The following post details our calling (and the time we spent wrestling with it) in depth. I apologize for the length, but I know some family will want to know what got us to the point of surrender...
January 2014: As Medulla's missions committee chairwoman, Amber leads our church in a yearlong emphasis on Canada. We begin to learn about the level of lostness in Canada, as well as praying for church planters and missionaries. We also become familiar with NAMB's Send North America strategy.
April 2014: Amber and I travel to Cochrane, AB to meet church planter Chris Ney, and to scout/plan our mission trip in July. We learn firsthand that Canada is cold, and very, very lost – only 5% of the population has a relationship with Jesus! While there, we also meet Danny, a young man from Florida who sold everything he had and moved from Miami to Alberta to work at Vertical Church. I am shocked by his willingness to abandon everything and move to the exact opposite climate and culture.
Early May 2014: We invite Canadian church planter Chris Ney to speak at our church's Global Missions Emphasis Sunday. He stays in our home for a week, and he shares with us in depth about planting a church in the great white north. Chris begins to subtly (and not so subtly) challenge us to consider planting in Canada. (He is probably encouraged because I keep asking questions about how it works. At this point, my questions are out of curiosity more than calling, although the idea has certainly taken up residence in my mind).
May 9, 2014: I tell Amber that Chris is openly encouraging us to come plant in Calgary. To my complete shock, Amber tells me she has been thinking about it, and is at least open to the idea. She says she has always thought that if she were going to become a missionary, she would want to go to Canada. This conversation scares us both, so we conclude by agreeing this is a stupid thing to be considering - life is too good to consider moving.
May 10, 2014: Seriously! We love our ministry with the youth and college at Medulla. It has been successful. They pay me well. Amber has built a successful business from scratch. Surely she couldn't give that up! Also, Canada is cold! Florida is warm. And, we've never even lived in a place where it snows - it snows 9+ months out of the year up there!
This is stupid.
May 11, 2014: Neither of us are sleeping much. We begin to talk more openly - acknowledging that God might actually be calling us to do this. We start to ask, "What would it look like?" If we decided to do this completely illogical thing, when might we go? How do you go about moving to Canada? How would we say goodbye to friends and church members that are closer than family? We cry at the prospect.
May 12, 2014: I’ve done some research: Did you know Canada still accepts the queen of England as the head of their state? Seriously - they refer to her as the Queen of Canada! I'm an American; I don't have queens and kings! And, at one point last year, Calgary hit -20*F! (Also, I’d have to stop saying Fahrenheit!)
Amber does some research: Could she work in Canada? How could I ask her to give up the business she worked so hard to build? Family doesn't come to Florida often enough; if we go to Canada, they'll have to have passports. How do we establish permanent residency? Do I want to?
May 13, 2014: Amber says to me, "We know God is calling us to Canada - it's just a question of whether we will obey." I tell her I disagree - I'm not sure God is calling us there. But I know deep down she is right.
May 14, 2014: Every hour brings excitement at the prospect of following God and dread at leaving behind the safety and security we have worked so hard to build. Ask me if I'm going at 2pm, and I'll give you a different answer at 4pm. I have no idea how I could ever know what the right thing to do is...
I'm also little mad at God. I made the decision long ago to not be one of those pastors that moves churches every few years. I like the reaction I get from people when I tell them I've served as Medulla's youth pastor for nearly ten years. It IS an impressive thing, and I want to hit 15 years (or more!)
Will my friends and family be mad if I tell them I'm leaving? Will they understand and rejoice? Will they weep and take it personally? It's not like I'd be leaving for a "better" ministry offer - In reality, it's a substantially "worse" ministry offer. Will it matter to them?
May 15, 2014: I spend every free minute reading about church planting, Canada, Calgary, and NAMB's SEND Strategy. The thought is always in my mind; there is never a time I’m not thinking about it. Amber and I continue to talk and pray. Still have no idea what to do.
May 16, 2014: It's a Friday, and the birthday dinner for one of our closest friends. The whole group gets together to go eat and celebrate. When we get home late that evening, Amber and I lay in bed talking about the only subject that seems to come up anymore. I cry again, and tell Amber I can't do it. I can't say goodbye to these people. And I mean it. Despite small frustrations, our life and ministry is too good in Florida to walk away from.
That night, I am violently ill. This had nothing to do with my decision to turn down the church planting path - I just ate some bad seafood. But, this led to a fateful day....
May 17, 2014: Because I was sick the night before, I skip my usual Saturday morning workout. Later in the day when I'm feeling better, I go to walk the lake with my dog. It's a gorgeous day, the kind of day that makes you glad to be in Florida. While walking, I listen to an Andy Stanley sermon. The question he asks during the message is, “Am I a follower, or a consumer of Jesus?” I realize that I gladly follow when I want something from God, but will I continue to follow when God wants everything from me?
I come home and tell Amber we have to make the decision once and for all. We can't keep riding the fence. Either we are staying, or we are going.
We decide we are going.