We returned from our honeymoon July 24, 2010. It was a Saturday. Lindsay asked, "Where do you want to go to church?" knowing we weren't completely satisfied with where we attended during our dating years. We both recognized our mutual desire to go to the mission field, and that we needed to find somewhere that would support our vision for missions. We decided that day to attend Heritage Baptist Church the next morning. Never did we realize how significant a decision that was until now - almost a week away from departure!
Our first Sunday there, we went to a young married's Adult Bible Fellowship (similar to Sunday School). We sat next to another young couple, also new to Heritage, from Massachusetts. Immediately we began in conversation and next thing you knew, we were having s'mores on their back porch the following weekend. It was that initial engagement that kept feeding our desire to plug deeper and deeper into the Heritage community.
After a year of cultivating relationships we felt the natural next step was to pursue the ministry God called our family to - missions amongst the unreached - more specifically, Japan. We met with our Missions Pastor, Pastor Allen, for over an hour and he told us Heritage won't send our family to Japan until we complete the Missionary Development Process (MDP).
"The what?!" we thought.
"The MDP," he repeated.
This was a 4 year mentor pipeline aimed to develop missionaries to be sent from Heritage. We left that meeting a bit discouraged.
"4 years?!" we thought. "How could such a process take so long?!"
Many of you may not know this, but we actually left Heritage for about a month as we wrestled with what our next steps would be. We even became frustrated with the whole idea of the church "sending". We asked ourselves, "Why can't a mission agency just send us?" Well, we pursued that avenue while attending different churches in the area. We Google'd "mission agency". The first one that popped up was "WorldVenture". We contacted them and immediately got connected with a Missions Coach.
Lindsay and I affirmed each other saying, "Now, this is more like it. Quick. Easy. Let's get to Japan." Until she asked one last question before our phone call ended.
"Who is your sending church?" (cue the record being stopped noise).
"Um...well...you see...it's complicated. Could you just send us?" we asked naively.
"No, God designed the church of Jesus Christ to send missionaries. WorldVenture is a facilitator and a help to the local church in accomplishing that," she gently explained.
The WorldVenture rep questioned further, "Why not be sent by Heritage? We actually are familiar with their sending pipeline and think it's worth your investment."
We thought, "Oh no! That means we have to go back to Pastor Allen and tell him we were wrong."
Lindsay and I prayed on this a few weeks before setting up a dinner appointment with Pastor Allen. We explained to him our struggles with the length of time it would take to be sent if we did go through the MDP. We told him about our conversation with WorldVenture. And finally, we agreed to enter the MDP. We officially entered the MDP March of 2012.
And here we are the end of February, 5 years later ready to move our now family of 4 to Japan. A passage comes to mind as we reflect on this story of struggle, humility, grace and growth.
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts."
- Isaiah 55:8-9 -
We look back on our time during the MDP and we marvel in all that God accomplished.
Heritage Baptist Church is our sending church. We had nothing keeping us in Lynchburg after we graduated from Liberty University, except our affinity for Heritage. This is the church family that visited us in the hospital when Lindsay had an allergic reaction to a bad prescription and when both Clark & Mollie were born. This is the church family who brought us meals during those first few weeks of adjustment to being new parents...and then parents of two. This is the church family that welcomed us back when we thought the MDP would take too long. This is the church family who confronted us on weak spots in our marriage and parenting. This is the church family who provided us housing while we raised support. This is the church family who hired me on their pastoral staff to give me leadership training. This is the church family who has discipled our family to where we are today - not perfect but far better than where we started.
This is the church family that sent us out to see God's Glory in Japan.