As missionaries we were always cautioned to avoid posting photos of our family relaxing. After our first six months in Guatemala had passed, we were required to exit Guatemala for a visa renewal. The closest and cheapest place to go was Punta Gorda, Belize. While we were there, I posted a photo.
"Well, it must be nice that you can take your family to the beach while other people support you. I haven't been able to take my family on a vacation for six years."
At first, this comment on social media landed like an icy fist on my chest. I felt ashamed and guilty. I told a good friend about it and his comment came at me like a rebuke.
"You tell them to walk away from their careers, sell or give away everything they have, leave family, live in a dangerous country, shower with contaminated water, give up air conditioning and heat, work for months on end without a day off, and then after they've walked in your shoes, they can get a clue about your life."
After hearing my friend's defense of us, I belly-laughed and then admitted, "You know, it's funny. The guy who made that comment has never contributed a dime to our cause. Our real supporters know us, love us, and want us to take the time as a family to refresh."
It was that incident that helped Kellie and I to resolve that we would always be transparent. Our supporters would know our successes, our failures, and even our celebrations. The truth is that there are too many missionaries out there who are afraid to tell their full story. They fear that they'll lose supporters, or that others will think poorly of them.
Of course... that is nonsense. Without exception, we found that each time we were vulnerable, our friends, churches, and supporters responded with their prayers, communications, and finances. We learned that if someone is really on your team, they'll stick with it through the good times and bad. If they won't stick with you because of a beach photo... well, then they aren't worth keeping on the team anyway.
We have a story to tell as we walk this path, and as always, we'll tell it full here. I love this picture of Sterling as she holds a weight of sand and water in each hand, allowing the water to slip through her fingers as she watches it with blue-tinted glasses.
I want to live my life this same way... to hold the fleeting days and moments, to feel the weight and the loss, and to look at everything with tinted vision. My God is calling me to see things like He sees them. I can feel His light shining down and warming my skin. He is building His everlasting kingdom as He walks beside us in castles of sand.
The past few days have provided me opportunities in each hand as we search for where God is leading us to pastor. I've had to answer the naysayers as they ask questions like, "Are you sure you're ready to be the lead pastor at a church in the US?" Or they give unsolicited commentary such as, "You should pastor a small church to learn the American culture," or "You don't know what you're getting into."
Certainly there were doubters when Moses stood before Pharaoh with a staff, Daniel was tossed to lions, the three Hebrews were thrown into a furnace, David faced Goliath, and Paul faced the religious council in Jerusalem. The faith that is in me is no less than the faith that has strengthened and prepared the men and women who have gone before us. This is not a time for timidity, but this is a time for love, of boldness, and true hearts. My God prepares me and He goes before me.
We have not been prepared, Kellie and I, to live life like everyone else, to pastor like the common preacher, or to search for our congregation by following an expected list of rules. We are on a specific calling, and we will continue to be authentic, bold, and transparent as we take these faithful steps.
Like Sterling, we have weighted choices in our hands. Over the past week we've met with two churches and our hearts are full with each of them, as well as others who have expressed some interest in us as their pastors. They have different timelines, pay scales, and attendance numbers.
For years I have been critical of pastors who accept "callings" to churches that are: larger, pay more, and are located in more desirable communities. It seems odd that God calls the majority of pastors to larger assignments. Surly the pastor who ministers for decades at a small congregation is just as valuable to the Kingdom of God as the pastor of a multi-site, multi-service mega-church.
God surely has a sense of humor and He exercises it by making my life walk match my mouth talk. I complained about missionaries over-charging for their furniture when they leave the field... and so we sold everything at 1/3 of its value. This required us to give out of our poverty. It required faith and it benefited other missions who serve Guatemala.
The sky flashes outside and the rain pounds the roof as I contemplate these things that God has opened up before us. I see His path going through them all. As we walk in His will, we can-not make a poor decision, He stands beside each option. And so we ask for your continued prayers as we begin to measure the costs and faithfully follow our God.
At this point anything is possible. God is blessing our active wait, and He has placed some amazing men and women in our path. We have met people in far-away places that know our grandparents, both Kellie's and my own. We have exchanged stories that have far outweighed coincidence and have proclaimed themselves as affirmations that we walk on the path of God.
So, let's all take tomorrow into our hands without hesitation. Let's kneel down waist deep and snap on our heavenly goggles as we reach with open hands and engage fully this experience. God will bless our walk as long as we pursue Him. There's no better place to be than following Him.