Last year, our family left the mountains of Mexico in unexpected and rather sudden fashion. Our field leadership, concerned both for Amy’s health and the degree of ongoing stress affecting our family, sent us back to the States for a medical leave of absence. The departure process felt like a whirlwind as we packed, planned, and left things in the village as prepared as possible for an indefinite absence.
Arriving at a Christian counseling center in California, we were not in good shape. Already beyond exhausted, we felt incredibly discouraged and filled with doubt. Parts of leaving the mountains were significantly more difficult than we had anticipated, and we later learned that our mountain house had come under heavy assault from leaks, mold, and termites. Though repeatedly turning and returning to trust in the Lord’s greater plan and love for us, we found ourselves deeply shaken. God, in His great grace and mercy, brought us to the Link Care counseling center at just the right time – ministering to our family through both their staff, and other missionaries also facing challenging seasons in ministry.
Eight weeks of hard work in California proved a fruitful investment of time and funding. We cannot possibly thank you all enough for helping with the costs of that program, and of ongoing work during this season Stateside! Between medical tests and work with our Link Care team, we learned that Amy’s sleep problems and other symptoms stemmed largely from the effects of high levels of stress – and, that both of us were handling stress in unhealthy ways. Some of this stemmed from an honest desire to be faithful in ministry no matter how hard our circumstances became, but we also came to recognize within ourselves a deep concern for how others view us. Our counselors were faithful partners with the Lord in shedding light on this area of sin in our lives, and helped us get onto a good trajectory for continued growth and healing. We were grateful to see confirmation that our kids were dealing well with all the twists and turns of the past several years.
Leaving California, our family drove north to Ferndale, WA. We moved into an apartment a short walk down the road from my brother Josh, which was lovingly furnished by our extended family. In many ways, our hard work at Link Care left us even more tired than before – but there, at last, we had an opportunity to actually rest. We started Link Care’s recommendations for follow-up work, continued counseling and medical testing, and learned about new health concerns either missed or ignored while in the mountains. Our overall progress came slowly – at times feeling like ‘two steps forward, one step back’ was too optimistic. Amy has had to deal with another ‘down’ cycle in her symptoms (though improved from before), and for over two months I faced great difficulty with sleeping normally. Yet we kept working on the next thing, taking life one day at a time, and repeatedly saw God’s faithfulness while coming back to Him through it all.
In May, two of our field leaders (and good friends) from Mexico flew north to visit us. Their visit was a great blessing and encouragement – thanks to all of you who lifted our time together to God in prayer! Our time with them led to several other prayerful conversations: with friends and family, some of our partner churches, and between ourselves and the Lord. After careful deliberation, trusting God’s provision for the wisdom we have sought from Him, Amy and I have reached two major decisions.
First, we have resigned from the Nahuatl church planting team. This decision was not made quickly; frankly, it has been heart-breaking. Among many other things, it represents returning to God a hope which He had entrusted to us – one toward which Amy and I have striven, in one form or another, since before getting married fifteen years ago! Yet we recognize that our ongoing health questions alone currently prevent us from being able to serve in mountain ministry, and that other challenges affect our ability to return well. Since hoped-for resolutions to medical concerns will not come on any predictable timetable, we cannot leave so many – the Nahuatl believers, our coworkers, and those in Las Moras who still need a faithful Gospel witness – waiting on our health in such open-ended fashion. As we step aside, our hope is to see the Lord provide another pair of families to step in and serve our friends and neighbors in Las Moras alongside Katie and Rachel – and we ask you to join us in praying for His provision in Las Moras, by whatever means He knows are best.
Our second major decision, with the agreement of our field leadership team and home church, is to return to ministry in Chihuahua for the 2022-2023 school year. While much has changed in our lives, raising many questions about the future… we continue feeling the weight of least-reached people groups, who need Jesus just as profoundly as we do. Returning to Chihuahua sets up a transition year for our family, in which – while continuing the search for answers to our health questions, and striving to grow more Christlike in areas of weakness – we can keep participating in the Great Commission, supporting other missionaries in Mexico who work toward that same end. A role in technology work seems the most likely starting point for me (Jordan) – working on everything from web and infrastructure to user support. There are several options to consider for Amy’s involvement – there is no shortage of work needing done! – and, after a while, I may begin teaching a class or two in the Spanish language Bible school as well. Our time in the village has taught us how vital support ministries are in support of church planters, and we count ourselves privileged to in turn uphold others in this work.
While continuing to serve and heal in the year to come, we also hope to discern to what ministry roles the Lord will lead us long-term. Although returning to a church planting role seems unlikely, we want to prepare to serve well in whatever purposes He has planned for us. Exploring that prayerfully will be another key part of the months ahead. Meanwhile, access to Chihuahua’s mission school gives our kids some much-needed consistency after the many unknowns of this past year (our son Joel, when asked recently about his friends at home, replied, “We don’t stay anywhere, we just travel around,”). They already eagerly anticipate having classmates their ages when Fall studies resume, while Amy and I are grateful for time gained from setting aside home school responsibilities.
Today, our family is preparing once more for cross country travel and an international move. God has already provided a semi-furnished house for us to rent in Chihuahua, and our former teammates have blessed us by packing and transporting several key belongings from Las Moras to Chihuahua. All of this will greatly ease our arrival and settling-in process, and gives us a sense of ‘home’ at the end of the long road ahead. Our final days in Ferndale are already upon us: we are packing up this apartment God provided, noting things done ‘for the last time,’ and well into goodbyes with family and friends. We treasure your prayers during the days and weeks to come!
As we look forward, the road ahead seems less clear than in years past… as if passing through hilly country, where each twist and turn is obscured as we approach. Yet, if this season of life has taught us anything, it is how completely the Lord is worthy of our trust. He leads gently – yet firmly – however He desires. Our responsibility and privilege is simply to look to Him, face life’s changes in His strength, and follow wherever He goes. We look forward to learning the specific ways in which God will lead us to serve Him, as next steps become clear in coming months… but then as now, our rest comes in remembering that He is always with us in every step of the journey, and that all of these things will be worked out to His ultimate glory.
- While Stateside these past several months, we have continued to receive encouraging updates from Las Moras regarding the spiritual growth of the Nahuatl believers. They grow less dependent upon the missionary team, and more directly lean upon the Lord – exhibiting fruit of His Spirit clearly in their lives. Much work still lies ahead, but we love hearing how Jesus’ life shines clearly through our Nahuatl brothers and sisters in Christ.
- It would be difficult to overstate our gratitude for God’s provision of this season of life. He granted us an opportunity to set aside the grind of mountain ministry, and gain perspective on challenges we could barely perceive while working continually to balance our many responsibilities there. We thank Him for knowing our needs, and caring for us even in areas where we did not know to ask for His help.
- God’s kindness to us is evident in so many ways – not least among them being His provision, yet again, of a home for our family. The first time we moved to Chihuahua, when Amy was seven-and-a-half months along with Joel, He spared us an in-country search for a house and furnishings. As we return now, He has done the same thing for us once more: granting us a place to go, with many furnishings and appliances available for easy purchase.
How to Pray:
- In leaving Las Moras, we trust the Lord with the needs of the Nahuatl church, the greater community surrounding Las Moras, and our former team. This truly has always been the case, yet the act of stepping away makes that choice of faith hit more explicitly. Please continue with us in prayer for the Nahuatl people, His church among them, and all those who the Lord raises up to serve them.
- We are deeply grateful for your continued intercession for our health, and for wisdom, insight, and humility in challenging conversations which remain ahead of us.
- For the work of packing and moving, which begins here in Ferndale and will continue into the month of August. Please pray for our family in the hard leave-takings and joy-filled greetings ahead, and the settling-in process upon which we are about to embark.