When we arrived in America, back after a year away, we had two kids. We had some suitcases and a guitar case. We had a skid on a container ship. We had each other and we had a feeling of unfinished work.
Unfinished work is kind of a specialty of mine. Ideas come more frequently than they can be implemented and seen to their full end. Notebooks lay mostly but not completely full. Bottles of ink, fountain pens that sit in a pen cup with the ink still in them slowly turning to sludge that future-Dan may or may not ever get around to cleaning out.
We came back because God pulled us back. When the decision was made, we were compelled. It took a little bit of time, but once the gears were in motion, everything just kind of… happened. I was barely making any money at the time, there was a financial crisis (not this one, the other one that happened) and so better paying work was hard to come by. But I had work, in factories and then in a pub kitchen, which to this day is still one of the best and hardest jobs I’ve ever had. Somehow, whenever a big bill came in, there was money to pay for it. A tax credit came through or suddenly I was given 60-hour weeks at work. It was always just at the right time. As our church family prayed for us, they wanted to send us.
If there was any doubt about whether we were meant to return, we just had to look back and see what God was doing to make it happen.
But it happened in such a way, almost effortlessly, that when it was the week of our departure, I was unsure. I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to happen. Were we meant to leave now? Were we meant to return? There was so much that felt unfinished. The land wasn’t done with me, with our family.
It turns out, it really was unfinished.
When we got back, I was employed almost straightaway, but it was miserable. Early morning stocking. Night shift at a gas station. A job in a warehouse that came without a real title or job description resulting in me teaching myself how to use, fix and maintain a CNC lathe and mill that were constantly breaking down. Coiling miles and miles of cable that would end up connecting cell phone towers. Wondering if I was going to be the next one to be let go when business slowed down to a standstill. Working two jobs in order to keep our noses above water. Working 70 hours on easy weeks and 80 on hard weeks. Missing an entire year of my kids growing up in order to keep the roof over their heads. All until finally getting a job that pays enough for me to work one job, freeing up time that I almost didn’t know how to use.
While all of this was happening, we were growing deeper into our church. Leading worship every other week. Leading worship at other churches to serve them and bring in a little bit more money. Tracy spent time becoming more and more involved with children’s ministry. Reading and reading and listening to sermons every week where the Word was preached and the Gospel presented. Every week, hearing the Gospel over and over again. Realising that it is truer and truer as I grow older. Seeing the beauty of something that seems so foolish. Seeing that rather than casting me into sin and suffering and experiencing my best life now, I am a sinner held mercifully in the hands of an angry God Who chose not to pour out that anger on me but on His Son.
And I was placed in a position that forced me to overcome my fear of speaking. Not only do I need to lead in song, I have to proclaim and exhort. I have to explain why it is that we are singing these songs. That when we gather as the Church, we are not gathering for a simple sing-a-long. We are a microcosm of the very Kingdom of Heaven. We are a tiny, broken picture of what we will be at the very end. A gathering of people that have no business gathering together but drawn together by the hand and work of God to proclaim His work and glory.
Then a year ago, I got coffee with an old friend of mine. And a few months later, I found myself in a conference room in Orlando being assessed for something that I never, ever, ever expected to be assessed for. Sitting there, listening and learning and being given a minutes notice that I needed to give a clear, presentation of the Gospel in under 2 minutes. Exegete a text and give a three-minute devotion on it. Psychology tests. Cross-cultural tests. Personality tests. What is it that makes me tick. Finding out what series of letters the business world would use to define me and interact with me. Being told, I should do this but not yet, do some of the hardest work you’ve ever done first.
I then spent a summer agonising over the future while being given a constant reminder that Philippians 4:6-7 really is in the Bible and you really do need to obey it. Keep leading worship. Keep hammering away at this thing. It really is happening and it really is going to be this hard. But write everything down. Keep it in your heart. Remember these things later. Because one day you’re going to need them.
Make lists. Write more. Figure out how to fit all of the work into a life that already feels full.
All so that you can say the following:
I’ve been appointed as a missionary with Converge and AT3. As a family, we will serve the local church in the UK; gaining ministry experience in a post-Christian culture with an aim to further the Kingdom. We’re going at the end of the summer of 2018 and we’re excited and scared and cannot wait to begin. Follow us at our new website to find out how you can be a part of making it happen. Help us support and learn from local church leaders in order to proclaim the Gospel to a nation that has forgotten or, in some cases, abolished the very concept of God.