Photo Credit – Devon Regier, Mode Photography
I love people and, as we have reflected on and prayed about our upcoming work in Papua New Guinea, I think I am starting to see why this topic has been on my heart as of late. Why I have felt teary eyed as I have chatted with former youth leaders, prayed with former youth members, visited with former students and hung out with friends, both old and new. Why I have felt the need to spend some time saying thank you to the many people who have impacted my life in a positive way.
When you take on a journey like this, people are surprised, amazed and even in awe. So often you are told that you are brave and courageous. So often you are encouraged and lifted up because of the decision you’ve made and, on the rare occasion, you are made to feel insane. Most often you are made to feel like you have made and are carrying out this decision on your own and that you should be proud. As we have experienced the various reactions to our upcoming move, the one common thought that has entered my mind is that there is absolutely no way that we could have come to this decision alone. We have absolutely felt God leading us to make this move but we would not have been willing to listen to or follow His leading had it not been for some incredible people walking alongside us, both in the last few years and over the three decades of our lives. People woven into our story, without whom, we may not have heard or paid attention to God’s calling on our family at this time.
To those people, I want to say Thank you. There are so many of you. Many who have touched our lives as a couple and many who are integral to Jon’s story that I won’t be able to cover. There is so much to say to each of you and I could never mention each one of you in a blog post but I am going to try to name as many as possible.
To the people of Dunbar Heights Baptist Church, Grace Baptist, Oakridge Baptist and Ladner Baptist, thank you. You showed me love when you could have been more critical of me simply because I was the Pastor’s kid. You have been deeply concerned with and loving towards me. You have invested in my family and my future. You have stayed in touch, shared joys, grieved our sorrows and loved us deeply. Without you, I”m not sure I would love the church as much as I do but, with you, I will always carry a deeper understanding of why Christ loved the church.
To my youth leaders over the years, thank you. You showed me how to truly study the bible. You shared a love for scripture alongside an unconditional love for a young girl who knew how to act but didn’t know how to make her faith her own. You were, and still are, deeply influential people in my life. People who I hold in high esteem and friends for whom I thank my God often. Without you, I”m not sure that I would know what it looks like to disciple young men and women but, with you, I am inspired to make a difference in the lives of the young men and women of PNG.
To my dearest friends from RJ Hawkey, Delta Secondary and SFU, thank you. Each one of you has shown me unconditional love and loyalty while individually teaching me the endurance of friendship despite distance, the power of a friendship forged not out of convenience but out of consistency and effort and, lastly, the deep joy of a friendship rooted in Christ’s love. You each provided a safe place for God to show me love and give me direction during some of the most difficult years of my life. Without each of you, I don’t know that I would have had the perseverance to make it through those awkward, ‘figuring myself out’ years, the wisdom to navigate a new and exciting relationship and the courage to endure deep tragedy and loss while holding strongly to my faith but, with you, I survived it all.
To my dearest University years friends and Napier crew, thank you. There is something special and intimate about the times spent together praying, laughing, worshipping and being authentic in each others’ presence over more than a decade. Alongside you, I became a wife, a mother and now a missionary. You are family in every sense of the word and, as one of you put it, you are our lifetime prayer warriors and us yours.
Without you, I do not know if I would know what it means to truly share life with another person. Without you, I don’t know if I would have such a deep understanding of spiritual community and, without you, I don’t know if I would treasure the friendships God has placed in my life in the same way but, with you, I am strengthened for any journey that lies ahead.
To my BMBC family, the BMBC youth (who are now adults, some with kids of their own) one incredibly special youth couple turned great friends and one incredibly wonderful youth pastor and his wife, thank you. You gave us a place to serve when we were eager to get involved, you showed Jon and I that serving together was both enjoyable and deeply necessary for our marriage, you taught us that service sometimes results in the gifting of an amazing lifelong friendship of which you feel undeserving and you journeyed with us through marriage and parenthood in complete authenticity and with incredible doses of hilarity, sarcasm and fun. Without you all, I truly don’t know if my passion for serving youth would run so deeply or if we would have had the courage to follow God’s leading but, with you, we feel loved, accepted and inspired to serve.
To my brother, thank you. You gave me confidence, you gave me love, you gave me protection. You believed in me with your whole heart and, despite your own inability to accept the power of Christ’s healing love for you, you encouraged me to follow my faith wherever it might take me. In your life, you gave me such joy and, in your death, you gave me a passion for serving other kids like you, a strength to handle life’s disappointments, the realization that our days are not guaranteed and an empathy that God has used and will hopefully continue to use in the future. Without you, I am nearly sure that I would be unwilling to move my family across the world but, with you, I have confidence that my life is best lived where God wants me to be, safe by the worlds standards or not.
To my FOCUS students, former and current, thank you. You gave me a tangible way to share the passion ignited by my brothers loss. You gave me a home, a place to go to every day, a place to share love and acceptance, respect and expectation. A place to watch second chances and fresh starts transform lives that were already incredible, whether they knew it or not. I will never forget any of you. I will cherish chance run-in’s, planned visits and each and every memory from that wonderful classroom. Without you, I may never have felt equipped to work with youth but, with you, I feel empowered to make a difference wherever possible.
To my dear LSS colleagues, my treasured FOCUS classroom teammates, and my inspiring principal, thank you. You have been family to me. You have been encouragement, hugs, refreshing visits, and, to one very special TA and friend, you have been a daily joy over the past decade. I have never felt more welcomed and included than I have at Langley Secondary. Without you, I would not know what it is like to be a part of a team, but with you, I feel loved, accepted and know I have a home when I return.
To the youth, youth leaders and youth parents at JRCC, thank you. You have welcomed Jon and I with open arms. You have taught us how to serve well, to disciple and to build relationships. You have given us opportunities to grow and you have entrusted us with the hearts of your children. Your kids have become dear friends and we have felt that we are equal parts leader and learner as we have sought God alongside your kids. Without you, we may not have felt like serving youth was a part of God’s plan for our lives but, with you, we feel affirmed in this calling.
To our North Shore and JRCC life groups, thank you. You have been our anchor. You have been our encouragement. You have been the men and women pointing us to our Saviour and challenging us to ask the tough questions. You have inspired us to Kingdom living and we are thankful. You are authentic and loving and God’s Spirit has been present where we’ve met. John Piper said it well, “We are talking here about ordinary Christians who meet together with such expectancy and fervency of prayer, and vision—or desperation—that the Spirit is poured out, and people are added to the church daily, and witness is bold, and missionaries are called and sent, and prison doors are opened.” Without you, we would not have been sent out but, with you, we feel the power of prayer, friendship and fellowship behind us.
To my Godparents, my honorary aunts and uncles and their families, thank you. You have been an ongoing support to my parents. You have been their friends over numerous decades and I have inherited you as mine. Through your friendship, I have learned that distance or time do not have to limit the depth of a friendship and that being with others who know, love and accept you, is one of God’s greatest gifts. Without you, I would not have the confidence to leave my home and friends for two years but, with you, I know that those who love us deeply will go with us and be here waiting when we return.
To my husband’s family and one very special missionary and aunt, thank you. You have been encouragement and inspiration to us. You have loved me and welcomed me into your family without hesitation. You have shown us what it is like to support global missions, even if that means surrendering a beloved member of your family and we thank you for extending that grace to us even though we intend on taking your grandchildren away. Without you, we wouldn’t have the courage to step out in faith, but with you, we know that God’s calling is worth taking the risk.
To my family, my parents, my nana and my wonderful aunt, uncle and cousins, thank you. You don’t think I’m nuts (maybe partially because you’re all equally nuts). You love me and my crazy crew of boys (and now girl) and you help me maintain my sanity in an unspeakable number of ways. You are my support and my biggest fans. You have been incredibly impactful in the lives of my children. You live upstairs, you babysit, you pick up children, you drive children, you cook breakfast, grab laundry, grab groceries, clean up puke or whatever else is helpful (now you all know how I’m not a giant puddle of tears amidst the insanity that is my house). You, not just what you do, will be greatly missed. You are God-loving, bible-reading, addiction-facing, tragedy-enduring men and women of God and you are my family. Without you, I would not be who I am today but, with you, I know that I can make this journey because you, also, see the importance, you, also, know that we are first God’s and then each others and, you also, support me even when it hurts.
To my kids, and specifically my oldest, thank you. You have accepted this crazy adventure despite your awareness that Papua New Guinea is far far away and, sadly Nana and other relatives will not be travelling with us. You have served alongside us, shared us willingly with the youth, and processed this journey with excitement and a growing awareness that God’s plans are more important than ours. You are fearless sharers of Christ’s love, you are messy, wonderful and you are ours. Without you, we would not sense the urgency of living out our faith with action but, with you, we will go wherever Christ leads and we will do it now.
To my husband, thank you. You are calm. You are fearless. You are Godly. You have grown into an incredible man of God and I already thought you were awesome when I met you (well, shortly after I finished thinking you were obnoxious). I have watched God work in your heart over the past decade and specifically the past few years. He has been changing you. He has been changing us. I have had a front row seat to His calling on your life and I am beyond amazed that I have the privilege of growing with you. Without you, I would not have had the guts to say ‘yes’ to God’s calling, but with you, I can truly embrace this move with faith and reassurance that serving God in whatever way He calls us, wherever He calls us, is the only decision worth making as man and wife.
So, next time you think of our family and you think of our upcoming journey, please take a moment to think of these people. To pray and to thank God for placing them in our lives. To know that our story has been a product of divine appointments resulting in blessed friendships that birthed faithful obedience. I need people, and I think you can see why.