Once we decided Stephen needed to step down from his job at our church, it was like a match was lit on a gas trail in our lives. Things started moving at warp speed, all pushing us toward Thailand. All confirming what we knew to be true, our lives were going to be about being missionaries.
I, Katie, have been to Thailand a number of times because of school and personal trips. I knew that we could get there and be connected based on my connections alone, but we both felt we would be missionaries through a new organization. While we support and love denomination sent missionaries, be it the AG or The Covenant, we felt like we would end up going through a para-church organization.
A friend of ours who worked for Venture Expeditions reached out and informed us of the work Venture was doing in Thailand. Neither Stephen nor I knew of their foundation or the community center. We both loved Venture and the work they did to fund social justice projects around the world, so we were excited to learn there was a potential connection in Thailand.
While Stephen was 100% sold out on Thailand, ready to move at the drop of a hat, and I myself already knew I loved Thailand, we knew we needed to visit before we committed to moving there. We made plans to go in July of 2013. Yet again, this didn’t exactly make sense as it’s not cheap to go to Thailand and our major source of income was now eliminated. But, in the end, we ended up raising all the money and then some for the trip. Obedience does that I guess.
Our good friends, Jenna and Ruben and their two baby girls, said they wanted to come with us. This was huge! We had people who loved and believed in us so much that they wanted to come with us, bring their whole family, to Thailand, all to help us discern and process if this is a place we could live. Another friend, Ben, also decided to come with us as well to help us document the trip and be yet another set of eyes and ears as we made this huge decision.
As a group, the seven of us started raising awareness of human trafficking, with an emphasis on Thailand/South East Asia. We bought a screening license of the documentary Nefarious and showed it at colleges, churches and other places. We knew that we were called long term to Thailand, but we wanted to be active, to be missionaries, immediately. We wanted to fight for those who needed advocacy now. So we did.
In the beginning of the summer, before we went to Thailand, we were connected to yet another wonderful organization that was doing amazing work advocating for and helping restore young girls rescued from the sex trade. We were offered jobs with this organization and even went to California in June to check it all out.
Before we left for Thailand in July, we had one more meeting with Venture. We told them at that meeting that we were going to take the jobs in California and then go to Thailand in a couple years as Venture missionaries. And we believed that. Getting on the plane with our friends, all excited and nervous and hopeful, we really believed that we wouldn’t be in Thailand for years.
Once we were in Thailand, all those wonderful, practical, well meaning plans slowly dissipated. Once I was back in the place that stole my heart so many times over and once Stephen saw the place he had dreamed about, read about, heard me talk about, we knew we were home.
The work Venture is doing in Ban Pong, a small village right outside the large city of Chiang Mai, is amazing. Seeing Hosea community center, a place where students can come each day for help with homework, English lessons, and, above all, people who love them and care for them, was so exciting. These students are more poor financially, they experience poverty in every single way: education, family, spiritual, economical. And in order to break the system of poverty and slavery, they desperately need education (English lessons) and adults in their lives who encourage, support and equip them to make different life choices than those in the community around them.
Venture also has their missionaries in a local school teaching English. Now, when we think of taking language classes, we think of extra education, nothing necessary, just something extra. This isn’t how it is in the majority of the world. The reality is that if these kids want to escape the cycle of poverty they and their families have been in for generations, they need a way to get out. They need a tool, a skill set, that enables them to get jobs, communicate well with other people and move past the circumstances they are in currently. English is one of those, if not the, tool to do just that. But they need a teacher. The school is too poor to pay a teacher, someone who actually knows English, so they have none. That’s where Venture missionaries come in. Because we don’t have to be paid, as we’re living on raised support, we can offer English lessons. We can give them the tool they need.
Seeing all this confirmed that we needed to a part of what Venture is doing in Thailand. As we flew home, Stephen and I both processed the trip on our own. I had been the one who wanted to wait to go to Thailand, take the jobs in California and go in a couple years. It surprised Stephen then when a couple days after being home I asked him if he thought we should go sooner. That’s what happens when you say yes to God, your heart changes to want what He wants. The things that were once scary were now the things I couldn’t wait to do.
We met with Venture yet again and told them we were their people. We were thinking January of 2014. And then, a couple days later we found out we brought home a little souvenir from Thailand. We were pregnant!
We were elated, so excited. And then, the next morning, reality hit me hard. What does this mean for Thailand? We’ve only been married less than a year! Are we ready to be parents? Can we do this? What will our families say? Oh Jesus.
And, like so many times before, God gently reminded me of the one truth that had propelled this entire journey: we said yes. We said yes to His plans, to what He had for us, we gave Him control of our lives and this is what He decided to do. This is what we prayed for, what we asked for: to be totally surrendered to Him, to be used by Him. We wanted to live prophetically, to raise a family of missionaries, to be incarnational with our lives. And these are all the things He was making happen in our lives right now.
So there I sat, packing boxes. We decided to move from Apple Valley to Saint Paul for a year. We would pay about half the rent and be closer to work and most family and friends. With Venture and through a lot of prayer, we decided that we would leave six months or so after the baby is born, so roughly a year from now. Stephen got a great job that was fine with him working for only a year, and I found a family that needed a part time nanny for six months, right until the baby is born. God’s provision was made clear yet again. Sitting there, thinking about all the ways God has provided over the last 8 months, I couldn’t help but cry. He has been so faithful, even when we’re not. Even when we’re sinful and disobedient and take for granted all He’s given us. He is still faithful. And all He asks is that we say yes and let Him move.
We packed up the old apartment, our first place we lived as a married couple, and said goodbye to the dreams we once had, the plans we once made. And with a lot of excitement and some what-the-heck-are-we-doing, we settled into our new (much smaller) apartment. It’s here that our baby will be born and it’s here that we will say goodbye to friends and family as we leave for Thailand and it’s here that we will dream with God new dreams for our lives as missionaries.
And in the midst of fear, logistical planning and questions, worry about relationships sustaining the distance and knowing how badly we will miss people, we feel that crazy peace. A peace that keeps pushing us into the next thing. A peace that helps us keep saying yes over and over again. A peace that has changed our desires and passions and what excites us.
So, what’s next? Whatever it is, we will say yes.