Originally from Byron Center, MI, we’re now living (for at least the next two years) in the city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Virginia is working with an organization that does skills training for women who are escaping human trafficking. I’m teaching a basic computer class at a Bible School north of the airport in Phnom Penh and we’re both homeschooling our daughter. The information below is a little bit about the journey we’ve been on that brings us here.
Email announcement to the staff at KCC…
——————————-2009, June 4
I’d like to bring you all up to speed on changes that will be taking place for myself, Virginia and our family. I’ve talked with some of you but this way it will be sure to get to everyone. Virginia and I have decided to move away from Michigan. . . to Cambodia. We feel that the move to a warmer climate will better suit us as we get older. . .ok maybe that’s not it but, we are going to Cambodia.
This may seem to be out of the blue but, for Virginia and I, serving in a missions capacity has been an ongoing/underlying conversation since the beginning of our marriage. We talked about serving as a couple at the start but at that time my work was going well and then came the kids and life just happened (that’s our excuse anyway). In 1998 and 2001 I participated in two KCC missions trips to the Czech Republic and the spiritual pot got stirred again and the wrestling about what we would do was re-ignited. Virginia thought that we would then move that (missions) direction but, ‘Bekah was so young and Nathan and Amanda were moving into their teens. . . and there it is again, an excuse. Well we’ve not run out of excuses but are instead dealing with conviction, so here we go.
Late last summer we started to investigate mission/serving opportunities. We talked briefly to New Tribes Mission and then connected with World Hope and Debbie Hoover. In conversation with her we considered a need/position with a World Hope partner organization in Johannesburg, South Africa. Virginia’s skills and abilities were a good match and in January we began to work with World Hope toward that end. Shortly after beginning that process World Hope’s relationship with the partner changed and the position was no longer necessary, so that door was shut. In the meantime Phil (Smart) was looking at the work being done in Cambodia and, along with other KCCers that have been involved in the work there, identified some directions they wanted to pursue that would be positively impacted by having someone with ‘feet on the ground’ in Cambodia. Phil brought the idea of serving in Cambodia to us and, after several weeks of praying/wrestling with the idea, we agreed to at least go to Cambodia and get an idea of what was being done and what it might look like to live there. So at the end of April we went and after returning we wrestled with it a couple more weeks then met with Phil and said ‘yes’ to serving in Cambodia for 2 years.
Though we won’t be here in Grand Rapids we will still be connected with KCC through involvement at the Wesleyan Bible Institute (WBI) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. One of the things to be accomplished will be the setting up of a computer lab at the WBI for the students and staff as well as teaching basic MS Word and Excel skills. By virtue of being native English speakers we will have the opportunity to assist in teaching English there. They are also anticipating Virginia’s assistance in working through bookkeeping processes at the WBI as well as for the Cambodia National Wesleyan Churches. There are other components that we hope to be involved in that would take too much space here to mention (this was only supposed to be a paragraph long) but would be happy to talk to you about individually or at another time. We’ve committed to leaving for Cambodia in January so we’ve got much to do between now and then including the sale of our house which goes on the market Monday.
We had dinner with Jim Wood last night and he and I both were commenting on our own observations about looking back and seeing how specific past experiences (good and bad), that we’ve been through, are used by God in other circumstances later. At the time we may have wondered about the ‘why’, or the benefit, or necessity of the experiences but that perspective comes from our short-sightedness. I can look at experiences and learning that took place before I came to KCC and see how God used aspects of that during my time here. I’ve learned much in my time here at KCC and can see specifically how some of that will be used going forward. There are also things that I’ve learned, conversations that God has both started and re-kindled in my life, and conversations I’ve had with some of you where I can’t yet see how they will be used in what lies ahead. But, as His Word consistently attests to and as my own personal experience has shown, He knows and holds the bigger picture and we can have confidence as we step into those unknown areas in front of us.
This was supposed to be just a paragraph but it’s gone well beyond that, so if you’ve gotten this far I apologize. Virginia and I would appreciate your prayers as we continue on this journey. Specifically your prayers for wisdom as we make some significant family decisions, as we step into the realm/experience of fund-raising, and as we sell our house. Encompassing all that though would you pray that we would be sensitive to where He’s leading us and for us (mostly me) not be stubborn toward and resistant to that leading.
This is the posting from our earlier blog when we thought we were going to serve in South Africa…
——————————-2009, Jan. 23
It’s Friday. I’m off today as is normal (I work 4 ten+ -hour days, Mon-Thur) and the reality of our undertaking is beginning to settle in. It’s like the sensation you have as you crest the top of the first big climb of the roller-coaster ride (insert the fear-inducing coaster ride of your choice here) …the split-second pause… just before gravity takes over and you gather momentum and hurtle down the other side.
In that moment you move from anticipation to actuality, from expectation to experience.
All the fear, confidence, anxiety, assurance and questions about what you’re doing are going to quickly be replaced…well they’re not so much replaced as overwhelmed, by the oncoming rush of the experience.
That’s where we are, Virginia, Amanda, ‘Bekah and I …that split… second… pause………..
We’ve talked about doing this at different points during our married life, especially during the early stage, before the kids came along, also at different points in the interim but, before we knew it and as can be normal, life happened. Success at work and promotions, kids (3 absolutely wonderful ones), a house, and working toward….? …fun? …leisure? ….comfort? …security?
And the question didn’t go away …working toward?
Hasn’t gone away …working toward?
Doesn’t go away …working toward?
Won’t go away…
One thing that I have come to believe is true is that for a devoted Christ-follower, His call on our lives is not one that will lead to a life of comfort and security…at least as defined by the world in which we live. He may ask us to make choices that put our personal financial and material possessions at risk. I like how Gary Haugen (ijm.org) talks about having the courage to do God’s will, and though he is talking about a more extreme environment the concept is still the same. Haugen says that “…I can’t be both brave and safe…choosing to be brave means choosing NOT to be safe. Doing what Jesus does is inherently unsafe in a fallen world.” Jesus never ever said that following him would be a safe comfortable and secure endeavor. What that means for you may be different than what it means for me. We each have to identify/work it out in our own lives. We do need to be aware though that our culture pushes us toward a mindset that emphasizes our own comfort and security above anything else. As we’ve considered this some of the inclinations and thoughts that we had early on began to resurface and people crossing our path and other circumstances began to make us more aware of opportunities to step out of our comfort-zone. It was at that point, late last summer, that we started to seriously consider serving in a longer-term missionary/volunteer capacity.
We looked at/connected with a few organizations and for multiple reasons (denominational connections, personal knowledge, agreement with the mission, types of opportunity) chose to follow-up with World Hope/Hope Corps (worldhope.org) and applied with them in mid-November. Last week we interviewed with them and received indication that we would be moving forward with them. World Hope serves those in need in many locations around the world and based on a number of factors such as where they needed help and our own preferences/needs had narrowed it down to two locations, Guyana, in South America and South Africa. Both opportunities would match our profile/experience but an opportunity in Johannesburg, South Africa seemed to be the best match both from the perspective of their needs and ours and that is where we will likely end up serving.
And so here we sit, in our car, at the crest. The decision to get on the ride has been made. The only thing left to do is to embrace the experience. And, as we do we’ll use this tool (blog) to try and keep you up-to-date with where we’re at and what’s going on.
As a family we’re looking forward to what God has planned for us and hope/pray that we will continue to be faithful to His call. Will you do the same?