Untold Stories: Goodbye Spain
At Open Door Church, we want to tell stories of faith, of hope and the journey of faith we are on together. This blog kicks of this renewed focus as we start to tell more stories of those in our church.
Most people have stories they like to tell. One of Tyler’s (my husband’s) favorites is when he tried to “upgrade” his younger brother’s bike to a makeshift plane so he could fly it over their house. It went badly. Surprisingly, adding a piece of plywood to a store-bought bike doesn’t give it superpowers. This story comes up often when we are spending time with my in-laws. Someone will bring it up and everyone has a good chuckle at my brother-in-law’s expense. Happy stories and funny stories get told all the time. But everyone, once they are an adult, has a few cornerstone-moment stories that are responsible for forming them into who they are today. Quite often, these are stories people don’t necessarily want retold. These stories are the ones that only family and close friends know; stories of rejection, failure, and fear.
Such a story happened to Tyler and I as we were finishing up college. We had been married for one year at the time and were ready to make our mark on the world. We had decided to dedicate two years to working overseas at a media ministry in Spain. I had led a missions trip there my junior year and felt God had lined it all up for us. Tyler had visited Spain and was fluent in conversational Spanish. The people at the media ministry loved us when we met at a missions convention. How could this not be God’s perfect plan for us?
We listened to the advice of people in the missions organization where we applied. We filled out pages upon pages of applications, got recommendations from pastors and drove 10 hours to Iowa to our first interview. And it went great! The minister interviewing us thought it would be a great fit for us. We were on our way.
Then it started.
We didn’t hear back. Finally, we contacted them and it wasn’t good news. The missions board was worried about money. They said we should go through my home state of Ohio which had a bigger network. It was 2009, the housing bubble had burst and everyone was scared. We knew this was God’s plan for our lives so we forged on. We graduated and moved to Ohio, where we had another chance. We had the appointment scheduled months in advance because their missions board didn’t meet very often. When we called to confirm our appointment. They had lost it. And by “it,” I mean everything: our application and our appointment. They didn’t know we existed. I had the emails to prove that we had scheduled our interview. The secretary we had made the appointment with was “no longer with us.” Fired for incompetence was my guess. Could something go our way in this process?
When we got it figured out, we forwarded all our information to the missions board again and set a new interview time up. We drove the 3 hours and had the interview. They had us step out of the room for a few minutes and called us back. It wasn’t good news.
We had banked our future on what we thought was a sure shot. We had both grown up in the denomination, earned biblical studies degrees at a college in the same denomination yet felt utterly rejected. As we tried to figure out our next step there was a lot of healing that needed to happen. We tried to make sense of what happened, but there was no logic to it. There are reasons Tyler and I have discussed ad nauseam, but there are pieces to the puzzle that only God knows. I sometimes wonder if we should have pushed through, contacted more people who had power, tried again in a few months, done something – anything – to get to Spain. Our journey over the next 8 years would lead us to more apartments than I can remember, starting an art gallery in Cleveland, a lot of fried chicken, moving to Iowa, working in local news and more videos edited for free than I care to remember. There was a period of mourning the life we thought we would have.
As God says to the prophet Isaiah, “my ways are higher than your ways.” Though my plan for my life hasn’t worked the way I thought it would, it is only by His grace that He has kept me on the journey this far. We need to tell the painful stories more often, and in more ways than a passive aggressive Facebook post (which I have wanted to do so many times on this journey). We need to tell these stories to people who are at different places on their journey of faith, to give them hope that it does get better, that God is faithful and that no matter what, God keeps His promises.