If you’re like me, there’s probably been a time or two (ok, or 10!) in your life when you just wish that God would tell you loud and clear what He wanted you to do next. I’m thinking about a Samuel moment where God calls out your name and you respond, “Speak for your servant is listening.”
Spoiler alert – there are no audible voices of God in the story you’re about to read.
The fact that God chooses to use His people to participate in His mission and redemptive work in the world is a beautiful thing. Kind of hard to wrap my mind around really.
A call doesn’t look the same for everyone. Sometimes it stops you in your tracks – a defining moment that alters the course of things forever. Like Paul on the road to Damascus. Sometimes it feels like everywhere you look there’s something confirming it. Sometimes it’s more gradual – something deep in your heart you know. Sometimes it’s abundantly clear and sometimes you have just enough to take next faithful step.
For Than and me, our call into missions wasn’t some mystical moment. For both of us, it started many, many years ago.
As a young child I (Ruthina) was always captivated when missionaries came to speak at our church or when missionary stories were shared in children’s church. Right before high school I had a turning point in my walk with the Lord – a real point of surrender where I said I would go where He wanted me to go and do what He wanted me to do. Serving overseas was on my mind – even though I knew it might be many years away. My passion for missions continued to grow as I went to college and I participated in several short term mission trips. I remember thinking to myself, how could you be a Christian and not be willing to go?! I also spent 1 year teaching English in Asia upon graduating from college. While I believe that any city you live in is a mission field, my heart has always been drawn to other cultures.
Than also felt the call to mission since a very young age. His father’s church supported a missionary to Nigeria whom he wanted to follow. His siblings recall that he wanted to be a missionary pilot, but he only remembers the desire to be a missionary to Nigeria. All the way through high school he had a passion for geography and cultures and wanted to learn more about others. While in college, his visions of mission work in Nigeria was broadened to consider Africa as a whole. This led to two semesters abroad: one in Ghana, Africa, and the second in Malawi. These two semesters also refocused his vision for mission involvement on issues of poverty and the poor.
After pursuing a Master degree in International Development, he pursued his calling to mission with two years of mission service in Ethiopia, Africa. While there, Than was asked to teach theology and development, but felt ill-equipped and discerned the need for formal theological training. He returned to the United States to do just that, leading to his current studies in the PhD program at Fuller Theological Seminary.
When Than and I met, our shared interest in missions was one of the topics that initially drew us together. As we dreamed about our future together, serving overseas was something that was always part of our plans and conversations.
And here we are. Time to take the next faithful step. In the nearly 5 years we’ve been married we’ve been taking lots of little steps. And now it’s time to take some bigger steps of obedience to be faithful to the call God has given us.