A few weeks ago, I accepted the Director position at Bingham Academy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We will be moving in January and stay for at least four years. If you had told me two years ago that we would be moving to Africa, I would have never believed you. Over the past year and a half, God has moved mightily in my life and heart to prepare me for this opportunity. The following is a brief overview of the journey God has taken me on.
In November 2015, the men in our community group were going through a marriage study called You and Me Forever by Francis Chan. There was a particular chapter in this marriage study that God used to convict me of my lack intentionality in living on mission for Him. I distinctly remember confessing to the men sitting in my living room, “Guys, this might be the most convicted I have ever been in my entire life.” This conviction extended much farther than a specific job or location in the world. It was a change in my thinking. Was all of my time, talents, and treasures clearly focused on God’s mission? I’m not sure I will ever be able to fully say yes. However, I wanted to make sure that my life’s trajectory is one that is being more aligned with God’s mission.
Three months later, I took a trip with one of my mentors to Ethiopia. We spent several days meeting with Ethiopian church leaders as well as speak at an international high school basketball tournament held at Bingham Academy. Though I have been on numerous short term mission trips, this one was different. First of all, this trip completely destroyed my stereotypes of Africa and my misunderstandings of what God was doing there. I was amazed at the vibrancy of the Ethiopian Church. I was blown away by the incredibly gifted, Spirit-filled leaders of the Church. I was challenged by their devotion to the Lord. I was humbled by their hunger to be trained in Biblical truth. I was overjoyed by the fruitfulness of ministry that was happening. Matthew 9:37 kept repeating in my mind when Jesus told his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” Secondly, I left the trip with a renewed sense of personal purpose. I had been in season of life where I was struggling with clarity of what I should be doing. I returned to the U.S. with an affirmation of my pastoral heart and desire to help equip the body of Christ. I couldn’t help but feel compelled that my time, talents, and treasures needed to align with what God was already doing in Ethiopia. I thought this probably meant two or three trips a year to Africa, but little did I know what God had in store. As I got home and shared with Jenni (my wife) about what God was teaching me, we began to pray daily for God show us where He might be leading us.
I immediately restarted my seminary courses. One of the most impactful courses was Introduction to Missiology (aka Missions). It was during this class that I realized that what I was experiencing was actually a missionary call. I didn’t have a “burning bush” moment or hear an audible voice from God. I didn’t feel like some elite, super-Christian like I expected to feel. Though I had a new passion for Africa (Ethiopia in particular), it was different than I had expected. My professor described the missionary call as “an awareness of the needs and commands, a passionate concern for the lost, a commitment to God, the Spirit’s gifting, your church’s affirmation/blessing/commissioning and an indescribable yearning that motivates beyond all understanding.” This summarized what God had slowly been doing in my life.
In January 2017 I heard about the Director position at Bingham Academy opening up. Over the course of the next few months of prayers, emails, applications, and Skype interviews, both Jenni and I have been blown away by the God moments throughout this journey. Here are some of the moments:
· As I was told of the job opportunity, I spent the morning with the Lord to see if this was something I should pursue. During this time, I made a list of five questions I had in regards to the position. I asked God if this is something I should pursue, I needed a majority of those questions to be answered with a yes. Over the next couple of weeks, four and a half were answered with a yes!
· As I received the job description, I was amazed by the alignment of the job and my gifting and experiences. It was like the last six years had been purposefully designed to help prepare me for this opportunity.
· The similarities between Bingham and Briarcrest (my current school) are eerie at moments.
· During my last 20 minutes in Ethiopia before heading to the airport, I “happened” to run into the SIM Director of Ethiopia who I will now ultimately report to.
· During my trip to Ethiopia, I had spent three days on Bingham’s campus, meeting many of the faculty, staff, and students.
· Incredible undeserved favor in the eyes of the many decision-makers who God used to choose me for this position.
· Immense affirmation from many key American and Ethiopian friends when hearing of this opportunity.
Being Director of Bingham Academy will allow me to utilize my educational leadership experience while strategically placing us in a geographical position that fits in line with the calling I feel I have. Please pray for us right now as we prepare for the next four years of our life! In particular, please pray for the following:
· That our journey would not be glorifying ourselves, but totally point to the Lord.
· Our ability to process, communicate, and handle all the emotions that we are experiencing.
· Our preparation and selling of our home and possessions would happen in a timely manner.
· That we could raise the necessary funds needed as we are on the field.
· That God would provide both housing and finances for the next six months during the transition to Ethiopia.