Welcome to the first post in our “What Does It Take” series, where we will begin the dialogue with thoughts and ideas answering the question “What does it take to send a North American family overseas to do missions work these days?” It is our desire for this to become a resource to other families who find themselves walking a similar road.
In no particular order, the first thing it takes is the DESIRE to please God more than to please humans (ourselves included). It sounds so pious in writing. There is nothing pious about it, though. Here’s why: That desire … it’s not born out of human will, effort, nor achievement. Sure, it takes faith. Absolutely, it takes a measure of courage and several measures of persistence week in and week out. However, without the Spirit of God infusing into us a deep, life-raising desire to serve Him above all … we would be left with a pile of selfish puddle-muck. Yes, I just made up “puddle-muck.” You know exactly what I’m saying. For me and my household, if God did not give us this desire to follow Him wherever He leads us, we would be clinging extremely tightly to our feelings of home and belonging here in Denver, to our family and dear friends. We would not leave our church. We would not leave our neighbors. We would keep our roots growing deeply & firmly right where they are. So really, it’s not that we’re all that special to desire this for ourselves, for our family. The LORD has moved and has given us the courage to respond in obedience to His leading … to live and work outside of our home country for the sake of making His name great among the nations. Most days, I’m completely grateful for that. There are some times when I am not, but He is working on me!
I am learning about this in Paul’s letter to the Galatian church. “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” In The Message, it reads, “Do you think I speak this strongly in order to manipulate crowds? Or curry favor with God? Or get popular applause? If my goal was popularity, I wouldn’t bother being Christ’s slave.” (2:10). The context is that Paul is chastising the Galatian brethren for behaving as judgmental Jews towards the Gentile believers within the church. Obviously, that is not the situation we are dealing with by going to Costa Rica to disciple Latinos who have been called to reach the unreached world for Christ through businesses. The principle, however, applies 100%. Paul is declaring that there is no way he would choose to preach a gospel that would tickle the ears of the Galatians, as some of them were guilty of doing. They ended up going down all types of wrong roads because they weren’t willing to steward and maintain the integrity of the message Jesus came to enact. The gospel, in its simplicity and its entirety, is precisely what we need to champion. Nothing more, nothing less.
For our family, it does mean forsaking our homeland, our family (by leaving them, not by cutting them off from our lives), the comforts of a 1st world life, a phenomenal home church, our dreams and desires for life in the beautiful state of Colorado, and many, many dear friends without whom we would not be the Footes that we are today. If we were about seeking the approval of our parents, our church leaders, our children, our neighbors, our business partners, our friends who are like family, our siblings, our small group, our mentors … then we wouldn’t even dream of doing something like this in the way God has called us and equipped us. As wonderful as we or some other people might think this “adventure” is … it’s still not “popular” as Peterson puts it. Even I sometimes object to myself going on this long obedience in the same direction! It’s amazing how God changes my heart when I am exposed to the truth of His living and active Word.
Time to get really real: After living in Denver for 15 years, this process of moving to Costa Rica, as a homeschooling missionary family with two, rambunctious adopted children, ages 9 and almost 6, one with special needs (IEP for dyslexia, sensory integration issues and more) and one gifted/advanced, grants us the blessing of the following difficulties & challenges:
1) Leaving elderly parents behind, knowing that one of them (my dad) could go and be with the Lord any day, due to his struggle with a rare form of Parkinson’s. It’s VERY possible that, if Daddy doesn’t leave this earth before we fly to Costa Rica, we could land in San Jose and get a phone call to come back – just like that. In faith, we have said our good-byes and made our peace with him … and when he is in glory, we’ll return to Denver for the funeral and other necessary arrangements. This probably means I won’t get to be with him when he dies. We have counted the cost and have realized we still need to go, when the Lord provides for us to go. This is not easy, by any means. And there are three other parents of ours who could wind up in a similar situation in the next 10 years. Here’s us. There’s the bridge. We’ll cross it someday … but for now, we have to plan and trust and wait.
2) Leaving siblings for whom we wish we could drop everything in our lives just to serve them. When we were kids, we fought. Being grown ups together hasn’t necessarily been a piece of cake, either. But … bottom line: we love our siblings (ok, MY siblings, Jordan is an only child) and their families and it breaks our hearts that we can’t focus on them because of the path the LORD has called us to walk. Thank God for Skype and FaceBook, Instagram and inexpensive plane tickets … but still, it’s a piece of our hearts we ache to fill with time and connection with them.
3) Gradually disconnecting from people who with whom we’ve had mutual investment for the last decade and a half. Yes, we can stay connected, but the learning we’ve done is pretty clear that to put roots down well in Costa Rica … we must uproot well in Denver. That “up” part of uproot – it’s going to hurt. At the same time – the fact that it’s going to hurt means we have deep roots here. That is NOT a bad thing! Good, yet hard. How much like LIFE!
4) Losing our sense of “home.” I won’t go into great detail about this because I’m a TCK (third-culture kid) and this item could be an entire blog site in itself. Also, I’ve always been partial to the idea that we’re not supposed to feel completely “at home” here on earth, anyway, since our citizenship really is in heaven. That being said … my desire to be comfortable has to be overcome by God’s work in me to lead me to desire to be wherever HE wants me and my family to be. We belong to Him!
5) Risking being misunderstood. Some of you who have walked this road know EXACTLY what I’m talking about. I will save my thoughts on this for another post … but let me say this for now: Satan HATES what God is doing in our lives. Therefore, He will attack with a vengeance. We have not been exempt from that reality. No one who has traveled this path has been exempt. If even Jesus, the Son of God, whom Satan fears, was tempted and attacked … how much more so those of us whom our Enemy views as puny peons? We have had to surrender our desire to be perfectly liked and understood, in order to follow God to Costa Rica. Even this week, we’ve been hit with the challenge of this struggle and we’ve come out of it learning that trying to please people is an empty endeavor. If we, however, strive to please God and bless people … we might actually have an impact on some lives in a small way!
Now, I turn to you, dear partner in ministry, and I ask: How have YOU had to wrestle with this reality of having to choose to please God above humanity, for the sake of global missions? What has it cost you? Were you to do it over again, what would do differently? What would you do exactly the same, but sooner, perhaps? Share your story! You never know whom you might bless!