January 14, 2012

God Still Speaks... and It Is Well

Well, we've been back in Indiana now for five days, the bags are all unpacked and the kids enjoyed a 2-hour delay from snow yesterday.  All is well in the Dahlgren home, or is it?!

The holidays are usually filled with awesome times, amazing food and great fellowship.  We did enjoy Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's, but also had some more discouraging days than we've had in a long while.

It's been 11 months now since we received the word from ReachGlobal that we were accepted as missionary candidates to Lyon, France.  Wow!  Who could have imagined that God would take us through so many winding roads and lead us to such a place as this - the brink of serving overseas.  I (Chris) had hoped for this over 22 years ago, but it was not yet the time.

After our acceptance, we were so full of excitement and faith.  We believed that the same God that moved mountains and healed the sick would also rain down provision for us to be moving to Lyon by the summer of 2011.  Six months isn't too difficult for the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills!  Do you know how hard it is to teach faith to your kids and then teach about God's timing rather than yours???  Well, it's so very hard!

All the same, we began this school year and set out to believe God would provide for our support needs so we could begin serving in Lyon by the summer of 2012.  He just needed to provide enough financial partners by Christmas so we could begin the next phase of training.  Well, once again His timing is not ours.

God did provide, however, an amazing opportunity for Steve to begin working part-time so he could spend more time in ministry partner development.  This began December 1st.  God answered this prayer in such an amazing way and we are so very grateful.  Yet, December proved to be a very slow month.  People are busy with all their shopping, parties, family gatherings and church commitments.  We know.  We've been there many years of our marriage! :)

And, though we had some special times getting together with friends and family during our two weeks in California, the limited times to meet with people to share about the need for Christ in Lyon took it's toll.  By the end of our 2nd week we started questioning whether God really wants us to serve in Lyon.  So many questions ran through our minds... why would God ask us to go to such a costly place and not provide the means to get there? How long is too long to raise our support?  Did we hear Him wrong?  Should we be looking for something else?  Are we crazy?  Why did God lead us to the ministry in Lyon when we never thought of serving in France?  Why didn't God just call us to a less expensive country like Haiti?  Why has God given us such a heart for the French people now if He may not want us to go?  Why?  Why?  Why?

ReachGlobal has developed such an amazing culture for their missionaries.  One such practice is for everyone to set aside one day per month as a Personal Retreat Day.  We learned about these but haven't yet been very good at putting them into practice.  We decided to take the family to the park last Saturday for a few hours of personal "Time Alone with God" - reading His Word, praying, reflecting, listening.  We then came back together and talked through what we learned during our time.  It was an awesome time as a family.  We still didn't have any definite answers by the end of our time, but dedicating that time to seek Him was definitely special for all of us.

The kids also enjoyed feeding the ducks powdered mini-donuts at the park!

As we came home our thoughts and conversations leaned more toward giving up and seeking where else God would want us to serve.  We definitely still felt like we were to serve in some sort of full-time ministry... maybe a church would take us???  Our intent was to spend this week studying and praying for God to clearly show us what His plan was for our family.  Monday through the day and night while flying and driving, I kept pleading with God that He would speak very specifically and clearly to both of us THIS WEEK to let us know what we were supposed to do.  (Now realize, my faith is still strong, but I don't trust it quite as much as I did 11 months ago since God hasn't answered my prayers the way I have wanted.)

Tuesday morning came... we returned to school and work.  Wow, was it hard to get up Tuesday morning when we didn't get home until 12:30am that morning. :)  So, although we were lacking sleep, we trudged ahead into the week seeking God's smack-over-the-head-speaking-at-the-top-of-His-lungs answer to our prayers.  It really is funny how God does really answer prayers just when we need them to build up our faith and remind us that He does hear and care.

Tuesday afternoon... I was at work, still discouraged and pleading for a sign from God.  I decided to take a few minutes to read Moody's "Today in the Word" devotional.  Sorry, Wes (my boss), but I really needed to spend a few minutes in the Word and didn't have time before heading to work.  I had just come across Moody's devotional page last month while looking at their website with Morgan.  I haven't really read more than a couple of the devotionals, but had bookmarked it in case I needed a quick "pick-me-up" in the middle of the day.  This was that type of day.

Since I didn't know what day to read, I thought I might as well read the devotional for that day - Tuesday, January 10, 2012.  The month of January's devotionals are focused on no longer being afraid when we walk in the fear of the Lord.  Psalm 27 was the passage to read. We tend to like The Message translation so this was the translation I read.  The whole passage is excellent and was perfect for me that morning.  I love where it reads,

Listen, God, I'm calling at the top of my lungs:
"Be good to me! Answer me!"
When my heart whispered, "Seek God,"
my whole being replied,
"I'm seeking Him!"
Don't hide from me now!

That's exactly what I was praying... over and over again, "Please God, answer me!"  Then the final verse just hit me...

I'm sure now I'll see God's goodness
in the exuberant earth.
Stay with God!
Take heart. Don't quit. I'll say it again:
Stay with God.

To be honest, I didn't like these verses when I read them.  Yes, I wanted to stay with God, but I also wanted to quit.  This was just getting too hard.  It's so easy to feel like we're building barriers between ourselves and our dear friends rather than building bridges.  We imagine people noticing our phone number on their cell phones and not answering so they don't have to meet with us.  We worry that people think we only want their money.  Steve worries that people think of us now as multi-level marketing missionaries.  All of these are so FAR from the truth. 

We just want to share about how God has been working in our lives - through the good and the bad and the ugly - to bring us to this amazing place where He wants to use us to share His love to those who have never heard.  What an awesome privilege!  We also just want to share how desperately lost and hopeless the French people are.  People often just think of the wonderful things about France - amazing vacation destination, delectable treats, historic structures that date back to Christ.  Oh, to be "living the life" in France! (That was actually spoken to one of our kids.)   But we, as Americans, don't realize how desperately hopeless and lost they really are.

So, back to the scripture I read on Tuesday...  God spoke quite clearly to me, "Stay with God!  Take heart.  Don't quit."  I thought I'd wait to see how Steve's afternoon went before I shared with him what I read.  When I came home he told me that he thought we shouldn't give up yet.  He knew that we were supposed to keep on keeping on!  How frustrating!!! :)  I asked him how he came to that conclusion.  He said that when Easton came home from school, he asked Steve if he had a good afternoon and had set up any appointments to meet with people.  Steve told him more about our concerns and that we were seeking God to make clear what we were supposed to do.  Now, remember that although Easton is willing and prepping himself to go to France, he reminds us often that he would rather stay here.  Well, he blurted back to Steve in a rather matter-of-fact tone, telling him that we can't give up now.  We've come too far and shouldn't quit.  Then Spencer came home a few minutes later and walked in on their conversation.  She got quite persistent with Steve that she felt that we were to keep on with our ministry development.

When Steve shared with me about these conversations with the kids, I shared with him what I read in Psalm 27.  I knew we had our very clear answer, pretty much word-for-word from God.  He gave the same message to me through His Word and to Steve through our kids.  DON'T QUIT!  I've taken the last few days to reflect and let it soak in.  I was also waiting to see if God would have an even clearer message of a different sort leading us elsewhere, just in case. :)  We feel renewed and refocused on the ministry He has called us to in Lyon, France!

Now if He will just take care of the extremely-above-and-beyond-our-own-ability-to-raise monthly support needs so we can make our way to Lyon!  All in His own time... I know!

So, as I begin a weekend where we celebrate Easton's 14th birthday, I am reminded of this amazing song, It Is Well with My Soul.  And, since we love Hillsong, you can enjoy their rendition of it!

1 comment:

  1. Though I do not know you personally, because of my work with Mike Davis and serving others at RG, I feel led to make a few led to make a few comments to encourage you.

    First, sacrificial giving comes from sources you least expect (Mark 12:41-44). Disciples of Jesus must realize that generosity generally flows from sources you least expect and does not flow as readily from the materially rich, but rather flows from the spiritually rich. We found this to be true in raising support to serve with the EFCA in the Canadian Arctic in the early 90's.

    Second, because of this, sow truth in as many hearts as possible that in joining with you they get to partner with God in his work (Eccl 11:6). Lower those expectations by getting on your knees and asking God to open doors for you to share, hearts for you to sow in, and see what happens.

    Third, consider the support team that fueled mission in the Early Church. A cursory reading of texts such as Romans 16, Colossians 4, 2 Timothy 4 show that a variety of ordinary people supported mission and there were "not many of noble birth (1 Cor 1:26) in the community of faith. That's actually encouraging because it shows that you don’t need to be rich or know rich folks to follow God’s missional calling in your life.

    So don’t quit. Stay in the word. Lower those expectations of people and raise them of God, who is your Provider anyway. Sow the truth that people can partner with God in His work in as many hearts as possible and see what happens.

    My guess is that part of reach France may actually be mobilizing a boatload of people to partner with you because the work ahead of you will not be accomplished with money, or with you, but by the prayers of God’s people. Oddly enough, you just get to be a front row reporter on what God does and share back like the missionaries of Acts.

    Gary Hoag, Generosity Monk