In April of last year, God started us on a journey. We moved back to Wake Forest for Matt to start his Master of Divinity (MDiv) at Southeastern Seminary at the recommendation of our IMB (International Missions Board) representative- we had at that point already started the application process to become apprentice overseas missionaries (3 years on the field with the option to stay longer). We worked on settling into classes (I started taking some as well) and joined Bayleaf Baptist Church as our home church. Shortly after that, we found out that the program (International Service Corps) we had started applying for had been phased out because of lack of funds in the IMB.
However, in September we found out that it would be a possibility for Matt to finish his MDiv in the "2+2" program through Southeastern- meaning 2 years of classes and 2 years on the field (with 3 years on the field being an option if you wanted to work towards possibly becoming career missionaries, which we definitely wanted to consider!). Matt quickly changed his degree into the 2+3 program, and we were suddenly on the fast track of applying... which meant lots of meetings, lots of paperwork, doctor's check-ups, still both in classes, and working on several things we'd need to have done for medical clearance, which included losing 30-50 pounds for each of us. We decided not to pursue a full-time ministry position job-wise since we were planning to be leaving within the year. We want to have obedient hearts towards God, whether that meant moving overseas or staying in the U.S., and had immediately looked for ministry we could be involved in for the mean time when we had first moved back. We worked with a college and singles outreach to downtown Raleigh, Matt began co-teaching our Sunday School class and guest preached at several churches, and we started teaching an evangelism class together.
Family pic after church on a Sunday when Matt had guest preached:In February, we found out that despite financial shortfalls and extreme budget cuts in the program, God had opened a place for us in Germany. We had been praying for a place in Western Europe to serve, and were so excited to have a specific people to pray for and a language to start learning! We had been given theological, mental, and relational clearance and this was the next step. We had already gone through several classes and meetings with our "departure group" of other students, and have met so many precious couples with a true heart for serving God. Within two weeks of finding out there was a spot for us, we also found out that we would not be able to get our medical clearance in time to leave this year. Not leaving this year, with our departure group, affected Matt's enrollment in school and the IMB could not guarantee that there would be jobs available at all in the next year. Knowing that there is still the option to finish the degree here and then re-apply as missionaries afterward, with much prayer and disappointment, we made the difficult choice to remove ourselves from the 2+3 program and release the position to another couple. If we can't go, we desperately want someone else to fill that spot and GO and TELL!
So Lord, what now?
We were still without full-time jobs, and our end-goal had just fallen through. Matt transferred his degree back to the Missiology program and of course, still plans to finish the MDiv. Honestly, I felt like just when my head was finally catching up to my heart being willing to change everything and move overseas, the plan was changing again. People often say "when God closes a door, He will open a window," but we felt like God was clearly saying the door was closed for a reason, and for this time and place we are in right now. Maybe it is not closed forever, but definitely right now.
In addition to the ups and downs of our plans changing, finances had become a major stress. Anyone who has gone through a job loss or other financial struggle knows the stress it can bring. When you don't have any, it's easy for money to become central to your life. Every part of your life and every decision you try to make is affected. Fear takes the place of trust as you worry if bills will be paid, if groceries can be bought, and the stress causes little annoyances to become unnecessary arguments. In the midst of it, God provided (and is providing!) in the most surprising ways... family members hired us to do odd jobs that they could have just as easily hired a stranger to do... Matt was able to work for a construction company owned by a church member and good friend... God provided buyers on craigslist to purchase some of our larger things we weren't using... and some very dear friends of ours, who are also in ministry and have their own wee one to take care of sent us a Target gift card out of the blue that we were able to use on groceries. When God provided a part-time (with health benefits!) job for Matt last week, we had almost gone an entire year on no full-time income at all- yet here we are, with our power on, our water running, and food in our pantry! Not to mention a healthy daughter that is pure joy to raise, a bit of weight loss under our belts, and a family that loves and prays for us through these days of change. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
We still know that God's plan for every believer is to help others become worshipers of Him, from your next-door-neighbor to the far-flung reaches of places on the map that you can't even pronounce. We don't know what God has for us from here, but we believe and trust in His plan, and we are praying that he will reveal it to us quickly. This has been such a time of learning patience and humility, painful at times, as He breaks down our pride and selfishness to become willing servants. I want to prove myself as faithful to Him as he has been to me. I hope that we will learn these lessons and that in His perfect timing, He will use us in full-time ministry again.
What will that look like? Where will that be? We don't know right now, but we are so thankful that our Heavenly Father, who loves us and desires good things for us, definitely does! Thank you all for your prayers, and for continuing to pray for us that God would lead us not according to our own wishes, but right where He wants us to be!