Not that long ago Mike and Diane appeared to be “living the dream.”
Mike had a great career. They lived in a wonderful neighborhood. And having four beautiful daughters meant their home was full of music, school projects, and family game nights. Life seemed to be on autopilot.
Yet, as 2019 came to an end, their GPS began to recalculate, and they decided it was time to leave the church Mike had pastored for over twenty years.
Then Covid hit.
Like the rest of us, their landscape became totally unfamiliar. The sudden departure from one lifelong calling during a time of such isolation and uncertainty really was a dark night of the soul.
They also felt the stirrings of long-held dreams — but was this really the time to consider a radical recalculation?
If so, how could they explore a call to missions in the middle of a pandemic?
And could their journey help us come to a deeper understanding of how God leads us through uncertain times?
Calling Involves Disruption
Do you remember the stories about how air pollution dropped when much of the world was in lockdown?
Suddenly, you could see distant mountain ranges from the middle of some of the most densely populated cities in the world!
When we’re no longer generating the exhaust fumes of our routines, we can see more clearly.
With their experience in mentoring others in ministry, Mike and Diane were ready for a new setting.
Could it be overseas? After all, they had done short-term missions before.
Now, a global pandemic was actually giving them more time and space to pursue possibilities.
Scripture contains many calls that started with a singular disruption.
Moses was a shepherd in the wilderness before that bush caught fire.
Saul of Tarsus was headed down a murderous path until God knocked him off his horse. He was soon commissioned as the Apostle to the Gentiles.
Knowing that God is with us in disruption, we can be open to finding the direction He is sending us.
Calling Involves Conversation
Despite the many challenges, the pandemic has been a great season to pursue people from a distance.
With many of our overseas missionaries on lockdown, they have often been more accessible to folks seeking to learn more about missionary work and explore opportunities to join them.
And when our summer interns couldn’t go overseas, we arranged a virtual internship to share, pray, study with our missionaries, and “Zoom visit” some fields together.
We have even moved our candidate assessment online through “Virtual Assessment and Orientation.”
For Mike and Diane, this meant that taking the first step to pursue missions was still possible – and they wouldn’t have to go it alone.
A Google search and a phone conversation with a friend put them on the path to Serge.
After exploring our website, Mike contacted his friend, Ron Coleman, Serge’s Regional Networking Leader. Ron encouraged Mike to fill out an application to get started.
And that’s how I — a missionary recruiter — met Mike and Diane. We spent time together reviewing the peaks and valleys of their family life and gospel ministry years.
As I heard their story, I was eager to find opportunities for them to walk with European pastors and their families working to “replant churches” in Post-Christian Europe.
I introduced them (virtually) to two overseas senior leaders who are facilitative church planters with Serge. But not before I had told Mike and Diane that these particular leaders also loved to play board games. (Hey, missionaries work hard and play harder.)
After a couple of Zoom chats, everyone was excited to keep the process moving.
Mike and Diane began going through Mentored Sonship, a personal mentoring program designed to help prepare them for the field. And I was also getting to know Mike as someone I’d value as a ministry colleague. All from a distance!
Since Acts 13, when Paul and Barnabas were sent out from their home church, discerning a missionary calling has always involved praying together and listening to each other.
While Mike and Diane may not have envisioned these conversations taking place over phone and video calls, each step of the way God provided powerful moments of connection as we walked alongside them as they explored their calling.
Calling Involves Courage
In December 2020, Mike and Diane accepted an invitation to serve as missionaries with Serge.
I’m thrilled to say that they will be leaving for Central Europe in the summer of 2021.
Looking back over the experience, Diane noted,
“The pandemic provided rich soil for thinking through a new calling. The current circumstances helped us think through what we wanted life to be about.”
Their story is not unique.
Serge has appointed over twice as many new missionaries since the start of Covid than the year before. And we’ve been flooded with inquiries from people like Mike and Diane, interested in a conversation to explore if a career in missions could be right for them.
That’s not surprising when you remember that since the Book of Acts, the church’s dislocation has always triggered Kingdom expansion.
The gospel is not on lockdown.
And Covid will not stop the advance of His Kingdom.
God is bringing the nations to Himself. And He asks us to join Him.
You can still pursue that calling, confident that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion on the day of Christ Jesus.
Here are a few Serge resources you might find helpful:
Promises in the Dark by Eric McLaughlin talks about walking with those in need without losing heart.
The Mission Centered Life by Bethany Ferguson shows the interplay of God’s work in us and He prepares to work thorough us.
Outside resources to consider:
In “Leading Beyond the Blizzard” Andy Crouch suggests we should do more than wait to get back to normal we should adapt to the change.
Keeping the Missions Flame Burning During a Pandemic from Missio Nexus provides further thoughts on how Covid will not frustrate God’s purposes among the nations.
Preparing for leadership in the Age of Covid from Outreach Magazine challenges us to think about how we can lead into this new chapter in the life of the Church.