(Pour lire en français, cliquez içi)
Looking back, we can recognize God’s hand leading us to where we are today: serving on a short-term missions appointment in western France.
Liz was born and raised in Belgium (which borders France to the north-east)? When we married, in 1997 she left behind everything that was familiar and I had determined in my heart, and expressed to her numerous times, that I would not completely uproot her again unless it was clearly the will of God.
Through the years, there were opportunities to be involved in French ministry elsewhere in Canada, but none were ever really an option, because the Lord had not given a green light. Similarly, although I’d visited churches in France four times between 2005 – 2010, and been involved in the Bible School, beginning in 2009, I never felt a clear call for anything more than that level of involvement.
A critical meeting… a new possibility?
While in France in 2012 to teach in the Bible School, missionary Paul Brochu and I were preparing to do a Bible study, with university students, in a city of western France where there was currently no church. Let me share what I wrote in my journal, summing up that day:
“This was one incredible meeting… something was going on spiritually and I’m not even sure what. From the time Bro. Brochu began playing his guitar – while we were still waiting [for students to arrive] something was stirring in my spirit. We got into the singing and I was a mess. I began weeping some, to the point that I couldn’t sing. It was similar to, although not quite this much, during the time of prayer [prior to their arrival]. Then, as I was reading the scripture (Joshua 1:1-11), several times, I began to break down / my voice broke.
I’m almost afraid to write what I honestly felt.
On one hand, since there was only one of the local young people from Tours [who was able to come], I can’t help but wonder if that meeting wasn’t more for me than for anyone else today. I wonder if God is not perhaps calling me/us there. I have no idea really, what such a call “feels / looks” like, but there was some kind of something going on there.”
What was so special about that passage – Joshua chapter 1?
Moses, the leader of God’s people, has just died and Joshua was preparing to lead them across the Jordan and into the promised land. This had long been one of my favorite passages but as I read it occurred to me, for the first time, that Joshua had long been a second man, an assistant leader but God was calling him into a new role. As I read, God was quickening my spirit and confirming that this was the explanation for what I was feeling: my goal in ministry up to that point had been to be a great second man... but God was calling me into a time of change.
A year of next steps…
Armed with clear direction and patience I engaged a half-a-dozen individuals whose counsel I valued and trusted, including the missionaries, my pastor and two former pastors. During this time, God was working on my wife as well and after numerous discussions we formally began the application process in the summer of 2013.
Patience has been the key. Other opportunities, and even other timings for this opportunity, have been there. This, however, is the Lord’s timing, and nothing compares to the assurance of knowing that!
I have long said that my comfort level lies in being an excellent second man. I have never chased opportunities that would put me in a first man role. I envision my involvement in France to be based on the same premise. Although we are going there to fill the shoes of the Brochu missionary family during their deputation, we understand that we are really still working in submission…
sub + mission = under the mission (of someone else)
- We go there to work under the mission of the Brochus (as the missionary family that we’ll be replacing). They carry knowledge of the churches and people with which they have been working and it is to them that God has entrusted these precious people. They must return to a church that is as healthy or moreso than when they will have left.
- We go there to work under the mission of the Nowackis (as founders and the president of the national work). In addition to pastoring the local church, they carry the overarching vision for the work that God is doing in the nation of France. What we do must encourage the fulfillment of that vision.
For the past several years, Liz has split the majority of her time between her full time employment at the Air Canada reservations center in Saint John and homeschooling our three children. Because of this, her primary opportunity for ministry, has been to our children. In November 2013 she made the decision to leave her job in favour of greater involvement with the kids’ schooling (and the increasing workload that comes with the higher grade levels).
On the field, maintaining the kids’ education would be a primary focus for her. Her role in the home would also be of critical importance to helping them successfully transition to living in Europe. That being said, she is eager to also more actively contribute to ministry within a local church setting, something that full time employment on an irregular schedule has hindered her from doing consistently in the past number of years.
Want to read a bit more about God’s specific call… read: Invitation to Dream.