How do you get a 60-pound girl to carry a 50-pound bag? How do you convince that same child that packing a rain coat is more necessary than packing a floppy brown stuffed beaver and a giant bag of bubble gum? How do you help your daughters cope with leaving their backyard chickens, a cat and dog, all of whom have been proclaimed to be “part of the family”? And what of our son who thinks a single pair of pants and some flip-flops will sustain him for three months?
With six days to go we are beginning to pack and slowly realizing that we are actually leaving for New Zealand. Leaving is something we do a lot—leaving for conferences, summer missions, spring break expeditions, road trips to see family—but traveling to the other side of the world for three months is new to us. It’s hard to imagine that we will soon be in a country with penguins and 8,700 miles of coastline.
As usual, I am optimistic (though some would call it unrealistic) about how light we can travel. I remembered that we would need a duffle for sleeping bags and tents and others for clothes, but I forgot about the computer, the heavy pile of rock climbing gear Dan has erected in the bedroom and my own homeschool resources that I set aside in September. Somehow that pile of books seemed smaller in the fall—and I can’t help but feel we are forgetting something.
Suddenly there are only six days to see all the people that we have been wanting to get together with over the year, to make arrangements for the ministry assignments that will happen when we return home, and to finish the eternal chore list by my bed. Glancing around the house I can only see the cleaning that needs to happen and I’m wondering, what do we do with our plants?
It seems I have more questions than answers. Not only in packing, but also in envisioning and preparing for what’s to come. Yet we are not the least bit concerned. I fear we are under-praying (but really, can you over-pray?) and I wonder if my “trust” in God’s provision is true faith or just a lack of care. With six days to go everyone is asking about our mental and emotional well-being. Shouldn’t we be more nervous? We still have not found an apartment, but thankfully some leads. Still no vehicle, but going with the assumption that we will find something when we get there. I have never met the staff members we will be working with, but Dan says they are nice. I don’t know much about the student body other than what is on the university website, and I know nothing about the Pacific Islands outside of seeing pictures.
It will all be new. We will be aliens in a foreign land. Still, I have not been anxious. I was just discussing this phenomenon with an older friend who nodded and explained that as you get older, you have had more opportunities to see God provide and you just trust Him. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen—(Hebrews 11:1).” I do not consider myself a spiritual giant, but I am encouraged by the words of my friend, because despite being six days away from a major expedition, none of us are stressed. I feel like we can walk into the unknown with confidence because God will lead us.
I have always thought that Abraham’s faith to leave his home and follow God to the promised land was an act of great courage. More than that, I think it was a deep assurance that no matter what happened, God would provide, and even if he faced hardship, God would see him through it. In fact, God intended for him to face whatever he would face, and in God’s sovereignty it would be for Abraham’s good, and for the good of his family.
I am not claiming to have the faith of Abraham. But I have been a beneficiary of God’s grace for over forty years now, and in almost twenty years on staff with Cru I have experienced God’s amazing and faithful provision.
Just since we made the decision a year ago to answer God’s call to go to New Zealand, He has provided a new tenant to watch over our home and cat and chickens—someone who has become part of our family and who we love and trust completely, who was undoubtedly hand chosen as a gift to us. He has provided someone to care for our dog, and has provided ALL the money we need to travel to New Zealand and to pay for rent, and just yesterday our pastor came over with a check that will help cover the expense for a car. He has provided a family who are co-workers who will go with us as a team so we will not be alone, and even some of our own family members have bought tickets to come and visit us! A couple of weeks ago we met a recent college graduate who attended our church in Vermont who will be in NZ at the same time we will; he now wants to volunteer with us while we are there. The Lord has even blessed us with one of the snowiest Decembers on record so we could experience some of winter before leaving it. (Grin!)
He has already provided all this, so how could I doubt that He would provide the rest? Truth be told, we are a little giddy over the excitement of the unknown and the surprises that God has for us—the treasures of His hand at work as He makes a way for us.
That being said, I DO worry about how we might get in our own way by not listening to God or being attentive to His urging. I don’t doubt that He will lead us but I sometimes doubt that we will wait and listen. We so want to approach this building of a new ministry with humility, as an offering of fellow Kingdom builders. I want the Kiwi staff members to experience us as ones who offer help to someone who is lifting a heavy frame of a wall, that we would rush alongside them to help heave the wall to standing. We want to help them tackle their goals, together. And I pray that God will give us the same heart for the students of New Zealand that we have for the students of New England. We want to reflect God and give Him glory. In short, we want to obey the words of my morning devotion as I wrapped up the book of Hebrews: “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God (Hebrews 13: 15,16).”
So, as we stuff the beaver in with the flip-flops and the rock climbing gear, I think of how God might use all of it for His glory, and I thank Him for providing duffle bags with wheels.