“How soon can you guys get here?” I texted my friend and future church planting teammate on one particularly dark day in the Czech Republic. I continued, “We’re fine. Just hurry out here. I’m feeling especially isolated and know that your nearby friendship will do me good.”
Neither one of us knew that within weeks they would receive their visas to join us and we would receive a call to move back home to the United States. They arrived in October ready to be on our church planting team. We left in November to care for my father who was spiraling in his condition with Alzheimer’s and Dementia, with me being his only available family to provide support and care.
Last week my family was back in Brno, Czech Republic for a visit after being gone for a year and a half. On our first day together my friend and I wept, thinking how energizing and encouraging it would have been to work side by side. In a spiritually dark place (Czech has an evangelical population of less than 0.5%), teammates can mean the difference between thriving and languishing. How sad I still feel that we recruited them to that field and then left.
As God’s timing would have it, we were on the receiving end of such news while we were visiting them last week. Our newly arrived worship leaders in Colorado are unexpectedly leaving.
We launched a church plant in Colorado two months ago. One month ago a couple with whom we served in Japan relocated to Colorado to serve at our church and attend seminary. Their arrival was immensely life-giving to us. We already had deep roots with them and knew that they would be solid leaders. But God had other plans—they had been seeking a position to provide relief work overseas for the last six years. After six years of silence, they received a call last week and were invited to move immediately to begin providing aid in one of the world’s poorest areas.
It feels like we moved in faith to Czech Republic only to be asked by the Lord to trust Him in an undesired an unexpected move to Colorado. It feels like our friends moved in faith to Colorado only to be called to move in faith again to Central Asia. We’ve all had fleeting tastes of what might have been and wondered at the Lord’s will.
My husband, my daughters, and I are now living on our third continent. We’ve most often ministered to people on the move—or we’ve been on the move—and so we’ve had decades of precious relationships that leave a mark when the move is done.
Acts 17:25-27 have been bedrock verses for me, “[the Lord] himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”
It is God who has determined where and when each of us should live. And He has done so in order that we would reach out for Him and find Him. He is trustworthy—He gives life and breath and everything else. Truly, my life and the lives of my teammates and friends and my children are in His very capable hands.
At times, these moves and start-stop plans and relationships cause me to lie awake wondering if we’ve hurt our kids as we’ve walked by faith and not by sight. I wonder if we shouldn’t have been more objective when they were born and rooted ourselves in one place. I wonder how they’ll cope as adults who grew roots in three (so far) vastly different settings.
When I voiced my anxiety to a new friend in Colorado she reminded me of Psalm 84. As I read this well known Psalm again, I saw more than “how lovely is your dwelling place, Lord.” Though those words are nourishment for the transient heart in and of themselves, verse threeespecially warmed me on my kids’ behalf, “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.” Like the swallow, I have a nest for my young and it’s near the altar of the Almighty Lord. He looks after the swallow and He will look after my girls, as well as our teammates who remain in Czech Republic and our worship leaders as they depart this very day.
While in Europe last week I purchased a wall hanging from a fellow missionary. She disciples Roma women in the Balkans and has been helping them to create a small business. This sign artistically says “Home” with the ‘o’ being the earth. I loved it at once because it speaks to our experience and is a reminder that the “earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). The Lord will move us as He pleases, at any time and to any place on the entire globe. But He is trustworthy and kind and looks after the swallow, my family, my ministry partners—we are all His.
As I was rushing from the hotel to the airport yesterday—sprinting actually, because I had left the “Home” sign in our room and remembered it while checking in for the flight—it dawned on me that the sign only speaks temporary truth—heaven is our home forever. We can move and grow roots and be uprooted and then rooted again precisely because heaven is our real home.
We are citizens of heaven—we belong to King Jesus. And while we wait, by His power, He enables each of us to be transformed according to His will. There is purpose in each move and each relationship and each what-might-have-been-but-wasn’t (Philippians 3:20-21). While I may text my teammate in anguish, or lie awake worrying about my kids, or despair in yet another goodbye, each move causes me to reach out for the Lord and find Him. He is not far from any of us.