To explain this picture we have to go back… way, way back.
I can still feel it—my throat thick, heart pounding. I was only five, but the way the missionaries that Sunday shared about their work in Guatemala did something deep in my innocent and curious heart. Some time after that I have a vivid memory of my dad tucking me in bed and asking what I wanted to be when I grew up. “A missionary” I stated ever so mater-of-factly.
Fast-forward about 10 years. I only remember how old I was by the blue carpety fabric I can feel under me in the memory—I was driving my first car. That baby blue Bonneville was gliding under the summer sun. Windows down, country music humming. I know exactly where I was. I can see the trees and fields and feel the sticky summer air. I’m not sure what sparked it, maybe it was my new driving freedom, but I meant each word of the prayer that changed my life:
“I’ll go anywhere, God. I’ll do anything for you. Lead me and I will follow.”
Those words— that promise— have lived with me, stirred in me and sent me places I could have never dreamed. From that day forward I always knew my life would look different. I probably wouldn’t stay put in my hometown, and always imagined I would leave the country some day.
Back then “missionary” had a very specific definition: person who moves to poor, 3rd world country to spread the gospel and provide basic needs.
And that’s why when I returned from a semester of studying abroad in the Netherlands (the opposite of a 3rd world country), I was unable to reconcile the unexpected and confusing storm of emotion and passion and … calling? You see, I expected the Netherlands to feel a lot like New Holland—my sleepy, conservative, 99% Christian hometown. Needless to say, I couldn’t have been more wrong. But I thought they were like us? Didn’t my Christian Reformed Church originate there? I thought only 3rd world countries needed Jesus?
I sat with a professor of mine from Dordt College and tried to explain how my heart felt. Breaking and confused. “But I always thought God would send me to Africa or Guatemala?!”
Professor Volkers smiled kindly. (Oh, his patience with my naivety) He stood and pulled a fat book from the shelf. What he showed me that afternoon changed everything.
“Chelsey, look at these statistics. 33% of Africa is evangelical, and here; see, only 6% of the Netherlands is. They may not have the physical needs other countries have, but their need for Jesus is great.”
This was the first shattering of my definition of missionary.
From that moment I pushed and shoved and tried to force my way back to the Netherlands. I made connections through Focus on the Family, Googled how to get any job, cried, prayed and considered becoming a nanny just to be there. But not one door opened.
And, in the waiting, life went on. Steve asked me to marry him and I said yes. Even though I thought he might change his mind a few weeks before the wedding when I shared with him my dream, my personal conviction to never live a “normal” life. “I don’t want stability or a white picket fence. I crave challenge. I promised God I would follow Him in a life of adventure. Life with me won’t be easy. I have a wandering heart…”
Poor guy. Thankfully, he married me anyway 🙂
Fast-forward four more years…
I ended the Skype call before my friend could see my tears. Dry throat. Heart pounding. A familiar feeling. I had been catching up with a friend of mine that works in marriage and family ministry in the Netherlands, and his update was depressing. The state of the Christ-centered family in the tiny country that stole my heart was grim.
Why did I care so much? Why did I have such an unnatural love for this place? My knees dug into the carpet in the corner of my office as I prayed a new prayer. “God, take it away. I don’t want to feel this way anymore. If this isn’t part of my future, can you help me move on?!”
I begged God to kill my dream and drown my passion.
Oh, how I love serving a God who not only hears, but who intervenes. Who shows up and steps in. And boy did He.
To move the story along… there was a Vineyard conference Steve and I attended in the spring of 2016 (to learn more about The Vineyard, the church we are a part of, go here.), a speaker whose message rocked my world and a connection made with the Vineyard church in Amsterdam. No, doors didn’t burst open, but God made something clear:
Don’t ignore what I’m doing in you, but don’t ignore where I’ve put you either.
Instead of drowning my dreams, God shifted my focus. 2016 was an incredible year of personal and spiritual growth for both Steve and me. We were stretched and loved and discipled… encouraged and taught.
I had my second shattering of my simple definition of missionary. I began to understand the bigger picture—the great commission in a new light. All who follow Jesus are called to be missionaries, spreading Christ’s love and living His ministry wherever they are, whether thats Holland or New Holland, Madrid or Madrid, IA. Travel to a foreign land and spread the gospel? “Easy”. Build a relationship with my cranky next-door neighbor? Terrifying.
I began to settle in, to press in to where I was—where God had planted me.
Then there was a Skype call on a Tuesday morning this past January with the Amsterdam Vineyard. It was just an introduction, an opportunity to learn more about them. Nothing out of the ordinary.
When the woman I was talking with, the Marriage and Family pastoral leader of the church, told me she was moving, vacating her position, my heart skipped a beat. But then, surprisingly, went back to normal. No thick throat. No longing. But then she asked it—“How content are you in life right now?”
I looked down at my 7-month pregnant belly and out the window overlooking the calm, frozen prairie. “Very. I wouldn’t change a thing.” And I meant it.
Isn’t that always when God throws a curveball?
When the call ended, Steve’s words took me by complete surprise, “You could at least ask for the job description.”
And, well, so much has happened since those words left his mouth. So many prayers and meetings and Skype calls, mixed with a handful of hard conversations and tears.
And that brings us here, the adorable picture above: my sweet Ruby Kay with her very first passport—one month away from joining Steve and me on an exploratory trip to the Netherlands. We will visit the church, meet with the pastor and other church community members and also just do our best to experience life in Amsterdam.
All roads led here: to this moment, to this trip. Too many things have happened along this path to be ignored. This is our next step in obedience: discovery.
We have begun to pray a big and bold prayer—that God would align our hearts so clearly, that when we slide into our seats on the flight home, we are in perfect alignment on what our next step is. There are many options…
- Continue to pray for the church and the NL as a whole.
- Financially support the church.
- Start a partnership with the church in Amsterdam and our church in Iowa—possibly visiting the Amsterdam church more often with others from our church.
- Move there as missionaries / volunteers. (This role I would be taking with the church would require 100% raised support. It is not a paid position.)
- Options we don’t even know exist.
So there it is.
This is a dream that has been brewing inside of me for years, one I haven’t shared with many people because it has always seemed too crazy, too impossible. There is something terrifying about putting it all in writing. I’ve often wondered, “why can’t I just be “ok” with a quiet, simple life?” But that’s not how God made me. Instead, I crave change and adventure and risk.
I belive my life, our family life, is a transformational process. So whatever the outcome of this discovery trip is, I know God will use it to draw us closer to Him.
There is not an arrival point; no grand destination…just listening to the directing calls, sometimes whispers, of our Creator. And putting one foot in front of the other, moving toward Him in daily obedience.
It can be easy for me to want to run off to the next exciting adventure, but sometimes the hardest call is the one to stay, to invest. If that is our answer, I am excited to heed that call too. But this step, this trip, of discovery is needed.
Will you pray with us for wisdom and discernment? That we will hear God’s voice and be unified as a family?
We are excited to see how God will use this and what He has in store! Feel free to reach out to Steve or me with any questions.