(Joel) (Written in 2012)
About six years ago I felt God asking “Why are you so afraid to talk to me”. I knew immediately what my answer was. “I am afraid of what you will ask me to do. I am afraid you will send me to Africa”.
I grew up on a mission field. My father was a missionary pilot in Alaska and Russia for over 45 years. Still is. He is an incredible pastor, speaker, pilot and mechanic. Theologian, knows the bible inside and out. And I always thought that if that is what a missionary looks like, I can’t be that. I can’t live up to or be who my father is. Nor did I want to at the time.
I am the youngest of 4 and they are all pilots. Everyone expected me to follow and be a pilot, pastor or missionary. I didn’t want to be any of those. So I pursued engineering. Started a degree in Electrical/Mechanical Engineering because I heard they made good money. Got about 2 years into it and realized I really didn’t like engineering and that I really missed flying.
So I pursued professional aviation, but on my terms. I was going to do it to make money. Really quick I realized that entry level pilots don’t make that much money and I could make more money in sales and marketing.
For the next 10 – 12 years I pursued money. Met my wife, started a family. We were doing well. Brand new house. I was gathering my stuff. Growing up as a missionary kid, I didn’t have much stuff and I wanted stuff. I thought that it would make me happy. But I wasn’t. I was actually quite unhappy. Something was missing. Deep down I knew I was meant for something else. Something more.
About 7 years ago we started attending a small church in Duvall, WA. A big focus of the church was restoration of the heart and getting back to who we were meant to be. What part do we have to play in God’s story here on earth. And the true nature of God. Who he really is.
For many years I had this fear that if I got too close to God, he would take all my fun away and send me to some miserable place. I always thought that going to Africa as a missionary was to give up everything, put on a pith hat and go live in the jungle. Grew up seeing slide shows of missionaries to Africa and it scared me.
This is where I was coming from when God asked me the question of being afraid to talk to him.
He started to answer a number of my questions. Like, Why would I ask you to be someone I didn’t design you to be, or Why would I ask you to do something I hadn’t trained you to do or go someplace you didn’t want to go.
Psalms 37-4 does not say “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will make your life miserable.” No it says “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your ways to the Lord, trust in Him and He will do this”.
God created each and every one of us in a unique design. To fulfill a specific unique purpose in His kingdom. He placed certain desires in our heart to be a part of who we are. He wasn’t asking me to be my father. He also wasn’t going to ask me to do something or go somewhere he had not prepared me for.
Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I believe that verse to be as true today as it was back for the Israelite’s. That He has a plan for each and every one of us and that it is not to harm us but give us life. And to live that life to the fullest through Him and through serving Him.
I started hanging around Godly men that were living in their design and I started to believe this. I started to believe that I was meant for something more. God really did have a plan for my life and it was not to make me miserable. But what was it? Who did God really design me to be. I was working for a software company. I knew that was not it.
So 5 years ago I was at a men’s retreat, sitting on top of a mountain. The subject of the retreat was on restoration of the heart. It had been a great year of reawakening my heart and personal walk with God, so I was really in a good place. After one of the sessions, we were sent out to ask God a question. It was worded as if God was asking us the question…. “what can I do for you?” In my journal I rephrased it as me asking God, “What can I do for you” He had already done so much for me that past year I felt I wanted to do something for him. So I asked the question back. What can I do for you?
The answer I got blew me away. I felt the Holy Spirit come in and say, “I want you to fly. I trained you for a mission and a purpose 12 years ago, you just weren’t ready for my calling. Your ready now my son, I want you to fly. For the glory of God is man fully alive and you are fully alive when you fly.”
A number of years earlier I had given up flying in pursuit of money. And then when I got married, it was expensive and I felt I had more responsibility to my family than to my desire to fly. But at the core of who I was, I had always wanted to fly. It was one of my deepest desires. And here God was saying this is who I designed you to be. This is the talent and gift I have given you and I want you to use it for my Glory. The Glory of God.
So I started to fly again. I started to use it as a ministry to help other guys reawaken their hearts. I was amazed at how many people would come up to me and say that they had always dreamed of flying but never had the opportunity or it was too expensive. I could relate.
My dad once said that he had witnessed to more people in the cockpit of an airplane or over the cowling of an engine than anything else he had ever done. And he has spoke in front of thousands of people. I took that as this could be my mission. I didn’t need to go to “Africa” or Russia to be a missionary. This could be my mission field right here in the comforts of Duvall, WA.
God let me play in that for a bit. I became very involved in the leadership of several men’s ministries. And really continued growing in my relationship with Christ. But there was still something missing. I knew there was still something I was meant to be doing. God had something else for me.
On a men’s ministry weekend retreat He finally asked me. “What do you want to do?” I want to fly. I want to fly full time. I was still working for a software company and only flying a little when I could. The reply I got was “I can make that happen, but you have to do something for Me.” I knew exactly what he was asking. Sitting on a bank of a river 3 years ago, I said “Okay, I’ll go. Where ever it is you ask me to go, I will go. After so many years of trying to hide and ignoring the call on my life. I said “okay, I’ll go. Even if that means Africa.”
I came home from that weekend and walked through our house. My dream house with all our stuff. The feeling was amazing. I remember saying, “I will give this all up, to pursue what God has for my life over what I have for my life.” I had spent the last however many years pursuing money and my plan for my life and though we had done well, we really weren’t happy. And I knew in my heart that if I started pursuing God’s plan for my life, the joys and experiences and fulfillment would be unimaginable. And so even though it began with a desire to fly, my true passion has become to serve Christ in his plan for my life.
To back things up a bit, I didn’t grow up in the mission field, or church for that matter.
I believed in God, but a distant God who I could send prayers up to, but never quite understood how He chose to answer yes or no. I just hoped I was good enough for Him to listen to my requests and give me what I asked for.
I accepted Christ as my personal Savior when I was 25, but my prayer conversations were still directed one way … up …and I never considered that Jesus might have something to say to me in return.
Little did I know that Jesus had A LOT He wanted to say to me once I sat still long enough to listen.
Missions had been the last thing on my mind. In fact, the first missionaries I ever met were my mother and father in law. They were very nice, very normal, but Joel and I had our own life going in a different direction and I liked it that way.
So when Joel came home and mentioned missions, I think I gave a different answer than he was expecting. What Joel didn’t know was that the Holy Spirit had been speaking to my heart for the past 5 weeks at our church women’s bible studies. The way our bible studies were held was to have a speaker talk for a bit about the week’s topics, then have some quiet journaling time to connect with the Lord about whatever questions were presented by the speaker.
Every Tuesday, it didn’t matter what was mentioned from the front, my journal time involved a memory and how my life was always made for missions. The Lord was showing me that everything I was, even before I had given Him control of my life, all my childhood dreams and aspirations were desires placed there by Him. His plans for me hadn’t started the day I gave my life to Him, His plans started before I was born.
In each scene, even as a little girl, I was drawing people to me to bring to Him.
Even the career I had chosen, to be a cardiac cath lab tech, was not about healing, comforting the sick, and making pretty good money while doing it like I thought it was. Although physically healing hearts was what I went to do every day, the bigger picture was my desire for their hearts to be spiritually healed by the Great Physician, our Lord and Savior.
With each revelation, my heart felt more and more like it was going home.
You see, like Joel, I had pursued money. And like Joel, something was missing. I was missing God’s will as my focus. Everything was tied to the truth that my heart already knew. “Commit your ways to me, and I will give you the desires of your heart.”
That was 4 years ago, and God continued the healing journey to prepare my heart for what lies before me. His truth, His mercy, and His restoration gave new life to areas long dead. Areas I thought too dark for even Him, were not too dark.
The beautiful thing about our Savior is that He doesn’t waste a thing. 25 years of living my life on my terms in this dark world left significant room for restitution, but the time we spent together rewriting my story from His perspective established unshakable trust in His leadership over not only my life, but my children’s as well.
The Lord is always trying to bring us back on track, onto the path He designed each of us to follow.
Isaiah 61 means a lot to me because it talks about Jesus binding up the brokenhearted, proclaiming freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners. That brokenhearted, captive, imprisoned person was me who was set free by the mercy of Christ.
Isaiah 62 goes on to say “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.”
The beauty that radiates from knowing who we are in Christ, no matter where our path led us in the past, is transformational and a great source of hope for the future.
It is my prayer that the women of Africa will experience that hope, that identity, that beauty.
It is my prayer that their hearts, like mine, will find their true home.
So while Joel is flying out to the remote villages, I will be a willing vessel for the Lord to draw out healing and restoration for women and children. Listening with love and understanding because I experienced a lot of those wounds too, praying for release from darkness, and playing my part in the Lord’s Master Plan.
Where we are at now. We were accepted with AIM and AIM AIR November 2010 as full term missionaries to Nairobi, Kenya. AIM has been in Africa for over 115 years. Their main focus is starting Christ Centered Churches among all African People. Training nationals to pastor and grow these churches within their own communities. They have several bible universities and hospitals there in Kenya and have started thousands of churches in urban and rural Africa with national pastors. AIM AIR is there to support that work along with supplying air support for about 70 other Christian organizations. Moving missionaries, local pastors, medical personnel, teachers and work teams to villages throughout Africa that are normally inaccessible by road.
It’s hard to believe that there are still thousands of villages in Africa not on a road system. The only way in or out is by airplane or walking trail. There are still over 900 people groups in Africa that have never heard the good news of Jesus Christ.
I’m not a seminary trained pastor or teacher or doctor. All the things I thought you had to be to be a missionary. But God gave me the ability to be a pilot and a passion to server others. To take my gifts and talents to serve Him and fulfill my part of taking the Great Commission to the far reaches of the Earth.
And as for Africa. God has placed a desire for these people in our hearts deeper that we could ever imagine.
I was asked the other day what my biggest fear was now. My answer was “My biggest fear now is that we wouldn’t be able to go.” That something would happen and we would not be able to go and serve these people.
Please follow us to Africa as this calling on our family’s life unfolds.