As we began to process and pray over this new opportunity, God began to open doors. I don’t mean crack them, I mean He threw them wide open and put flashing arrows above them to let us know He wanted us to walk through them.
In an effort to make sure all our i’s were dotted and t’s crossed, we reached out to our immediate supervisor. He and his wife are kind and full of Jesus, and we knew we could trust them to help guide us. He encouraged us to get away separately for a time of prayer and fasting and to also reach out to someone whom we trusted that would be unaffected by our decision (not family or IMB personnel).
So, we both reached out to trusted friends and asked them to pray with us and share their wisdom. Both gave encouraging words and asked hard questions and ultimately led both of us closer to the decision to return.
Then, we planned overnight getaways at a local hotel for each of us. We decided not to talk about what the Lord was telling us until we both were finished with our time. When we came together to share what the Lord had spoken to us individually, we learned that Father had used the same scriptures to speak to both of us. We had both meditated on the book of Philippians and then over to Ephesians. For me, these are the scriptures Father used to bring peace to my heart about the decision to return to America:
And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever, Amen. Ephesians 3: 20-21
Our family had memorized Phil. 1:6, so it was already on our hearts. I am positive that was no accident. He is faithful to direct our paths way before we know they need to be directed, as we would soon see in numerous ways. As I reflected back on my life, He began to remind me of my prayer to someday live near my family. Then, as I read Ephesians 3:20, about Him doing far more than we ask or think, I was struck that He was answering my 10 year prayer. He wasn’t just sending us back. He was sending us back to the church all my family attends. Where my Dad is on staff. Doing a job that Cameron is uniquely gifted for. He had worked it out so much better than I could have even imagined it. And He wasn’t finished yet, as we would soon find out.
I really had to wrestle with what felt like failure. For so many people, the calling to move overseas is a lifelong calling. We have never held tightly to the calling, never claiming that it was forever, but we were prepared for it to be. The Bible (James 4: 13-17) tells us that we don’t know what tomorrow holds and we are arrogant if we say tomorrow this, or tomorrow that. We should say “If the Lord wills”. We have tried very hard to live by this standard, re-evaluating with Christ the things we are doing and making sure we are continuing to walk down the path He desires. We were ready and willing to live in China forever. Frankly, we expected to. But we never wanted to live there forever if Christ didn’t want us to, regardless of how easy it would have been to do so.
That last statement may make you scratch your heads a bit, wondering how I can say that when just yesterday I said that living in China was hard. The hard part about living in China for me was the distance between myself and my family. There were smaller “hard things” in each city we lived in, but the biggest was always the longing to be near my family. The rest of living overseas was such an adventure! Growing up, I always told my dad that I wanted to live in a big city. I wanted hotels and airplanes and what, then, I felt, was the rich life. After living in a city with 14 million people, flying on airplanes more times than I can count, and staying in hotels more often than I want to remember, I was ready for the empty mountains of Colorado where all I could hear was the roaring of the gushing river. I wanted to feel the brisk coldness of mountain air on my face as I unzipped a tent to walk to the fire where I could smell the percolating coffee. All the things I hated as a child, I longed for when I was in the midst of the life I thought I wanted as a child. BUT. I wouldn’t trade the adventures. We played with baby tigers, zip lined through the mountains of Thailand, vacationed in Taiwan, and saw more beautiful beaches that I ever thought possible. We rode scooters as our main transportation, had heart conversations in Chinese with friends the Lord gave us, held hands and prayed with friends as they made the biggest decision of their lives, to follow Jesus. All those longings in my heart as a child were fulfilled in spades. I loved it. It also made me realize that I love the simple things too. I don’t need fancy hotels and airplanes. Powdered donuts and tents, crammed into overflowing trucks, and family are more than enough. More than that, being in the midst of what God wants for me, is exactly what fulfills my heart. I never would have learned that He is all I need if He wouldn’t have taken me out of a world that I could control. I am so thankful. Living in China will always be one of the greatest blessings in my life. He gave me friends that will forever will be my friends. He gave me an eternal perspective that changed my life. Staying there, friends, would have been okay with me.
As Cameron and I shared with each other what the Lord spoke to us during our time away, we made the decision to move back. Phone calls and emails ensued, and after what felt like years, but was, in fact, only days, we were able to share with our families and friends. There was shock. There were tears. There was uncertainty and there was excitement. There still is.
But there was more to come.