We got an email from the school last week with a kind reminder that the kids would be out of school for President’s Day. In all of my advance planning, I had not realized that the kids would be out for this day, so I rearranged my Monday schedule to be at home with the kids. That morning we celebrated “dad’s last donut” (to be discussed later), stopped by the iGo office to pick up some things and then back home to hang out for the day. Caed invited a friend from school over for the afternoon and our home became grand central station for the neighborhood. The sounds of kids running in and out, laughing and playing, and the occasional “disagreement” filled the house. Later that afternoon, the mother of Caed’s friend came to pick up her son. As she was waiting for her son, she began to ask me about my job. I shared about the work we do at iGo and how we send students overseas. She looked at me puzzled and asked “how do y’all make money?” That question allowed me to share how God brought us to Dallas and how each member of our staff raises their own support. After that conversation, I was reminded of the journey of how God led us here. Now that we have been here for three years, it’s not a story I get to share often, but one that is still dear to our hearts.
I have to admit that it took me a little while to completely submit to this calling that God has on our lives. Apparently, Penny and God had already reached a consensus on this beforehand and over time, both of them began to speak softly to me in considering this move. For me, it was mostly about the uncertainty of it all. Occasionally I would seek the advice of a friend and they would affirm my uncertainty. Why would I leave a great job that I loved and a ministry and community that I had much affection for? On top of that, who wants the headache of moving your family, selling and buying a house, leaving friends and “family”, etc. in exchange for all of the unknown? At the end of the day, I was comfortable in my busy life that I had constructed and almost felt like I would be letting other people down by following this call. I love my church, my pastor, my friends, my students…and I don’t want to give this up, I thought to myself. Hiding in the back of my mind was the real reason that I didn’t want to say “Yes” to God.
On top of leaving so many of the things that I loved, was an overriding sense of fear. This wasn’t the first time that I had been offered an opportunity to join a seasoned ministry. Back in 2000 I had been recruited to join another ministry that I had much respect for. Part of that offer was the realization that to work for this organization, you had to raise your own support. I kindly refused that offer. Fast forward 9 years. Penny had just returned from Tokyo on a trip with iGo Global. I had gone to Tokyo with iGo the year before and God had opened my eyes to what He was doing around the world. This wasn’t my first mission trip. I had a pretty good track record for going. By this time I had been a part of groups going to Vancouver, New York, Germany, and Brazil. As a matter of fact, I had been to Germany twice with iGo, once with a team to help lead a retreat for missionary kids and another to lead our group of students from FBC, Artesia.
During the summer of 2009, God had been working on my heart in a huge way. The summer started off with a cross-country trip to Florida for Camp BigStuf. During that week God revealed more to me about His plan to eventually connect us with iGo. We began to pray as a family that God would give us CLEAR direction on the decisions he wanted us to make. One evening, I noticed that Lance Shumake, aka Shu, would be speaking at an upcoming event that we would be attending. Shu is the president at iGo Global. He and I had become friends years before while I was serving at Bacon Heights in Lubbock, and we often joked about me coming to Dallas to join the team. I emailed Shu and told him that Penny and I wanted to meet with him sometime during the weekend. That weekend ended up being crazy for both of us and we weren’t able to sit down and talk. As we were packing our area to leave, he pulled me aside and asked if this conversation had something to do with God potentially moving us to iGo. He mentioned that God had been speaking to him about the same thing. We left the event without any details, but knowing that God was definitely putting the pieces together.
We traveled to Dallas in July for Penny to attend basecamp before leaving on her trip to Tokyo. During the weekend, Shu and I had the opportunity to discuss the details of what coming on staff would look like. We both agreed to spend the next few weeks in prayer. The next day as Penny left for Tokyo, we committed to pray individually. That week was hard on me. God was speaking clearly to me through scripture, prayer and circumstances with a resounding, YES. Penny was scheduled to arrive back in Dallas on a Thursday and I wasn’t able to leave NM until after our evening youth service the night before. I still remember that drive. NINE hours of conversation between me and God. I arrived in DFW around 4am, checked into a hotel and slept a few hours before the plane landed. Of course, she was tired when she walked off of that plane. I tried to contain my excitement, but it was obvious to her that I had finally become convinced. After a night of rest, we made the trek back home and began to talk about what this transition would look like.
In mid-August, Shu called and confirmed that God had led them in the same direction. I remember him telling me that when they look at bringing on a new staff member, they consider the Four C’s, calling, character, competency, and chemistry. He felt like we met all four of those and officially invited us to be a part of the team.
And then it hit me again.
I thought to myself. If I step out in faith on this, then I’ll have to confront all of the fear I had at the beginning. There was a struggle going on in my heart. For years, I had been telling my students that when God call’s you, the only appropriate answer is, YES. Penny and I had both attended the Passion Conference in the late ‘90’s. We had both taken the theme verse and woven into how we tried to live our lives. The verse is from Isaiah 26:8 and says…
“YES Lord, walking in the way of your truth, we wait eagerly for you,
for your name and your renown are the desire of our souls.”
It’s hard to go back to God and say “no” or “maybe”, when you’ve already said “YES”. So we began the process of this new transition for our family.
Penny and I scheduled a time to meet with our pastor, Rick Sullivan, a man who we both respect and love to this day. While he was sad that we would be leaving, he confirmed that he too had sensed that God might call us to this. We took Caed and Baylor out and I remember Caed being so upset that he would have to leave his friends that he didn’t eat his dinner. The hardest day for us was the day we told our youth workers and students. I hope to never have to go through that again. Our timetable include staying on staff at FBC, Artesia through January to allow them time to begin searching for a new student pastor and to allow us to sell our home and begin raising support. Penny had to remind me several times that as God had called us to this, He would in turn provide for us. The next few weeks, God really showed up and “connected the dots” as we saw sign after sign of confirmation…
- We were concerned that it would take some time for our house to sell. There were 5 homes in our immediate neighborhood that had been on the market for over a year. We listed our house with a friend and 2 days later, she called and said we had an offer and by that evening, we had a contract.
- We spent several weekends in Wylie looking for a new home. The house that we ended up buying had dropped in price by 20% shortly before we looked at it. With the closing of our home in Artesia, we were able to buy our home in Wylie with a standard loan at a low interest rate.
- Caed’s new school would be located near our home. We had an opportunity to meet the principal and found out that he was a believer. The mascot at the new school was “The Bulldogs”, helpful since Caed considered himself an Artesia Bulldog.
- Friends and family began to join our support team and the church gave us a significant love offering when we left.
All of that was over 3 years ago. God has continued to show us how this was and is His plan. Our family has grown closer together and we continue to trust Him along the way. We’ve had opportunities to make new friends and have grown closer to some old ones. I still have moments where I let fear get the best of me, but it’s usually short lived. Penny has been a calm and constant presence during those times. Caed is now 11 and recently told me that when he’s a teenager, he wants to move back to Artesia. He has moments where he misses his friends. He knows that if we were to ever move back, that he would face the same issues with his friends in Wylie. Baylor will be 8 soon and acts like a teenager. She loves being a drama queen. In just a couple of months, Brooklyn will enter the world. We sit and wonder what she will look like and what kind of personality she will have. As we prepare for her arrival and the crazy days (and nights), we rest and trust in His provision and grace.
Looking back over the past three years allows me to easily see how God has been at work in our family. It has allowed our faith to grow deeper and wider as we continue to press into all that He has for us. Whether we are busy training and sending students, helping a local ministry in our community, teaching a class at church or simply growing together as a family, we trust and know that He is leading and guiding us. It’s a lot easier to say YES when you can look back and see how He has been faithful and with that, we press on!