I am daily amazed that God would choose to bless us through His Son, Jesus Christ! Though I am often reminded of my “new” disposition when immersed in His Word, I am also mindful of the way things were before I knew Him. One of the greatest joys of seminary has been the opportunity to look back over the last fourteen years as a Christ Follower with a greater depth of theological understanding. Studying God’s Word, His attributes and the life of His Son allowed me to see more clearly God’s regenerative sanctifying work in not only my life but the lives of my family members, our friends and people all over the world. I dare not imagine our circumstances had God not chosen to move us by His Spirit to respond to His grace. Not long after experiencing His saving work, I watched Him begin to rebuild everything that I had torn down. Two of my sons were baptized, careers were changed, radical moves were made, and out of obedience, we have seen God’s blessings poured out on our lives. Living in Huntsville for five years, working in a career that we did not deserve, it seemed as if God had handed us the American dream, but something began to stir in my heart.
For nearly two years I quietly battled against an increasing sense that the majority of my time had to be spent fully engaged in sharing the life changing gospel of Jesus Christ. I developed every rational excuse why I couldn’t until finally, while on a Starbucks date night with Cari, I tearfully shared with her this battle. Entering into an intense time of prayer, we found ourselves over-evaluating the varying input offered from ministers of why we should or shouldn’t consider professional ministry as a way of life. Not long afterwards, we were offered an executive position with a small defense company and rationalized it as our response to God’s calling on our lives. Much to our surprise, the battle continued to intensify to the point where I remember throwing my hands in the air telling Cari I just needed to go on a mission trip. Un-churched until age 36, I really didn’t even know what I had just said other than I knew people in our churches went to foreign lands to share the gospel. We were already quite busy serving in the inner city ministry, teaching a singles’ class, chairing the women’s ministry and occasionally speaking at the singles contemporary service, yet the battle raged on. Regardless, thirteen days and six immunizations after making that statement, I was on a plane bound for Rwanda.
There are so many amazing stories from that trip that I would love to share with you – like the many ways in which God used 24 people over 8 days to bring over 1,300 people under His grace or how the medical team managed to care for 600 patients or how the counseling and leadership training team was able to preach the gospel over the national radio station or how a young man named Moses led us into a town hall meeting where the mayor let us speak or how people were begging for Bibles or how when we worshipped with the children at the orphanages, their voices resonated from their hearts with such passion that we were certain we were surrounded by angels. But instead of writing a book, I would like to share one story that has radically changed my perspective on the Christian life. Late one afternoon, the missions’ pastor and I found ourselves surrounded by about 25 teenagers outside a market. Though we were exchanging smiles, the language barrier was keeping us from much meaningful communication. The new national language of Rwanda is English and while we found that young children spoke English well and those over thirty-five were fluent in French and Kinyarwanda, the teens spoke Kinyarwanda best. The pastor spoke French, and we both spoke English, but, needless to say, our Kinyarwanda was pitiful. Regardless, we attempted for some time to share the gospel with them in French and English with little success. We even attempted to play out the gospel in a mini-drama, but as darkness was settling in we considered heading back to the mission house. Yet, just as we were about to walk away, the most amazing thing happened. Unknowingly, a young man named Peter had been standing off to the side watching what was taking place and at that very moment, he walked up to us and said: “I speak French, English and Kinyarwanda and I am going to help you!” God’s hand in His redemptive work was unmistakable and twenty minutes later, twenty teenagers lives were radically changed forever! At that moment, I knew what Cari and I had to do.
A little over a year after being with the new company, we committed our lives and everything God had resourced us with to sharing His grace with all who would listen and making Him tangible to His people by engaging them in the mission. We stepped out on the water and enrolled in Southern Seminary full time. Seminary is a tremendous place for intensified theological study, and so much more. We discovered that it is also a place and time for God to strip us of our prideful self-sufficiency. It is where God forced us to work out our biblical convictions and molded us to His calling on our lives. Seminary also provided us the opportunity to look at the unsettling global realities of Christianity and the growing negative impact some major religions are having on the world. At the same time we were able to critically evaluate areas where God is moving mightily. Amazingly, what we discovered is that where pretense is being stripped away, where biblical principles are being applied and where God’s people are as focused on being the church as they are on going to church, thousands upon thousands of people are being redeemed to their Creator!
We won’t deny that over that last three years we have doubted His calling to commit the entirety of our lives to making known God’s path for life to the world. We have experienced every possible emotion that comes with doubt, and we are ashamed to admit that there were days where we were far from representative of the Christ who had adopted and transformed us. Not surprisingly, in those seasons of doubt, people were more than ready to let us know that it was very possible we were headed in the wrong direction. Yet, and especially on the days when we were ready to completely give up, God would faithfully step in through His Word and His people and encourage us to persevere. Though I have enjoyed studying Greek, it has been very difficult for me to learn. Despite the challenges, I will never forget the coincidental requirement to translate three passages consecutively during a recent season of struggle. In the middle of Romans 5:1, James 1:1, and 1 Peter 1:1), we are taught the same thing. We are taught to not only persevere in trials, but to rejoice in them as the genuineness of our faith is proven out and our awareness of the necessity of faith in Christ is increased. Over the last several months as our resources have continued to work their way past our risk mitigation plan, an amazing thing has started to happen. Unsolicited, people have began to approach us and offer to support the missions work we are involved in. Unfortunately, we had not yet reached the point where Compass Life was a reality, and there was no place for them to send money. As these unsolicited offers increased, we were led to intensify this now clearly affirmed direction to stand up a missions organization, and on November 21, 2012, Compass Life (A 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization) was born.
We realize that God leads His people to serve in many varying capacities over one’s life, and sometimes we question why He moves us along certain paths. But now we know that everything we have experienced and learned over the last three years has brought us to this point – to fully depend on our sovereign God for everything and to finish well by sharing His amazing story with the world through the ministry of Compass Life. God calls all of us to pray, to give generously and to go in different seasons and in varying capacities in our lives. Our prayer is that you will put up less of a fight than we did regardless of what God calls you to do! We pray that God will move some of you to undergird Compass Life through prayer, giving or going, but most of all, we pray that all of you will become increasingly missional where you live, work, worship and play! The majority of the world (67%) needs to hear the story of God’s work in your life! Global missions begin with you, your family and your neighbors.
In closing, our seminary journey has allowed us to read about some incredibly faithful Christians to include, of course, the apostles but especially Paul, people like Augustine and Luther and Calvin, and men like George Mueller and Hudson Taylor. All of these men possessed incredible faith in Christ and an unmatched reliance on the provision of God. We would ask that above all else that you would pray for us to have even a small semblance of the faith of these men! May God bless you as we celebrate the season of His Son’s birth, and may you always remember that God chose you to share in and share with others the freedom that comes with the grace He offers!
May His grace and peace fill your hearts,