The Next Chapter: Destination Guatemala

So this chapter of my story begins when I was a little girl.

Every night my Dad read to my sister and me from a biography or autobiography of a hero of the faith. Sometimes they were people like Corrie ten Boom, who survived the Holocaust and went on to do amazing things for God in the second half of her life. But often the stories were those of missionaries, people like Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, who pioneered the giving of the Gospel to the Auca people of Ecuador. Jim, who laid down his life for the sake of love, famously said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Out of this reading time and through the influence of other godly men and women I met as a child, I developed a deep love for world missions. I came to understand that Jesus meant for us to take the gospel wherever our feet take us – and that for some, our feet are destined to travel far and wide. All of us have been given the charge by Jesus: “Go into ALL the world…and make disciples…” Some go to the furthest places; others send them there; all Christ-followers are intended to be a part of this Ultimate Assignment.

As a pre-teen, I came to understand that I have been given both the natural ability to teach and the spiritual gift of teaching. I often call it “the spiritual gift of kid”. At the time I thought that meant that I would be a school teacher for the duration of my working life. I had no idea all of the ways God could use that “gift of kid” outside of the classroom walls. But one of the deep dreams of my heart that started at age 12 was to teach missionary kids. I truly thought that I would teach in the American public school system until I got fired for sharing my faith and then I would go live and work at a school for missionary children somewhere in the world.

Because here’s the thing: I could go be a missionary anywhere in the world and make an impact of some sort. But by teaching the kids of missionaries, I am multiplying my impact. Instead of me being involved in one work, in one field in that place, I am positively impacting 20 or 25 works because I am teaching 20 or 25 kids. And I love how exponential that is!

Fast-forwarding through my life… God closed the door to classroom teaching in a completely different way than I ever dreamed He would. He did it 16 years ago so that I would accept the assignment of being the Director of Children’s Ministries at South Potomac Church. It has been a job that I cannot believe they pay me to do most of the time. And God has done amazing things in our children’s ministry over these years.

But the thing I am most grateful for is what He has done in me. Philippians 1:6 says that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on until the day Christ returns.” And He has been faithful in the work He has done in my life as I have walked with Him. He has changed me from the inside out time and again. He still has plenty of work to do, too. But this past fall, He used a book and a friend to reveal to me that I have been listening to some lies of the enemy in my life since my early 20’s. As I let go of the lies and started reveling in “the Voice of Truth”, God started doing some other amazing things.

This particular chapter started in early January. I was sitting at a restaurant in Guatemala with some friends, enjoying my vacation. Someone said something about me working in Guatemala and I replied with my typical smart mouth, saying something like, “That could only happen if everyone here spoke English.” My almost-50-year-old brain has struggled to learn Spanish and keeps mixing it up with Japanese, the language I learned in my 20’s. I didn’t think much of it at the time – it just seemed like a bad joke in the midst of some silliness.

About two weeks after that, I was talking with a friend about a responsibility that was sitting heavily on my shoulders. It was one of the many things that made me feel like I could not leave the area for an extended period of time without there being major negative consequences. All of a sudden, she looked at me and said, “What if our Bible study group took on that responsibility?” I was amazed – and am very grateful that they have followed through.

The very next day, I was having lunch with another friend who was a children’s pastor in her past. She had asked to meet and one of her main reasons was to tell me that she and her husband had decided to start attending South Potomac, my church. She asked if there was any way for them to be involved in ministry and I assured her there was.

That was a Friday. As I sat and had my time with the Lord the following morning, it struck me that for the first time in 16 years I am knee-deep with awesome volunteers in our children’s ministry. Among them, I have three people who are all more than qualified to do my job. I thought, “Any one of these ladies could do this job alone – but if all three do it, no one has to carry a very large burden.” I then wondered aloud to the Lord, “Is there a place in Guatemala where I could serve, using my gifts and abilities, that wouldn’t require fluency in Spanish?” I want to become fluent – but I know I am nowhere near that yet. I also know that living there will help me to become fluent. So I did a Google search for teaching English as a second language in Guatemala – and instead found a school for missionary kids, located in Guatemala City.

That started the next steps in the process – finding out if this was God’s direction or my own hare-brained scheme.
The first hurdle? The school website said they require a minimum two-year commitment. So I wrote and said, “I can only do a year if I come, would that be OK?” And they said, “Yes.”

Next hurdle? My teaching certificate expired ten years ago. So I asked, “Is that OK?” And they said, “Yes, for one year.”

I then asked my assistant, Tashia, for her permission to go. My leaving for a year saddles her with more than she is currently carrying. And she said, “Yes, you can go.”

And one by one, I talked to the stakeholders in my life, asking for permission to set down my responsibilities here for a year.
And one by one, they said, “Yes”.

Until finally it was time to ask the elders of my church for a year’s Sabbatical and the permission to go do this crazy adventure.
And they said, “Yes”.

So I officially applied to the school and have been hired for the next school year. I don’t know yet what grade I will be teaching. I do know that I will be living at the school in a dorm with other single female teachers. And I know I have to report to work on August 1st. I am sorting through the thousand and one details that have to come together as this happens. And God is providing every step of the way. He has given me sign after sign that this is right. This is of Him. And this is the next chapter.

Many, many people have asked, “Are you coming back?” And my answer is, “That is my plan.” I can only teach a year without doing something (like grad school) about that expired certificate. I have familial and financial ties here that will pull me back. But even more, I do not feel like God has released me from my job at South Potomac for good. Of course, He is always welcome to do whatever He wants in my life and He can change my itinerary whenever He chooses. That is part of the great adventure that is following Him!

So, there it is. My official “telling the internet” of my plans. If you are a Christ-follower and a person who prays, I would love for you to pray for me, for South Potomac, and for the kids who are going to be “mine” next school year. I will continue to post here on this blog throughout the year. If you don’t want to miss any posts you can sign up with your e-mail so that you get notified when they come. If you want more detailed monthly updates with specific requests, let me know and I will add you to that e-mail list.

And yes, I am raising financial support for this as well. I need about $4,000 to cover summer and outgoing expenses and then I will need $2400 each month to cover my expenses here in the US and there in Guatemala. All giving can be done through my church, and is, of course, tax deductible. But I truly need your prayer support more than I need your money.

I am looking forward to what God does over the next 5 months as I prepare to go, as well as how He is going to show up during the year I am gone. I know that this is not always going to be easy or fun. There will be hurdles, spiritual warfare and situations that bring me to my knees. But I am excited to follow the Good Shepherd wherever He leads, knowing that obedience to Him is the best way to thank Him for all He has done.

Destination: Guatemala!

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