I was sitting on a pew at a mission’s conference my sophomore year of college, listening to my missionary “aunt” talk about when God called her to missions. I grew up in Brazil, and I had come to see Aunt Jo while she was in town. She spoke about how God had called her to give Him her talents, which was fashion/design. I had only ever thought of missionaries as pastors and lay people. She said “yes” to God without knowing how He would use her gifts, and as the rest of the story unfolded, I knew. And with each step I took to towards the altar, I released any plans or rules that I had made for my future.
Shortly after, I met Joel. We had been dating for a year, when one day, I started to panic. “Lord! I love Joel, but he is a business major. How can I go overseas if I marry a businessman?” The Lord reassured me that He had things under control, and that I needed to trust Him.
We married, and my desire to go overseas intensified. But I felt strongly the urge to pray that if God had called me, He would give Joel the same desire in his heart. And so the praying began.
10 years later, Joel and I were standing in with sweat dripping down our faces in a village in the Dominican Republic. I was looking up at him, smiling. He said, smiling back “Don’t even think about it!” We returned six times, each time Joel felt God’s call stronger and stronger to something bigger than the company he was running.
Little did we know we would be applying to be missionaries a year and a half after that first trip in missions. As we looked for a mission’s agency, TEAM stood out to us in their presence in South America and their innovative approaches to reach the unreached. We both were college athletes, so sport’s ministry was an option. I have a passion for teaching, and Joel is skilled in business administration and leadership. We both have seen God use us in developing meaningful relationships here, and want to continue that.
As Joel and I prayed for where and what God wanted us to go and do, we both knew He was leading us to start something new with TEAM. TEAM approached us with Colombia because they were reopening the field and needed a couple that was willing to innovate and see what God was doing there already. Joel and I looked at each other and knew. It’s Colombia.
I was soaking with sweat sitting on a Dominican bus coming back from a hard day’s work in a small Dominican village and I felt the overwhelming presence of God giving me my purpose. All I could feel was my current life just wasn’t what He had for me anymore. Those previous 34 years were great and God had me where He wanted me for that season but now there is something more. I sat there in that sweaty moment and turned to my wife and saw her with this grin that can only mean one thing… I immediately said, “Oh man, don’t even think about it!”
Days later we arrived home but life started to take on a new vantage point. God had pulled back the covers of life and I didn’t just see the way I used to see. Soon thereafter the friends and people around me noticed the change in me and who I was. A few months went by and Steve our pastor called me into his office and told me, “We see what’s going on here man…,” In a panic, I thought “Have I committed some egregious sin and now am going to pay for it?” In reality, Steve saw what God was already doing and went ahead and pushed me into putting it into practice. I laughed as he asked me to step up as the Missions Director/Pastor at the church, trust me when I say, no one in my life would have thought this would be a job title behind my name! I sat there and thought this must have been some kind of cruel joke. I blurted out a big “YES!” to his proposal.
From there God began his all-out blitz to get my attention focused on His call to our family becoming international missionaries. I put up a meager fight as I tried to cling to the comfortable life our family had with our business, friends, and family. After a long period of time struggling to get a grip on the WHY, I finally realized this was probably going to be a less than productive practice to continue to fight God! In that moment of realization, I got to where I sat alone in my favorite brown leather chair in my office and in that quietness said, “God, I am giving this up to you, as much as I want to be in control I don’t do a good job at that anyway. We will follow wherever you have us.” As I mull all this over and consider what I have done I realize I have got to tell my family about this… What will I say, how will I tell them?
I find Angel and tell her in the most uncolorful blunt way my mind could muster that, “I think we need to pursue becoming full-time missionaries. I don’t know where and I don’t know what we will be doing but we need to be missionaries.” From there we began a unique experience to us, for sure. Soon it was apparent that we had found an organization, TEAM, that really aligned with what God had called us to. They were unique in the way they did ministry as well as they had a heart for Latin and South America. So one day I just sat down and filled out a ‘contact us’ application and the next thing you know I was on the phone with a missions coach...
Little did I know what He had in store for our family.