I recently wrote an article for our church newsletter that explains a little more of how we decided to move to Peru. Here it is:
‘Well, I never thought that God would send me abroad, if I am honest.’ Instead of looking shocked by my acknowledgement that this wasn’t a life-long calling, my interviewers exchanged a wry smile. ‘You’d be surprised how many people sit here and say that,’ they laughed, making me a feel bizarre combination of relief and fear. Did this mean that we might actually get accepted?
The story of us going to Peru with the Baptist Missionary Society (BMS) began a long time ago as all of the best stories do. When Neil was 17, somebody prayed for him, and talked about him working in Mexico with street children. He has carried this with him for nearly 20 years, thinking and praying about how to act on it. I, on the other hand, had felt no such calling. In fact, at around the same age, I strongly believed that although I wanted to serve God with all of my heart, he did not plan to call me overseas.
We began to feel that God was gently tugging us to move on, and so we began to tentatively explore possibilities. We spoke to BMS and we found out more about Peru. A family of long-term missionaries have been living in Cusco, Peru for a short while. They have begun a cafe church and the ministry is rapidly growing with student work, a children’s club and support for the community of Yucay, which has recently been flooded. BMS had us in mind to go out with them as mid-term missionaries and support their work. The plan would be to move to Birmingham in September to train at the International Mission Centre and then fly to Peru in January for 2 years, beginning with 3 months of much needed language school. BMS would fund a number of the costs, but we would need to raise living costs. The more that we heard, the more excited we got and I began to think that perhaps God had other things in mind for me than what I had decided on his behalf!
We went away and prayed for confirmation. I don’t often ask this of God, but I did wonder whether he could send a very clear sign of what to do, the equivalent of Gideon and his fleece. This didn’t happen, but there were little things, such as casual comments from a young person about me taking a gap year. One Passion[fruit], we also looked at how Mary would have felt when she found out that she was pregnant with the Son of God. We decided that it was a mixture of scared, excited and completed freaked out, yet her response was ‘I am the Lord’s servant. Let it happen as you have said.’ Even as I spoke the words at Passion[fruit], I realised that this was how I felt about Peru and that I needed to echo Mary’s response. Neil felt at peace about going to Peru rather than Mexico and we began to seriously consider it.
The whole opportunity is so exciting. We hope that the experience will be great for the children as they learn a new language and live in a new culture. It is a huge adventure and will mean that we step out of our comfort zone in a way that we have never had to do before. It is a chance to fully rely on God; we will have to hold on to his promises that he will be there for us and provide for us. The passage about worrying and relying on God in Matthew 6 is already taking on a new significance. When I was baptised at 11, I said ‘I feel happy inside knowing that God is with me in my life and wherever he goes, I will follow him. Whatever he wants me to be in life, I will be. My ambitions can be forgotten because I love God so much that I am willing to give my life to him. After all, his son did the same for me.’ I stand by these words and want to serve him and others wherever that takes me and my family.
However, as people were congratulating us on the day that we were accepted, our initial feeling was one of shock. It was one thing to offer ourselves in this service to God and talk about doing it, but he was actually taking us up on it! Maybe this was a little of how Mary felt a few months after the Angel had visited and a baby bump was actually forming. We are truly excited, but still nervous. It is encouraging to see Daniel getting excited about Spanish, schools and Skype. He is picking up the language already, confirming that he and Sophia will be much better than us. It will be so hard to leave friends and family, but we look forward to this opportunity to serve God, knowing that he is hemming us in behind and before. And if you see me looking slightly bemused and wide-eyed in the months ahead, please pray for me and perhaps remind me of the words that I have written here.