February 1, 2011…two friends and I were ready to board a plane in Hong Kong and finish our journey back to the United States. We had just completed a visit into a tribal church planting work in Papua New Guinea, helping with some finishing touches on a new airstrip and the beginnings of a new office for the missionaries in the bush location. A nearly two-week excursion was coming to a close, and we were each eager to return to our families, yet somewhat saddened at the brevity of our stay.
Fast forward one year, to February 1, 2012…our family is marking the beginning of our seventh month living in that same Papua New Guinea that I visited a year ago. Our new home is in the highlands of PNG, not in a tribal location, but it is PNG just the same. As we reflect on the journey that God has guided us on as a family, we cannot help but stand in awe at what He has done.
At the outset of that trip last year, none of our family had an inkling of what God had in store for us. But as is so often the case, God had chosen to reveal His plan for us in small increments. Perhaps it’s because if we knew the “big picture” we’d dash off and try to find a way to accomplish the end result without going through the small steps that God desired us to take. Maybe it’s because God knew that He had trials and challenges in mind which He wanted us to go through in order to learn to lean on Him…and of course we wouldn’t steer ourselves into those situations willingly. Whatever the reason, God made it very clear to Marcy and me that He was calling our family to be a part of the mission work in PNG.
And now, after six months of living in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, we see God’s hand at work in our lives, strengthening our faith in Him. Parts of those six months were the most difficult times that Marcy and I have ever struggled through. Transitioning into a new culture, two new careers, helping our sons in a new school, can be somewhat burdensome. And yet, we’ve found that we can rely upon the One whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light. We’ve seen that the God who knows the plans He has for us, will most certainly be found faithful to bring those plans to fruition. And if the journey necessitates struggles and trials, we continue to learn that we can trust that all things work together for good, because we love God and trust that we have been called by Him into this ministry.
So today, at the beginning of month number seven in PNG, we can celebrate together. We rejoice that God is allowing us to be here to serve Him. Things are much different for our family today than they were one year ago. We once had two cars, and both Marcy and I had driven daily for some 25 or so years…now I’ve been behind the wheel of a vehicle three times in the past six months, and Marcy has not driven since we got here. We commute to our jobs by foot, but that’s not hard since the school we both serve in is less than a five minute walk from our house. Our former living room had a nice television which we enjoyed, probably a bit more often than we should have…now we’ve got a much older television on which we watch an occasional DVD, and we haven’t seen live TV programming since we’ve been here. Marcy’s new job is one she last did eight years ago, and I’m now teaching…something that I had never done before professionally. And yet our inadequacies and the new life circumstances only cause us to trust the Lord for the strength to go through each new day.
We don’t know how God’s plan will unfold, what He has in store for us next year, or even tomorrow. But even with major changes in occupation, housing and culture, and shifts in daily routines, we recognize how richly blessed we are to be serving our Lord in any small part. He continues to show us new parts of His plan, and provides the means to take us through each new challenge and opportunity. We’ll simply trust Him and know that He will lead us where He wants us to be. That’s what we did last year. What a difference a year makes.