December 8, 2017, is a day I will never forget. It was 9:30 a.m. and I was at the Ministry of the Interior in Islamabad. “A letter has been sent to customs at the Karachi airport and a copy to your address in Hyderabad. You have two weeks to leave the country.” After 24 years of ministry in Pakistan, our unexpected journey of transition began with this news. There were tears at first—Pakistan was our home, our life. We loved the team we were a part of. We loved our national partners, believing friends, and Muslim neighbors whom God had made special to us over years of living and working together. While our situation was a first for our mission team in the Sindh, similar stories were developing for other missionaries elsewhere.
We will remain forever grateful for the many things we experienced while raising a family and serving there. We learned two languages and tasted some of the best food the world’s kitchen has to offer. Our family explored some of the earth’s most unique travel destinations and ancient ruins; we learned much about ourselves—weaknesses, strengths, gifts (and lack thereof!), and our dependence on others. We learned much about others: suffering, persecution, expectations, genuine need, love, generosity, and forgiveness. We learned what serving others looks like in a culture so different from ours. We learned about partnership with other denominations, with mission agencies and para-church organizations, with people of other cultures, and with Christians from every walk of life.
We learned about God’s protection from terrorist attacks, from kidnapping threats, from the threat of war, from demonic attack, from bitter Christians, from foolish and reckless drivers, from disease, and from depression. Even crisis events, like being robbed at gunpoint in the middle of the night after arriving from the airport, contributed to deep character growth and proved to be opportunities for God to demonstrate His sovereign presence and love. By observing many missionaries and missionary kids (MKs) who lived and worked in Pakistan (without doubt a difficult place in which to live), we learned that bitterness and contentment were equally possible outcomes from exactly the same circumstances.
So what next?
Earlier this spring, the Lord opened a door for me to serve the senior leadership of the Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church (EKHC) as a missions coach and mentor, a role I officially began in June. With a membership of approximately nine million people, the EKHC is the largest evangelical denomination in Ethiopia. They have plans to significantly increase their number of global missionaries over the next few years but is facing serious challenges keeping the present 20 missionaries on their respective fields. Continuing to serve with Fellowship International, my role involves coaching and mentoring to develop supportive organizational structures and provide training to produce quality global missionaries. Working from Canada, I anticipate making at least four month-long trips to Ethiopia a year. Between trips, I will explore and develop resources, network with key partners, prepare training materials, and follow up on work generated by my visits.