prayer.
Several months passed by. The next thing I knew, I was in Mexico on my honeymoon. Michael was taking a nap and I was sitting on the couch spending some time with the Lord when it dawned on me. Here I was married to an amazing man that loved helping people and was very generous. We had a house and I was living in a smaller city just outside of London! It’s like one day I blinked and all the things lined up.
I shared my vision with Michael. He got excited about it as well, but neither one of us felt like it was the right time. What would it look like for us together? How did the Lord want us to make it happen?
There was a need for some people to join the mission team at our church. Michael and I saw this as an opportunity and signed up. I had usually been on the receiving side of the mission focus of churches rather than on the sending. It was a great opportunity to connect with our missionaries, hear their needs, and pray for them. We worked on offering support, filling needs, and cheering them on when they were in town. It was a growing experience for Michael and I to partner together in this. But the church team wasn’t where we felt called to serve long-term. It was a great learning opportunity to understand both sides of missional functions, for a time. We eventually resigned a few years later.
I was confused and unsure of what to do next. I thought being part of the mission team was the beginning of the retreat planting, just like I did with my time in Ireland. Yet, here I was in Ontario and off the mission team. What were our next steps supposed to be? I gave the retreat idea up to the Lord. I figured if He wanted it to happen, then it would. There was no use for me constantly trying to make it happen when that clearly wasn’t what God wanted.
Surrendering has proven as one the greatest rewards in my life. It’s not something I can force. It’s something the Lord has to do in my heart. I can have the tendency to take hold of an idea and run with it all in my own power. However, when I do that, it never proves successful. But when I allow the Lord to break down my control and ideas and give it all up to Him, that’s when He can work the most. This whole scenario rang true to this yet again.
While Michael and I dealt with many other difficulties in life, I laid the idea of the retreat to rest. I didn’t have the time or ability to pursue it, nor did I think I’d ever be able to do it with the lack of health I was facing.
Sometimes when we’re in that place of surrender, the Lord needs to do some reconstruction. He had graciously given me the idea of the retreat to hold onto through a difficult time of life. It’s what kept me going and propelled me forward in a time I felt lost. But instead of waiting on the Lord for His appointed time, I tried to rush things and make it happen in my own. The Lord graciously gave me the trips to Ireland and my time on the mission team at church to teach and develop important skills. These were foundational things. What I saw as a pursuit of action, He saw as a mere teaching tool. He needed to do a lot of reconstruction in my personal life to prepare me for the actual ministry He was calling me to. Before I could move ahead, He needed to do some work on my past. It was only after that, that He could take me back to the beginning and explain why I went through that process.
More to follow on this story next week…