The Journey That Led Us Here
We are living in Ecuador. We are working towards opening a hostel with the purpose of sharing the Gospel and love of Christ through hospitality. Overall, we’re doing pretty well. But we have those moments; hard moments. Moments where we look at each other and think, ‘what are we doing?’
One such moment took place this past Friday. It prompted us to do several things. Firstly, we cried out to God, ‘We need you. We cannot do this alone. In fact, we can’t do it. You have to do it. It’s your plan.’ Secondly, we had to withdraw to spend time alone and with God in scripture. Thirdly, it prompted me to pull out (for a 3rd read) Seth Barnes’ book Kingdom Journeys as a way of encouragement and reassurance that we are not crazy. Jesus called us out and we are following. Dying to self is ugly and it’s hard; but it is necessary for God to do His will through you. He won’t force you. You must willingly submit to His Lordship and His plan. He knows best. And His way is awesome and glorious and beautiful.
As month 2 winds down in Ecuador, I sit in a small 2-bedroom apartment accompanied by two beds and a refrigerator and the question begs: How did we get here?
The quick answer: God
The longer answer:
The physical process started on November 4, 2014. That is the date when we embarked on our own Kingdom Journey. A journey that was preempted by a curse/gift of restlessness. God-given no doubt. I was in a job and career that offered no sense of fulfillment; no sense of real fulfillment - eternal fulfillment. Temporary, earthly fulfillment of attaboys and big bonuses? Sure. Fleeting fulfillment. I was great at my job, but it offered me nothing. So I quit my career and we headed out on a journey of discovery. Our mission: to find out what God was calling us to?
The gift of restlessness stirs our souls. We sense God calling us to something more. - Seth Barnes
It didn’t start out so noble. I was simply miserable in my job. From the moment I took a promotion and moved to Nashville, I was miserable. And it was all God’s doing. There was a purpose; to draw us out. He made me miserable and uncomfortable to to draw me out of my comfort so that I would seek His will and seek His plan. Seek Him. His plan, not mine. God graciously, however, allowed my family to have a blast as He slowly unfolded what was next for us. Our journey was not without its hardships, but it was fun. A difficult, but fun journey to discovering what was next for us. It would be a whole new life.
But even before we left American soil on our journey in November 2014, God had been planning this all along through a series of events.
2008 - Donna feels called to Ethiopia
2008 - Donna hears God clearly tell her, with an 8-month old in her arms, ‘this is your daughter’
2010 - I visit Ethiopia for the first time on my first mission trip
2010 - We feel like we will be called into missions in the future
2011 - Our daughter, Quinley, comes home from Ethiopia
2013 - God is clearly calling me into a position that I really don’t want; misery commences
2013 - I am hospitalized with severe gastritis and a bleeding stomach
2014 - I am brought to the brink and have no choice but to quit my career
2014 - Our Kingdom Journey begins
2015 - Our worldwide journey ends
The details of 2014-2015 could fill a book alone. That’s for another day.
Why a journey? Seth answers well in Kingdom Journeys: ‘…for what God shows you along the way.’
Furthermore, Seth points out: ‘We go to work, endure traffic, eat our breakfast, lunch and dinner; and go to bed at the same time every day. Routine is normal, even healthy, but if the ruts go too deep, our spirits begin to whither (my emphasis). If we never get out of our comfort zones, we can’t grow into the places God has prepared for us. To combat this comfort-seeking tendency in his disciples, Jesus routinely destabilized them. Jesus asked his followers to leave everything for a season so they might learn to see with spiritual eyes for their entire lives. They went on a journey that threw them out of their comfort zones and forced them to depend on God. He didn’t grow his disciples in classrooms, but in the hard-knocks of real life. He moved them from place to place to help them lose their bearings and disrupt the predictable. Slowly, they changed from comfort-seekers to kingdom-minded citizens of heaven.’
The stages of a Kingdom Journey are necessary for growth and change; and they are painful. They’re beautifully detailed in Seth’s book and we can attest to their accuracy and usefulness. We walked through them in our journey around the world. We again walked through them while waiting for God to slowly unfold His plan for two years in Nashville following our world journey. We are again walking through the same stages right now in Ecuador.
Abandonment, Brokenness, Surrender, Dependence
Albeit, the stages are different in each situation. At the same time, they’re the same. Each time we are being slayed, sharpened, broken down, and shaped into His likeness. I want to be like Jesus. I want the good stuff. But do I really want to pick up my cross daily and share in the sufferings of Christ? Is He worth it?
It’s not about me.
The quicker we realize this, the better off we are. This lack of understanding is why it’s so hard for us to move forward and get outside of ourselves. Who can blame us? Look at our culture: it’s all about me, the American Dream. Believe in yourself, satisfy every desire, make a lot of money, success begets success, get a big house - a nice car - a nice retirement and you’ll be happy. Yet, most people are miserable. Deep down people want a real purpose. People are searching for the meaning of life. That quest was placed deep within us by our creator.
So what’s the answer? What is the purpose to our life? He is our purpose. His Kingdom is our purpose. He is drawing all of humanity back to Himself. He is redeeming Heaven and Earth.
But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33)
Seek Him first. A journey out of your comfort and safety will bring you to this point rather quickly. If you’re seeking something else, you might find it. It might satisfy you. For a while. But then you’ll be right back where you started. Seeking meaning and purpose.
This is the meaning and purpose that we want to bring backpackers and travelers. They’re all on a journey. A physical and spiritual journey. They’re trying to make sense out of this life. How can I be happy? What am I here for? These are the questions that all of us have. These questions rush to the surface on a journey of discovery.
I'd love to hear about where you are in your journey. I'll be sharing as we continue to move along our journey.
So are you ready for your Kingdom Journey? Is God calling you out? Is there a whisper, ‘you know there’s more’? Don’t run from it. Run to it. God will meet you there.