Napkin notes sketch route to Central Asia
By Tim Allan | Central Asia
Stock image by Cottonbro Studio, via Pexels (edited).
A quickly scribbled diagram on a fast food restaurant napkin is a treasured souvenir of Bill and Doris’s journey into mission. The jotting showed the possible routes the young married couple could take to confirm God’s call on their lives. Although they did not realise it, it was a key signpost on their pathway to serving with SIM.
Bill and Doris, who have three young children, now plan to serve long-term in Central Asia. If you had told either of them that would be their career path when they met at college, they would have laughed at you.
Bill was looking forward to an engineering career, thinking he would most likely stay in the same company for most of his life. Doris, who had gone to college on a Navy scholarship, knew she would be spending the next seven years moving to wherever she was posted.
God’s first surprise was that Bill, despite his reluctance, realised he would have to put his career second if he wanted to be with Doris, who was about to start training to be a submarine officer.
He said: “After Doris graduated she was posted to South Carolina and we moved down there. I didn’t know what to expect but I found an engineering job and we joined a really good church. We began leading a small group and got really involved, with lots of opportunities to host and felt quite settled.
“Even though we were a small church, it was missional and we helped support some mission workers. But we thought our role would always be sending, rather than going ourselves.
“After about 18 months or so, Doris was posted to the West coast, so we had to uproot and start all over.
“I had to give up my job and when we moved I had a few months without a job. She was on a schedule which meant she was away for three months at a time, and then home, but still working, for four months.
“It was tough at first but I eventually got a job, we found a good church and we began to enjoy our new life. Again, we were involved in hosting small groups, often including people who weren’t Christian. But I couldn’t see how God could use an engineer and a submarine officer in missions.”
God had another surprise in store. It just so happened that the church they had joined supported an SIM mission couple serving in Asia.
And when the couple spoke to the church during a home assignment, Bill and Doris began to see what might be possible. The four of them even went out for lunch and the couple patiently explained the various routes into mission, plotting them out on that napkin.
Doris left the Navy at the end of her term so she and Bill could start a family and, some time later, God produced another surprise.
Bill saw an exciting job in Philadelphia and wanted to take it – yes, the man who had thought he’d stay put all his life now wanted to move across the country again.
He said: “I was as surprised as anyone, but the job was right in my specialist area.
“By this time we had two kids but Doris agreed to move, so we headed off again, packing all our stuff into a van and going.
“God surprised us again because while we driving over we had a call from someone at SIM with an engineering background! He wanted to get to know us and, I think, show us engineers could go into mission.”
The area they moved into was very multi-cultural. They made friends with an Egyptian couple on their street and, again, opened their house to students and others for Bible study. Increasingly, they were finding people coming who did not know Jesus but were eager to learn.
From there, they took a 16-week course in cross-cultural mission and moved through the SIM membership process.
Bill said: “By then we were thinking it might be possible for us to go, but we did not really know where. We knew we wanted to go where the gospel had not been shared widely, so we were thinking it could be the Middle East, North Africa or Central Asia.”
While they were at the SIM head office in Charlotte, God surprised them again. By his grace, their time in the guest house overlapped by one day with a couple who were serving in Central Asia with their own young children. If ever Bill and Doris needed confirmation of God’s calling, that was it.
Now, of course, God’s big surprise is that they will soon be living in that very region, doing the same work. At first, that will involve learning the language and culture and neither of them has any idea where God will take them after that.
As they know, God loves to surprise his people. All his small surprises in their lives are now pointing to that big surprise of full-time mission in Central Asia.
•For God to make his calling fully known to Bill and Doris as they move to Central Asia.
•For all the practicalities of moving with three children under five to Central Asia, that God would smooth support-raising, visas and everything else.
•For God to encourage and empower Bill and Doris as they startlong-term service in a place where so few people know Jesus
If you are interested in exploring Central Asia opportunities email Brenda Naatz (firstname.lastname@example.org)