Our first taste of Guatemala stretched my comfort zone beyond North American norms. Global missions were no longer just something for other people to do, they were our hands getting dirty, our arms around precious children. We saw God move in teams and through them, and we could not get enough of it. Holding onto 1 Samuel 30:24’s promise that the rewards of victory are shared between the ones who go out and the ones who stay to guard the camp, we supported others as they served in the nations and took more trips ourselves whenever the Lord led us. Over the course of two 10-day men’s teams (one where I went along to help save the guys from their own cooking) and a 4-week family stay, we saw that the Spirit had our compass pointed steadily toward the Home of Life in Costa Rica. We connected with the children and grown-up people there in a way that made us family. Although always excited to go and give my all, I still appreciated being able to come back again afterwards for things like paychecks and doctor appointments.
God spoke to Matt again in the fall of 2008, calling our family to pursue full-time ministry there in the land of rainforests, to host teams and do life with the people we loved. Matt had his arms wide open, waiting for the fulfillment of the promise. Expecting the third wonderful addition to our family in the coming spring, I was again in a “no reception zone.” As Ezekiel learned how to sleep through the night and tottered his first steps, the Lord Himself took up the “can you hear me now?” process, gradually bringing up my volume level. There was a lot of change to acclimate to, where I had been content with the status quo. Over the months He reminded me of all the ways I had been prepared for this calling, of the hope to fully go and serve that I didn’t even admit to myself. But still it was hard to release the life I already knew to take our family into the unknown.
We thought it was a celestial joke when Matt and I were asked to lead a team to Guatemala in the summer of 2011, and friends who had served for months at a time in Guatemala took their team to Costa Rica. A divine episode of trading spaces? Ministry swap? Definitely humorous, but profoundly powerful. Our first impression upon returning to Guatemala after five years away was a longing for the tiny cabina and the other brown eyes on our hearts. Sharing new experiences with our team, God’s work surrounding us, and the dear people of Guatemala were all a delight. We coiffed hair with sparkly barrettes and shared a nonverbal gospel skit in two mountain villages, jumped off of cliffs into the river pool with the children, blew bubbles across hillsides, played soccer (badly), and hemmed pajama pants. We roared with laughter at one person’s mistaken purchase of a beer rather than the soda she wanted from a gas station, the transformation of another person from reserved to gregarious at 8:00 p.m. each evening, and the daylong comedic stylings of our team humorist. We rallied around one team member as she stepped into her gift of prophetic insight and another as she became comfortable with praying aloud in a group. But we knew with certainty that Costa Rica was the focal point of God’s plan for us.
Spending time with Norm and Vickie Sutton, the missionaries who host teams at the Home of Life in Guatemala, was the pinnacle of the trip for me. We knew them affectionately from that first trip back in 2006, and wanted to hear more about their recent launch to serve full-time. It wasn’t hard to spot the divine setup. Their testimony with its difficulties and encouragement harmonized with the Lord’s persistent whisper in my heart. I was undone by the clarity of the 5-bar signal. If the Lord was so faithful to them as they walked this path, He would be faithful to us. Tears flowed. I surrendered my “no”–the desire to stay in the predictable security of our life in the States–and gave the Lord my “I will.” Change my heart again, Lord, to want what You want. The trust fall began.
The creativity of the one who made the flowers and the heavens still amazes me. Only He would use a trip to Guatemala to spark the pilot light on our calling to Costa Rica, and then 5 years later, ignite the burner in those same mountains. “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps” Proverbs 16:9. What a privilege to see what He will use that fire to refine in us and inspire in others over the next 5 years.