Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How I Got Here

Recently, I was asked if I had a ministry bio/testimony.  I didn't really have anything already written up, so I took some time over the past few days to put this together.  Here's a bit of my background and how I came to be where I am today.

My story is anything but normal.  But I don’t think I would have it any other way. 

I was born to a missionary family in Lipa City, Philippines.  My parents were in language school at the time, studying Tagalog in order to serve Filipinos at a mission hospital where my dad would serve as a practitioner and an administrator. (Oh the stories we shared around our dinner table of the adventures of practicing medicine in a third world country!)  I had two older brothers, Stephen and Peter, who were four and two when I was born.  My little brother Paul would be born on our next furlough in the States when I was three.

My earliest memories are in the Philippines, and I had (and still have) a very positive perception of our family’s experience there.  I remember running around and playing with my brothers and other playmates until Mom rang the bell for dinner.  I remember pilling into our truck and driving across the island to a church where my dad would preach on the weekends.  I remember all kinds of run-ins with local wildlife like monkeys and cobras.  I remember going to school in our one room schoolhouse where all four of us were taught together by either my mom or one of the short-term teachers who came from the States.

Our family on furlough in 1990, shortly before my little brother was born.
From the very beginning, I saw my parents living by faith.  I didn’t really understand what that meant and couldn’t have verbalized it if you’d asked me because it was just our way of life.  If we had a need, we trusted that the Lord would meet it in one way or another.  And we saw God come through for us over and over again.  When we traveled to our supporting churches on our furloughs, the song that played behind my parents’ slide show was “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”  This was their theme song, and now I understand why.  They trusted the Lord and saw his great faithfulness in their lives more times than we can count.  Ultimately, it was this trust in the Lord and total commitment to his work that lead me to give my heart to Christ and continue to live a life dedicated to God’s plan for me.

In the summer of 1991 on our trip back to the Philippines from our furlough in Rochester, New York, we stayed in Manila at a missionary guesthouse for a few days before making the rest of the trek home to the island of Palawan where we lived in Roxas.  I can distinctly remember playing with my older brother Peter at the house; we were standing on opposite ends of a stairway (He was at the top, and I was at the bottom.), tossing a ball back and forth.  Seemingly out of the blue, he asked me if I would go to heaven when I died.  I didn’t have the slightest idea and didn’t know what he was talking about, so he proceeded to share with me how God sacrificed his Son to die on the cross for my sins so that I could spend eternity with Him.  I accepted Christ into my heart that day.  I didn’t even come close to understanding completely the ramifications of that decision, but that day marks the beginning of my journey with the Lord. 

Our family stayed in the Philippines for a four-year term and a one-year term (with a one-year furlough between) after that stopover in Manila.  We returned to the States permanently in 1997 when I was 10 years old.  Because my dad decided to go back to school for a master’s degree in rural health care, we moved to a small town in West Virginia (a requirement for his degree program).  It was there, in Welch, West Virginia, where we first attended public school.  I was in sixth grade and distinctly remember thinking the day we learned about exponents in math class, “Wow! This is the only thing we’ve ‘learned’ this year that I didn’t already know!”  Needless to say, that year was more of a growing opportunity socially than academically.

The completion of Dad’s degree brought new job opportunity and place to live for our family.  We ended up in the western Pennsylvania town of Clarion.  We’d visited Clarion several times growing up because my great aunt and uncle lived there, so it was neat to move to a quasi-familiar place.  The house where we lived there was the first my parents had ever bought, after almost 20 years of marriage.  We were moving there to settle for the first time in my life.  At this point, my brothers were going into 12th, 10th, and 4th grades, and I was headed into 8th grade. 

Our time in Pennsylvania was a huge growing chapter for me.  This was the first place where I went to the same school for two sequential years (I actually went to Clarion Area Junior Senior High School from 8th grade until high school graduation.  Unbelievable!) and had the opportunity to put down any sort of roots in to friendships or a physical place.  This was also a place where I grew into my faith more than ever before.  It was here that I had to make the decision of whether I was truly going to follow Christ myself or if I was going to give up on my parents’ views as I became capable of making my own way in the world.  Ultimately, Dad and Mom’s Jesus became my Jesus as I built intentional relationships with friends and mentors, got involved in ministry at my church, and learned more and more about what it means to follow Christ.  Not that future years wouldn’t present challenges and opportunities growth, but these years held such significant foundation-challenging and –reinforcing situations and decisions that I will always maintain them as the years my faith became my own and my walk with Christ diverted from just following my parents’ footsteps.

My college years took me to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia where I continued to grow through the challenges of school, my family moving away from our Pennsylvania home I loved so dearly, a break-up with my college boyfriend, and learning how to be a grown-up and living on my own.  Also during the college years, I had to start making and acting on decisions about what I wanted to do with my life vocationally.  Having grown up around ministry and have been involved in different kinds of ministry throughout high school and college, I decided that’s what I would want to do.  However, my parents, being experienced with ministry, encouraged me not to get a ministry-related degree because you can do ministry no matter what degree is listed on your diploma.  So instead of getting a ministry degree, I worked toward the more marketable education degree.

After completing my degree in Elementary Education, I didn’t really want to enter the field of education.  An opportunity opened up for me to work at the University, so I accepted the position and stayed in Lynchburg.  This wasn’t my original plan of going to school, finishing, and moving away to start a new adventure.  But clearly, the Lord had a plan for me to stay here.  I didn’t know what that plan was for a while, but within a couple years, I learned a little bit more of why I stayed in Lynchburg instead of moving away.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the Lord used that position to help me ultimately end up in the ministry position where I find myself now.  It was there as I worked in an academic department where I was encouraged to pursue my master’s degree in Human Services (tuition fees being one of the benefits of my employment at the university) and teach online.  This provided a means for me to pay off my student loans more quickly than I would have otherwise.  The Lord was laying the groundwork for me to be able to transition into ministry in the years to come.

In May of 2010 I finished my master’s degree.  I wondered if this would be a good time to transition into a ministry role.  But I loved my job.  I had been promoted to an academic coordinator position and thoroughly enjoyed what I did and the people with whom I worked.  I prayed that if the Lord wanted me to transition to something else that he would provide the right opportunity and change my attachment to my job and release me from my current position.  Little did I know, he was doing just that.

That summer, I traveled with Living Bread Ministries on a short-term mission trip to Brazil.  I wasn’t extremely familiar with Living Bread, so while we were on our trip, I observed different aspects of the ministry.  I also spent time getting to know the founders of the ministry, Patrick and Bárbara Hubbard.  Shortly after the trip, the Hubbards approached me about coming on staff with the ministry.  The idea sounded wonderful, but there seemed to be a few obstacles in the way.  I still loved my job and couldn’t see myself just quitting a job that I enjoyed so much.  Also, Living Bread is completely support-based, so my position would require me to raise support.  Because I still had student loan debt, I didn’t feel comfortable asking people to support my ministry and help me pay off my education.  I continued to pray that if the Lord wanted me to transition into a ministry role, he would put all the pieces in place for that to happen.

Over the next two years, all those pieces fell into place.  I was able to completely pay off my student loans.  Some things changed in my job situation that landed me in a different position at the university. Though I still enjoyed my role very much, I didn’t have the same level of attachment to what I was doing.  So, when the time came for me to leave, I didn’t have nearly as much hesitation to putting in my notice. 

June 30, 2012 was my last day on staff at Liberty University.  I began working full-time as Administrative Coordinator for Living Bread Ministries in July.

Over the last two years, I have continued to love my role with Living Bread and the opportunities it has provided.  Though I am still working to raise full-time support so I am not as dependent on supplemental income, the Lord has always provided and met my needs. 

My transition to Living Bread was not without challenges and adjustments.  I thought my biggest challenge would be going from working in a busy office environment with lots of people all day to a home office environment where some days I work by myself during the day.  This did take some getting used to, but my biggest challenge was the newfound flexibility I had in my schedule.  I wasn’t married to an eight to five, Monday through Friday workweek.  Instead, I could plan my days differently and use my flexibility to meet others’ needs.

Despite the ups and downs of transitions and new beginnings, the Lord has been faithful to me through all the adventures he has brought my way.  I never thought I would be in Lynchburg 10 years, but I have been.  I never thought I would be able to enjoy working with a missions organization right here in my home town and still have the opportunity to travel overseas, but I do.  I never thought the Lord would take me so far from what I thought my life would look like and still be so content with his provision and his timing, but I am.   

My story is anything but normal.  But I don’t think I would have it any other way.


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