Before Tim and I were married, both of us felt called into missions, so when we met and it seemed as if God was leading us to be married, we started making plans to do missions together as husband and wife. Tim was a Bible major, and I was a Pre-Med major. We had great plans for how we were going to work as a team on the foreign mission field. We got married in 2002 in time for Tim to finish his final year of college. In 2003, we moved to Pennsylvania for him to go to seminary. I had chosen to not continue on to med school and instead became a Certified Nursing Assistant with the desire of some day getting my nursing degree. We were full speed ahead for getting to the mission field.
In 2004, we were blessed with our first child. In 2006, we found out we were unexpectedly expecting our second child. We were discouraged to have to decide for Tim to drop out of seminary because we couldn't afford to have him continue and be able to provide for yet another baby. In 2007, I was forced to begin my nursing degree because I found out my science credits were all expiring. That same year and into 2008, we were overwhelmed by the increasing special medical needs of our youngest and starting to be concerned by some behaviors of our oldest. In 2009, our suspicions about our oldest were confirmed, and Josh was given the scary diagnosis of Autism. By the time I finished my degree in 2010, Tim was in full swing of being a financial adviser, and really excelling. The action of missions was changing, so we decided that instead of having Tim finish seminary, we could do mission work looking into opportunities for business as missions. Also, because of the special needs of our children, God had given us a heart for ministering to those with special needs. We knew that we'd never be able to minister in a third world country due to our children's medical needs, so when we discovered the field of Bulgaria, we saw many doors of opportunity open before us, so we excitedly started walking through each one.
In April 2011, Tim and I went to Bulgaria on a Vision trip with the hope to figure out how our family can live there, see what schooling options were available, make sure we'd be a good fit with the ministry already there, and understand what our housing options were. We loved everything about being there and saw many opportunities to minster. We came home encouraged and believing we could make it work and that God was continuing to open necessary doors.
However, upon our return, David's health took as turn for the worst and by September, he was needing weekly antibody transfusions to help him fight bacterial illnesses. In November, I ended up with a migraine that took 3 months to finally break despite several drugs, visits with 4 neurologists, and a 4 day hospital stay. At the beginning of the ordeal, a CT Scan revealed 2 brain lesions that the doctors were concerned may be cancer or signs of Multiple Sclerosis. All tests for those were ruled out, but they never could figure out what the lesions were or what caused them.
By February 2012, Josh had his first psychiatric hospitalization, and we were told that he had Bi-polar in addition to Autism and would need to be on a mood stabilizer for the rest of his life. A few months later, we had a huge family crisis that nearly crushed us. In November, Josh was hospitalized for the second time. By then, we were so discouraged and felt that despite the call to missions in our lives, the door for Bulgaria as well as any full-time missions had been permanently closed.
We had to find contentment in the mission field at home where God had us in dealing with many medical and psychological specialists and finding opportunities to minister to families in similar situations as ours. Missions didn't look anything like we had planned, but we knew God had a plan and purpose greater than ours. We also found comfort in doing short term missions work and being able to be involved with a partnership in the Middle East. We enjoyed the trips we were able to make over there and the growing relationships with our dear brothers and sisters in Christ. In 2014, we had toyed with the idea of going over there as a family bringing our boys with us, but with the unrest happening in the country, we decided it wouldn't be wise.
In each of these attempts to serve God in missions, we felt these trials as a heavy hand of Satan working hard to keep us from the field. We related to Job in many ways. However, through each situation, we felt that God used the attacks of Satan to redirect our steps. After all, Satan is not able to thwart God's ultimate plans!
Finally, in November 2016, we starting praying about taking our family over there in the Spring of 2017. After much prayer, discussing logistics, analyzing the calendar, looking at the cost of flights, and coordinating dates with a gathering that was to happen in the Spring as well, we made the decision to go as a family and start making plans accordingly. Within less than a week of that decision, our stable family situation crumbled in several directions. It started with a crisis regarding David's outpatient therapy on November 30 that led to dealing with a legal agency which then resulted in the need to figure out another way for David to get help because of the trauma and loss of confidence in his counselor. The decision also affected Josh's therapy hence disrupting the therapy both boys were receiving. While in the midst of dealing with that emotional roller coaster, our beloved family kitten, who has brought so much joy to our lives the last several months, went missing after we let him out for the night on December 3. He is an outdoor cat, but he would come in a few times a day to be loved and cuddled. The missing cat brought heavy hearts to all of us but really took its toll on the boys, particularly Josh who began perseverating over his missing cat causing increased behavior issues at school and home. It was difficult for us to hear the boys prayers pleading with God to bring their cat home and see their discouragement when in their minds "God didn't listen."
Seeing this battle in their hearts and seeing their tenuous faith shaken even more, I started to struggle with why God would do this to our children. In the midst of working in the kitchen on December 14 praying and asking God to protect my boys' hearts and faith and asking Him "Why," God reminded me of the cost of missions and the struggles of our past each time we pursued missions. I had that "aha" moment that this was Satan once again attacking our family trying to ruin our plans before they could even be put into action. Tim and I had a great discussion that night about the circumstances, and while we had seen God using the circumstances in the past to redirect our paths, we really felt that God was in this trip and its timing and desired for us to go. So, we decided to declare war with Satan and persevere and not let his attacks keep us from serving. It was time to arm up for battle and move forward to show Satan he can't win. We sent requests to both boys' schools for an excused absence for the trip, and we started working on a support letter.
Ephesians 6:10-13a - "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground."
It didn't take long for Satan to take things up another level this time causing significant issues at school for Josh and unjust treatment of his behaviors and the resulting situations leading us into a battle for Josh's well-being and the legal rights of a kid with his diagnoses and the requirements of his Individualized Educational Plan (IEP). This began the week of December 19 for us. After the events and frustrations with Josh's school on December 20, I had reached my breaking point. I could not fight Satan any longer. If he wants to attack me, fine, so be it! But LEAVE MY CHILDREN ALONE! It's not fair to them! Satan had found my weakness, and I was ready to surrender.
Luke 24:26-27: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple."
I Peter 4: 12-13, 16, 19: Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed...However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name...So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good."
Thankfully, our story doesn't end here! Read "The Miracle of Hope" to hear how God miraculously intervened.