This story is a bit of a love story. Well, actually two love stories. And they’re both a part of one big journey.
This particular part of the story began after I had been living and serving in South Sudan for 8 months. In case you are new to this blog (or my life) I worked training nationals in holistic community development methods for a year, and I served through an organization called World Gospel Mission. Well, an opportunity arose to visit a dear friend of mine in Slovakia during my year in South Sudan. So, I took some time off to do just that. And, it just so happened to work out perfectly for my boyfriend, Kirby, to join in the trip. We both flew into Prague, Czech Republic (it was a lot cheaper than flying directly into Slovakia), where we were greeted by my friend, Lenka, and her boyfriend Peter.
We stayed with her brother in Prague and planned to do some sightseeing there before we headed for Slovakia (which is a gorgeous and friendly country, by the way).
In Prague, we visited monuments, churches, museums, ate traditional Czech food, did some shopping, strolled along the river, and much more. As the day was nearing its end, we reached the Charles Bridge, a sight I had really been hoping to see. I hadn’t, however, expected it to be so packed with tourists and vendors. This was also unexpected to Kirby, who was planning to propose right there on the bridge! He knew I had been really excited to see it, but it was not the romantic spot he had been hoping for. After we crossed the bridge, we still had some daylight left, so our friends asked if we would like to walk up the ridge to the
Prague Castle. Kirby, holding out hope that he could still pop the question that day, quickly agreed. We made our way up and it was incredible! The castle complex was very large and included a cathedral. We reached the end of the castle that overlooks the city, and my what a view! So Kirby asked our friends, who happen to be professional photographers to take a picture of us with the city behind. (I have a hard time getting him to take pictures, so I wasn’t about to object, ha!). After the pictures, he proposed! Right there on the castle grounds overlooking the city of Prague with professional pictures at that! Kirby is not often romantic, but when he is he makes it count! I was so happy!
So, that’s our proposal story. Our first big adventure in the Czech Republic. I never would have expected to have such an event occur there. Nor would I then have suspected that this place would come back into our lives in such a big way. So, here’s the second love story I mentioned.
After I moved back to the US, and planned a wedding in a couple of months, Kirby and I got married. Kirby knew that I still had a heart for missions, and he was certainly very open to it. But from the very beginning of our marriage we both heard God leading us to stay in the US for at least two years to really build up a good foundation for our marriage. This was pretty difficult for me at times, because I didn’t feel like I was fitting in at home anymore or being very useful for God’s kingdom. But God was steadfast in what he had told us. So I kept holding on. I tried to remind myself of a very beautiful thing God had done for me a few years prior:
I had a great fondness for the peoples, cultures, and countries of Africa (especially East Africa), but God was leading me on a journey for more before I even realized it. He presented me with the challenge to pray every day for one year for God to help me see the world as he sees it and love the world as he loves it. I accepted the challenge and God took me on a journey of expanding my heart beyond its natural capabilities. He taught me to love not just the things/place/people I like or find interesting. And it wasn’t about breaking my heart for other places in the world either. Yes, he does put places and people on our hearts in a way that breaks them, and this can lead us to real action. But in this particular journey, it wasn’t about being heartbroken for suffering, but simply about loving others because God made them and he loves them. They have such inherent value because of that fact alone.
So, I held on to that work that God had done in me, reminding myself that my time here in the US matters, too. And before I knew it those first two years had passed. We began to pursue some mission opportunities. We traveled to a big Celebration of Missions conference held by World Gospel Mission in the summer of 2015. We talked with missionaries from all around the world. It was incredibly motivating. And while we heard people speaking of how they could use more missionaries in various fields, we didn’t get a single invitation personally to any of them. This, we learned, was by God’s design. We instead took a role serving as the youth leaders in my home church in Alabama. Here, God broke down our jaded view of the local American church, and said, “The Church is my bride, and I love her. Instead of abandoning her, be a real part of her.” He helped us find love and value in the local church, despite the struggles, hypocrisy, and materialism we thought we were seeing. The church will only “grow up into Christ who is the head” if it “grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4.15-16) We began to work at discipling the youth and foster real community. We began to mentor, I with the girls and Kirby with the guys. We set up a time and space where they choose the topics and we see what the Bible has to say about those things.
Then God said it’s time to start pursuing missions again. We knocked on doors here and there. And then, a door was presented to us. A dear friend told us about a missionary couple they support in the Czech Republic. They have planted a church there in a nation that is predominantly atheistic, where they continue with community events for evangelism and work hard to disciple all the new believers who are coming into their midst.
Upon first hearing this, I thought, “Well, that’s nice.” And that was that. I was much more interested in working in a third world country where I could use my skills and training in community development and church leadership training through Biblical storytelling. My opinion of trying to evangelize atheists was that apologetics is the only thing that will reach them. And I didn’t feel very confident in my apologetic skills. Goodness, how do I get into these small-minded places? However, I could tell this opportunity and ministry really resonated with Kirby. And the missionaries there (who are actually Czech nationals themselves) contacted us that very week!
I figured, I better pray about this one some more because it feels like God is not letting it go. So I did. Within about two weeks, during Sunday morning worship at church, and a sermon that in no way seemed to connect to this decision, God spoke very clearly that this was the next step he had for us and we should pursue joining this ministry. I told Kirby. He told me God had already told him that and he was just waiting for me to hear it as well.
God showed me how the things he had been doing in and through us here were not only valuable to the youth we have been with, but they will be valuable to truly engaging in this ministry in the Czech Republic. He is so good at orchestrating the details. Why do we ever doubt him?!
God has made a way and now Kirby and I are official Missionary Disciples with World Gospel Mission to the Czech Republic. We are just beginning our journey of building a support team and undergoing trainings, so it will still be some time before we reach Czechia (the new official short form name of the Czech Republic). But we’ll keep you posted all along the way.
This is God’s love story; the story of how God is doing marvelous things to bring people back to himself through ways we never would have expected.