It is 1995. I board my first international flight to teach elementary school in Paraguay.
There, I fall in love.
It is NOT with someone tall dark and handsome.
I fall in love with the Paraguayan people, international ministry, and myself in a foreign context. I gustily sing Marcos Witt with the worship team, preach once or twice in Spanish, and become convinced that I will return.
My return will not be to teach, though. It will be to work with the church.
It will not be to Asuncion but to Buenos Aires, where Spanish sounds like a song and Evita Peron once held their hearts.
I cannot decide to spend the rest of my life poured out on the “mission field” without at least “trying on” what it means to work in the USA. I return stateside. I procure a position in the public school in York, PA.
And I am restless until I became a missionary candidate with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. They require at least some graduate education to send me down to Buenos Aires.
I decide it wouldn’t hurt me to pursue a degree, so I come to Alliance Theological Seminary in Nyack, NY.
There, I fall in love again.
This time I fall in love with New York City. Every Sunday I worship at Redeemer on the Upper East Side. I know where to find a non-food truck five dollar lunch and explore all parts of the City. I teach Greek to seminary students. I make friends and even spend some time singing with a band. We have a practice space on 8th and lead worship nights about once a month.
Upon graduation, I want to move into NYC and minister. After that, I’ll go back to Buenos Aires, equipped with theological education, ministry experience, and the support of the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
I have all the interviews with the church and they like me. But, they always hire from within and I’ve never lived in the City. They say, “Come on in and make this your home. Get a job and we will probably hire you soon.”
Um. I just completed a Masters’ degree. It was 93 grueling and expensive credits. No, I won’t get a waitressing job and work my way up in the church I’ve already been attending.
I let go of the dream to work in NYC and grieve it.
Nyack College interviews me to teach Biblical and Theological Studies. They receive my resume though it was not addressed to them; it was addressed to Spiritual Formation. They offer me a full-time position in teaching.
I decide it won’t hurt me to teach Bible for a year or two.
Maybe after a year I’ll go into NYC. After two, the CMA will send me back to Buenos Aires. Or maybe to Africa now. They need someone to teach pastors Greek.
At Nyack College, I fall in love.
I fall in love with college students in general and with how this position is perfect for all that is me. I stay for the second year.
In the middle of the second year, the CMA and I discern my international placement.
I make one of the most difficult phone calls of my life. I say, “I don’t see myself serving internationally within the next five years; I will stay at Nyack.”
I let go of the dream of international ministry and grieve it a bit.
I take students to international destinations sometimes for ministry, sometimes for education, often for both. Costa Rica, Ecuador, Indonesia, the Holy Land, Turkey, Egypt, and then Syria.
In Syria, I fall in love.
This time it’s not only with Syria’s rich early Christian history. This time I also fall in love with a man.
We date. We marry.
And in the process I realize that what I let go, I’m receiving back, just differently. I thought I let go of deep international ministry connection. I realize that I will now always be deeply connected internationally. They’re my family.
We have kids. We buy a house close to Nyack.
Nyack announces its transition to consolidate campuses in NYC.
I grieve the loss of the place I taught for almost 17 years.
And then I start to get excited about the move in NYC.
And in the process I realize that what I let go, I’m receiving back, just differently. I thought I let go of working in NYC. I realize that now I’m about to work in that place of my dreams.
My life has a way of coming full circle. I let go of what I love only to receive it back in a different way. Losses have had a surprising way of becoming gains.
This gives me hope in the midst of grief.
(Interested in hearing more from me? Check out my book, The Book of Womanhood)