Monday, February 9, 2015

The Power Of Taking One Step Of Faith

Looking back on my ministry experiences, I've found that adventure and untold opportunities to experience God are just one step of obedience away. But often that step of faith can seem like foolishness. When faced with the choice between risking our lives and playing it safe, fear can be described as wisdom and we can miss out on experiencing God.

A great example is the story of Rob and Joany Wills, a typical hard working west Texas couple that took one small step of faith which has led to a spectacular adventure with God.  Rob, a long time high school football coach, and Joany, a high school counselor, were working and serving in their church and life group in San Antonio. But a testimony from Teresa Devlin, a missionary to Honduras suddenly changed the course of their life. God began to stir in them a desire to go with a team from their church to Honduras on a short term mission trip.  But Joany had never been out of the country and so, even though there was a desire, there was also great fear and anxiety.  She was intimidated by the smallest details, afraid to even go and get a passport.

After hearing the missionary's story and praying, Joany, despite her fears, committed to going to Honduras and set about preparing for their first trip overseas.  They were so impacted by the mission trip that they began to consider retiring and going full time on the mission field. I remember having lunch with Rob and Joany and them asking me if I thought they were crazy to consider going full time on mission. Absolutely not I said. I encouraged them to pursue the idea and see where it leads them.

After researching and learning that they could retire, and live off their retirement, they decided to go for it. They had no idea where they would go, but were convinced that God wanted them on the mission field somewhere overseas.

Fast forward a couple of years and you'll now find Rob and Joany living in Ireland serving as missionaries full time.  They had spent a half a year traveling to Central America, visiting missions amd orphanages with the expectation that this was where they would serve as missionaries.  During their travels they were persuaded to go to Waterford, Ireland and spend some time with a small evangelical church. Rob, being a west Texas high school football coach, did some research and found out that the town had an American club football team that had recently been organized. He contacted the coach and told him that he was coming to Waterford and would like to meet him.  Well you would have thought that a celebrity was coming to Waterford.  In the eyes of these amateur football players, meeting a bona fide Texas football coach was like meeting Bill Belichick in person. 

During the Wills' initial visit to Ireland, God opened several doors for ministry and with an invitation to coach the football team they chose to move to Ireland and be missionaries to an area that is very much post-Christian. Rob says that most adults in Ireland consider evangelical Christianity a cult.
Since Rob and Joany are able to live off their retirement, the money they raise goes directly to their ministry. Joany has opened up a thrift store that they named The Grace Shop. They secured a three story building downtown which had been a hostel, using the first floor to house the store. Their living quarters are on the second floor and the third floor is being used to house mission teams.  Most of the clothes they sell at the thrift shop come from donations from friends here in the U.S.  It's been a wonderful avenue for Joany to meet and develop relationships with ladies in the town.  She is holding a Bible study and using relationship evangelism to share the Gospel. Rob has been coaching and sharing God's grace to the men on the football team. He has had a profound impact in the first year he has been there and will be on Ireland's national football team's coaching staff.

If this were the extent of their impact, it would be amazing but God has a way of doing even more than we could imagine. This past fall, Rob and Joany had the opportunity to travel to India with the pastor of the church in Waterford to help train and disciple Indian pastors and potential leaders. Rob returned with an incredible experience of being able to impact men and women who are serving in areas where there had never been a church before.  He told me that it seemed beyond his imagination that God would call this old west Texas coach to Ireland to minister to men in India! Rob went on to share this wonderful story about his trip to India, how God works even in the details to meet our ministry needs. 

"Shortly before we left for India we received a sizable amount of money in our checking account. At first we thought there had been a mistake but we discovered that the donation of $2500 was from my mother.  My dad's death in April had been ruled an accident and one of his insurance policies paid off. My mom divided it up between me and my siblings and we received $2500.

At the end of our pastor's conference in India, we asked the organizing pastors if they had any urgent needs for their ministry. We wanted to give them a blessing for an immediate need. They told us how all the pastors shared one motorcycle in order to reach the remote villages.  I asked how many they needed and they said two more would help them tremendously. What is the cost for a motorcycle here?  They answered 70,000 rupees per bike about $1250.  The two motorcycles would cost exactly the same amount, $2500 that we received unexpectedly from my dad's insurance policy. God knows ahead of time our needs and He is faithful to provide. 

As I listened to Rob and Joany excitedly tell this story and the other amazing things God was doing, I thought back only a few years when Joany was too afraid to even get a passport. The transformation was incredible. But as she overcame her fears and put her trust in Jesus and obeyed His call, Joany and Rob are now experiencing Him in wonders beyond our imagination.  We receive power when we step out and trust God!  It may often seem like insanity, but often times taking one faithful step forward can catapult you into the center God's epic drama.  

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