Another Way to Think About Careers
I don’t feel like going to my usual Sunday school class, I said to myself as I entered church. David is teaching a high school class so I think I’ll quietly merge into the back of the sanctuary and watch the video another class is showing.
God used my unusual decision to direct our lives in ways we had never dreamed.
David had taught in North Dakota high schools for 18 years and then at our local university for 12 years. He had obtained his masters in math education as well as a PhD in applied statistics. I had been a speech therapist, psychology teacher, special education aide and administrative assistant in our church. We were empty-nesters and living comfortable, predictable lives with established careers.
Since we always wanted to be where God wanted us, we were in the habit of discussing what God would have to do to get our attention if He wanted us doing something different. We always tried to make sure we were listening. God sometimes surprises us.
The video shown that Sunday morning was created by MissionNext. It clearly addressed those who were “mature,” and possessed established skills in almost any field. We were definitely “mature” being in our late 50’s and had skills. We had always supported missionaries with gifts and prayers. However, we had never considered going ourselves since our career didn’t included time spend as church planters, trained evangelists, doctors, nurses or Bible translators. We were just teachers.
Over Sunday dinner, I told David about the video telling him that there seemed to be needs for teachers around the world. We went to the MissionNext web site and signed up to see what would happen. After a month, in addition to several phone calls, we had a stack of mail over a foot high. We were completely overwhelmed by the myriad of options. We decided that if we were serious about this, we should go to a MissionNext Conference to get more face-to-face contact.
A fresh use for our careers
During the summer of 2002 we headed to a one in Atlanta, GA. At that time we were asked to fill out a brief questionnaire about our work history and careers. Copies were then made to present to mission agencies of our choice from among the many representatives at this conference. We met with six different agencies. During those appointments mission representatives asked questions about the information we provided and suggested many opportunities that could be available for us. We also attended many general sessions designed to help us understand needs and begin to address some of the logistical aspects of serving in another part of the world. We especially appreciated sessions on fundraising. We had always been happy to give to others, but not so happy about asking others to give to us.
As we neared the end of the conference, a speaker told us that we were probably overwhelmed and needed to take home all we had learned and spend time praying about God’s direction. During the last break David and I looked at one another and said that we were not overwhelmed and felt particularly drawn to one opportunity. Of course we shared and discovered that God had moved in our hearts in unison! Isn’t it amazing how He does that?
We soon found ourselves at Lithuania Christian College in Klaipedia, Lithuania where David taught math and I worked for the chair of the business department. We went there for three short term sessions. After that God led us to join Wycliffe Bible Translators and go to Black Forest Academy in southern Germany to teach children of missionaries. For seven years David taught high school math and I taught in a special education program.
Have these years been as comfortable as if we had stayed in North Dakota? Not at all!
During some of these mission years, we struggled with finances and relationships. We struggled to live in new cultures, teach new material in new ways and live under new language and cultural expectations.
Was everything hard? Not at all! We had opportunities to learn more about God’s character, love and faithfulness.
We have friends around the world. We pray that we have positively influenced those with whom we worked and played since 2003. As we now approach our late 60’s we have returned to the States but we have not left Wycliffe. Instead we are taking on different roles that don’t demand the same physical endurance as life in the classroom.
As long as God gives us the mental and physical ability needed, we plan to continue serving new Wycliffe members. David is assisting Human Resources by helping determine necessary financial budgets based on a members planned destination. Helen is available to advise families about resources for families whose children have academic needs.
Would we trade this adventure God has taken us on for the comfortable, predictable life? Not at all! The best, safest and happiest place we can ever be is where God wants us. That does not always mean easy but it always means good.
What ways could God use your career? Start asking questions and finding answers here.
Helen and her husband David confirmed God's first call to missions at a MissionNext Conference in 2002. After three short term (2-4 month) projects in Lithuania, they joined Wycliffe Bible Translators. They then taught for 7 years at Black Forest Academy in Germany. Black Forest Academy serves mostly US passport missionary families who work in over 50 countries throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. Now, back in the States, David continues to serve Wycliffe in a human resources capacity.