There is a saying - "God doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called." That should be our theme. Moody was cut out to be a Missionary. Jim Elliott was cut out to be a Missionary. My great uncle, Edward C. Oney, one of the early missionaries with Oriental Mission Society, who wore out the soles of his shoes in a day, going door to door sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ in Japan - he was cut out to be a missionary. Me? Not so much.
One thing's for sure. On a short term mission trip to Peru in 2012, God began changing our family. Mike and Tori came home from that trip talking about the people. Yes, they talked about the canopy walk, piranha fishing, poison dart frogs and monkeys, but they kept going back to the people.
The next year, I wanted to go see what they were talking about. Our two oldest sons were my travel companions as we joined the Peru Crew led by Pachita (Nancy Kopf). Our quiet, laid back, introverted boys fell in love with the people. They danced with the children, played with them in the school yard, hugged Moms and gave Bibles to Dads. They came home changed, as did I.
After our daughter, Libby, accompanied me in 2014, she changed all the goals she had set for herself and announced that she was going back to the Amazon to raise goats and play with the children. :) She loved the people - especially the children. When we got on the plane that day to come home, I left my heart in the Amazon.
This year, Mike and I decided to go together and see what God was up to. One thing we had noticed on our trips, was that the people were hungry for God. They were eager to get a Bible. They immediately opened and started reading them when we handed them one. Many of the villages lacked churches and pastors. Who would disciple them? Who would teach them? Our hearts were burdened for the flocks without a shepherd. As sheep farmers, that was real to us.
At night we would lie awake, talking about the logistics of building churches in villages. It wasn't until the night before we arrived in Iquitos that God made it abundantly clear that a church is not about a building - it's about the people. Something we had known all along.
Almost three weeks in the Amazon led to a lot of answers, and even more questions. We watched God work in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform. We were blown away by how determined He was for us to "get it". Piece by piece, He laid down puzzle pieces until a picture began to materialize. We met with pastors and ministries and random people God put in our path, and by the time we were on the plane home, we "got it". I'm not going to kid you. It took awhile to get from "we see the need, but we're not sure what to do about it" to "Here I am, send me".
Four months after our trip, Mike and I sat in Greenwood, Indiana in a Train & Multiply Training class at OMS. (How we ended up there is another great story!) We learned how to effectively share the gospel and plant churches - through people. We learned that we needed to rethink the definition of church. We also realized that what we think of as church is actually pretty far removed from the church that Paul and Barnabus and Silas and Timothy were establishing in the book of Acts. We saw how Jesus engaged people in conversation rather than preaching at them. He invited them to discover the answers for themselves. He sent the Holy Spirit to teach and give wisdom.
As we drove home, we talked about how it would be awhile before we could get to Peru, rent a church or school, have a pastor's conference, train them to use Train & Multiply and then start implementing it in the villages. We know now that God had a smile on His face listening to that conversation, because within a week of the training, we were training a group of men through Skype from 3000 miles away, to go out and start training pastors in the jungle. Seven men in the first group planning to train 10 men in the next group. We can only imagine where this will go...
We have said that it seems like God is building the road he wants us to take, one brick at a time. As we take the next step, He lays down another brick. We have no idea where the road will end up, but He never promised to tell us that. The Bible says, "Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." We only need enough light to see where to place our next step. So, at this point in the journey, we're just taking a step at a time.
Please pray with us. We know he has called us to this work. We have made ourselves available to be used of Him. He has equipped us and provided partners to work in the field with us. The Harvest is plentiful, and we are SO excited to see what God will do!