Thursday, April 1, 2010

How we got to where we are...

I began writing this post exactly one year ago – just before Easter, but I never posted it. Just recently someone asked if I would do a post about why we moved to Mexico – she had looked in the blog archives and couldn’t find it. I thought it was kind of funny, actually, because when I started this blog, I only gave our blog address to family and close friends, and everyone who knew us, knew why we were moving, so I didn’t think to write anything about it then. Things have changed a little in 2 years, I guess. =) While I have edited the post some from last year, I have left it mostly the same. I kind of thought I would be able to shorten it, but it is still quite long, just so you are forewarned...
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Hmmm... I think the title of this post sounds suspiciously "final", which it really isn't. Hermosillo is our home now, and we will stay here unless the Lord directs us otherwise. I've been thinking a little recently about our "journey" the Lord has brought us on to where we are in Mexico right now, and thought I would write a bit about it for those who don't know.

It is Easter weekend. If we were in Canada, we would be heading to the Toronto Easter Bible Conference, enjoying hearing God's Word between visits to the bathroom, snack and drink breaks! Besides the great ministry we have enjoyed there, it's also a wonderful time to see friends and relatives that we seem only to see there.

Some of the journey Tim and I have been brought along has been similar, although it is neat to look back and see different ways the Lord has led us. This of course is just a "snapshot" of it all, as I would never be able to mention everything, but thought I would share this bit anyway. Tim and I were both born into homes where our parents were Christians and taught us family values by example and by planting the Word of God in us. They made sure we (and our siblings) knew from God's Word the Bible that we were sinners and needed to be saved. They showed their love to us in many ways. Tim accepted the Lord Jesus as his personal Saviour when he was nine. I was six when I became a Christian. There are many life experiences that shaped us into who we were when we met, but we both look back to those days as the most important day in our life.

I was quite young when good, close family friends of ours left for Zambia, Africa to be missionaries. This impacted me quite a bit, and I remember wanting to become a nurse and go as a missionary to Africa. That idea was set aside for quite a while as I selfishly turned away from the Lord to do what I wanted to do. When I was 19, I realized the Lord was graciously holding out His arms to me and knew there was no better place to be than in His will. At that time, I had the opportunity to go and visit my brother in Chile. He was teaching English there, and I went for four months. It was a very special time for me. Not only was I able to get to know my brother again, but even better, I got to know the Lord better. I had little-to-no agenda, so I was able to get into a good routine of spending daily time with just Him! It was also my first real exposure to missionary work (I got to visit several missionary families while I was there), and it was there that my love began for Spanish people, culture and language.

Tim's paternal grandparents have always had a special interest in missionary work. That special interest was passed along to their son, who married a young lady who was a MK (missionary kid) born in Zaire (Congo), Africa. Tim's parents went to Dominica, West Indies, as missionaries for around 3 years just after they were married, and that is where Tim was born. Even after returning to Canada, Tim's dad often read missionary biographies to the family in the evenings. This was a family highlight, which helped develop an interest and love for mission work. The summer Tim turned 17, he had the amazing opportunity to go to Russia to give out Bibles. When he was 22, he went on a trip to El Salvador to give out Bible verse posters ("Seedsowers" texts) and invitations to nightly meetings for gospel preaching.

I met Tim a few months after returning from Chile in 1997 - it was at a funeral. He was living with a couple and their youngest son, having found work an hour from his parents' home. The funeral was for the husband of the house, who was a gospel preacher, and had been killed by a drunk driver. This couple was a tremendous blessing and example to Tim, and he was close friends with their son. Tim and I got to know each other a little more over the next couple of years - seeing each other often (although we lived 3 hours apart) at young people's get-togethers, bible conferences, etc.

In 1998 my family travelled to Mexico for a Seedsowers distribution in Guadalajara. I enjoyed the experience very much, and our family decided to go again the next year as well. It just so happened in that next year that I had a deepening interest in a certain young fellow, and he happened to go on that next Mexican Seedsowers trip as well. Unbeknownst to me, he had a deepening interest in me as well, and actually spoke to my Dad, while in Mexico, about the possibility of us getting together. Just weeks later in January, Tim and I had our first "date" (if you can call it that), where we met and talked about a possible future together. At that time we talked about the possibility of someday serving the Lord in a more full-time manner.

I was in my second year of Nursing then, and he was just finishing up his apprenticeship as a Tool & Die Maker. We enjoyed getting to know each other much better over the next few months - were engaged in September, then married in May 2001 just after I finished college.

We both felt a special "connection" with Spanish work, and would try to "keep up" with the language study as best as we could, while having no real direction from the Lord at that point. It's funny thinking back now at what it would have been like if the Lord had called us elsewhere then. We can look back and see how we grew in both maturity, and spiritually over those years. We made lots of mistakes, and there were lots of growing pains - all of which helped to shape us into who we are. The Christians who we fellowshipped with in St. Thomas were such a blessing and encouragement to us. We couldn't be more thankful for them, and for our family and friends who have loved and cared for us. We wanted to be useful and a blessing wherever we were, but kept feeling there was something different that the Lord had for us. We kept praying that He would make His will clear for us.

In 2005, after an unmistakeable set of circumstances, our attention was drawn to the needy country of Panama. After praying for a while about this country, Tim had the opportunity to go for two weeks in November with a good friend, and in June 2006, we had the opportunity to return for three weeks as a family (2 girls at that point). We wondered if this was what the Lord had in mind for us. We returned with a real heart for the country and it's need, but had no peace as to the future. We shared our burden with the elders of our local church and they agreed to pray with us. In the following months we wrestled with our situation, as the Lord shut the doors that had previously been open. We were confused and somewhat frustrated by "the silence from above", and I admit that the time following this was a spiritual low for me.

This is a quote from a couple who didn't know what was on our hearts, but must have wondered somewhat at our situation. They sent us an email after we returned from Panama, and this is part of it:
"....Wait upon the Lord". We are always in a hurry. But if you wait upon God, He will make it absolutely clear what His mind for you is. God's will in the Scriptures is never some cloudy, murky enigma that man kind of muddles through. No, God's will is crystal clear to the man who waits in the presence of the Almighty. The problem is not usually knowing the will of God, but being willing to do it... Have the faith to wait. Have the faith to trust that God is in control as to time and place. And have the faith to recognize that you will be given a task that is uniquely suited to you."

What a blessing this was to us. At the same time, Tim had been reading about Jesus and His disciples in the storm in Matthew 14. The Lord told His disciples to go to the other side – a storm came up and they feared they’d never arrive safely – where was God in the storm? Had they heard him right? Was it the wrong boat? Wrong lake? Too soon? Too late? These were some of the same questions we were asking. Though the disciples couldn’t see Him, He was there all along, and His Word was the same. He revealed Himself to them in the midst of the storm, and brought them to the other side as promised.

It was likely in early 2007 that we started to pray about Mexico as a possibility, although Tim had received an email way back in '99 asking if he had ever considered Mexico as a possible field of service in the gospel. Since we had been married, we had been invited several times by various missionaries in the country to visit, and then at a Bible conference in the fall of 2007 we spoke with one of them about the opportunity for language study in Hermosillo.

In March 2008, Tim and I listened to the account of a couple's call to full-time work in preaching the gospel and were amazed to hear of some of their struggles which so closely paralleled many of our own. At that same time, we listened to a compilation of messages on revival and gospel preaching. One of the 6 men told how he had gone to serve in Africa, virtually out of pity for those going to Hell. He shared how his perspective had been changed – that his motivation now was out of a desire to glorify Christ because He alone is worthy. He remarked that even if we had only Hell to look forward to at the end of life, we should still serve Him with passion all our days, because He is worthy of our life’s worship. Wow!

Back to the Toronto Bible Conference. Although a different date on the calendar, Tim and I (and Kyla, who was a baby then) were at the 2008 conference in March, and several speakers spoke pointedly on the call to consecrate one’s service to the Lord, the urgent need of lost sinners, and our purpose to bring glory to God through lives yielded to Him. That first night, after all the meetings were finished, a missionary involved in Spanish work approached us and we had a lengthy discussion as we shared our struggle. He shared some of his own personal experiences as he and his wife had learned to follow and lean on the Lord for His guidance. We felt as if the Lord had sent him with a message for us. As we left that night, it was with a recognition that God had indeed been continuing to guide us, though not as we had expected. I think both of us "knew" then that some big changes were coming.

Just two days later, that Easter Sunday, a man got up after the morning meeting and spoke on 2 Chronicles 20:15-17. "Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, 'Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's. Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.' Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you." This story of big problems and unknown outcomes encouraged us in our present situation. We had a settled peace that God was directing us to Mexico, and that He would take care of all the details if we were willing to yield to His will. It was neat that God confirmed His will and plan to both of us the same day, and we knew that to delay would be to disobey.

After speaking with missionaries here in Hermosillo who said we would be most welcome to come, and then to the elders of our local church, who said they would be pleased to give us their commendation on behalf of the assembly - we made our first plans to head to Mexico. We came down to Hermosillo to look for a house to rent in April, and found a few that would be quite acceptable. Our house in St. Thomas went up for sale on May 7, and two couples went through it on the 8th. The second couple made an offer that night!! By May 16th, our house was sold! We had to be out the middle of July (which was also Tim's last week of work), and we were blessed by the generous offer to go and live with the lady of the home where Tim had lived before we were married until we were ready to leave the beginning of September.

The plans came together, little by little, and the Lord and His people encouraged us much along the way. As I said earlier, I am leaving out circumstances, people, and even verses that influenced us in the direction our lives have taken. I wish I could put everything in, but I know only the Lord knows all the things He has put in place for us, so even if I tried, I couldn't know it all.

The road so far hasn't been easy, and I sincerely doubt it will ever get easier. But I guess one blessing of writing all this out is seeing God's hand at work in our lives, and knowing that no matter how difficult, we want to be where He wants us to be, because "As for God, His way is perfect" (Psalm 18:30).

6 comments:

Jonathan and Denise said...

Neat post! Thanks for sharing that with us. "Waiting on the Lord" . . . seems to be one of the hardest things to do . . . even while we live each moment knowing that He orders every moment and detail of our lives. It's amazing to look back and see how He really does work all things for good. (We really shouldn't be surprised, since He has given us this promise! - and yet so often we (I) look back and am amazed at how the highs and lows were all for my good and that God's plan really is perfect!) What peace that can give us! We'll keep you and your work in our prayers!
Love Denise

Mom W. said...

Nice to have it all put so concisely and filling in and clarifying a few things for me too. God is good, He is faithful!!

momto9 said...

Veru interesting to read this. I meant to ask...and if it's too personal then just ignore this question...How do you support yourselves and the misitry? I always wondered how missionaries support themselves financially.

The Woodford's said...

Just sent you an email, Tereza! =)

Anonymous said...

Isn't it funny that we can try to work things out and in our heads it makes sense (like you guys going to Panama) but the Lord keeps closing doors? Then when it finally is His will, all the doors are open and He gives peace... What a blessing His peace is!
I remember that Easter conference well. We were sitting in the van (car?) waiting for you guys to follow us home to my mom and dad's and we could see you talking to him through the big windows. I had no idea how much this change in YOUR lives would affect our lives. And we won't even talk about the day you came and told us you were leaving... Or how much we cried before and after you left...
Do you know we still think of you, pray for you and miss you every single day? But we would rather have you happy in the middle of God's will then back here unhappy because you're not following Him.
I love you so much eStephanie and all the rest of you Mexico Woodfords. Thanks for giving us a great holiday place to come visit :)
Love Rebekah

Penelope said...

Thank you much for sharing...it's always great to hear the stories of others and to know that whatever the process, whatever the struggle God has led each of us all the way!!