Five years ago, our family was knee deep in preparation for our sabbatical in Kenya. I had purchased a new devotional at the beginning of 2016: The Songs of Jesus by Tim Keller. This is a journey through the book of Psalms, and it was both amazing and heartening to see so many passages speak into our day-to-day life with relevance both timely, and timeless, as only Scripture can do. I think there are a couple of posts here on the blog about ways God used the Psalms in our lives then. Lately, I have been sort of re-living some of those experiences as I am re-reading the devotional, this time together with our children in our homeschool. The reminders of how God is faithful to lead, instruct, encourage, comfort, and carry us have been very precious to my sometimes fretful and forgetful heart.
Not many people can say that 2020 turned out the way they would have expected, I am sure. (Anyone? Anyone at all?) For our family, the pandemic was really just one more shade of weird and unpredictable on the wide spectrum of the unexpected, albeit a bold one. It is already over 4 years ago that Ryan was first approached about the possibility of a missionary appointment at the Theological College of Northern Nigeria; not much of this process has moved quickly. There are more things to “blame” than Covid that have contributed to the fact that 14 months after Ryan’s role as pastor at Faith Church came to a close, we are still living in Pella, Iowa, and not in Jos, Nigeria, where we had been planning to move in early 2020. Not only that, but we are still living in the parsonage that we moved into 15 years ago when Ryan was first ordained here. Nobody feels weirder about that than we do, believe me, and at the same time, we are grateful for the stability that staying in this house has given us. (I wanted to mention this, because some have asked us if we have a place to live while we wait, knowing that, since having lived in the parsonage as part of Ryan’s pastoral role, we did not own a home here in Pella. Faith Church has supported Resonate Global Mission in this tangible way, providing housing, as we could not get to the house prepared for us in Nigeria.)
So it is that 2020 brought this already long-drawn-out transition to a head for our family. In the midst of various complications — from small things like medical appointments getting postponed, to medium-sized things like a passport being lost, to big things like a pandemic shutting down airports — we have felt much like Paul must have when he describes being prevented from doing the work and making the trips he thought were before him (see Acts 16, and Romans 1 and 15). We decided to set aside a period of time for intentional, focused prayer and Bible study as a family to seek direction and wisdom concerning our plans to move to Nigeria. We have sought the Lord, and He has answered us. Through passages of Scripture, devotional readings we were already following, “verse of the day” offerings on the Bible app, songs sung and sermons heard in church, a timely word from a friend, and so on, our hearts have felt God’s presence, listened for His voice, and sensed His leading. We are especially thankful for helpful and encouraging conversations with our Resonate leadership team as we have discerned a way forward together.
As you can read in the attached newsletter, the next step in our family’s journey looks different than we had hoped or expected. We are planning for Ryan to make a trip to Jos on his own, and pray that he will be able to have a productive and meaningful time in person at TCNN for the remainder of this semester. Our plans for what happens after that are under construction. There is grief and disappointment that something we (and many others) have poured so much into for so long is still not coming to the fruition we had expected and planned for. There is some frustration that we continue to wait for God’s timing for our family to move. At the same time, we are confident that none of this has been surprising to God, and He will make each step of the way plain in His time as we seek to serve Him with joyful and obedient hearts. We have committed our way to the Lord, and will keep doing so; we trust in Him, and know that He will act. (Psalm 37:5) We pray that we will not see all these delays as wasting time or effort, but as time used to teach us to rely ever-increasingly on the Lord, and to draw us closer as a family as we seek His direction together. As we wait upon the Lord, we claim His promise that our strength will be renewed. (Isaiah 40:31) Sure, we may never fully understand what has sometimes felt to us like wandering in the wilderness, but our God is the one who makes streams in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19) We rest in this:
Oh, the depth of the riches,
both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
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