It is amazing to me how God moves in a family. With our family, He began to move my heart toward missions about six years ago. I was at church one night, and the rest of my family was not there. I don’t remember where they were, but I do remember I was by myself. All through the service, God was speaking to my heart, pressing in on me, beckoning me to surrender my life to the mission field. I thought of all of the excuses throughout the service….my family isn’t here, we haven’t discussed this, where are you leading me, is this just me being emotional? At the invitation, I found myself immediately stepping forward. I went to talk to the missions pastor at the time and he prayed with me. He said he would continue to pray with me about it. After that night, I found myself thinking about it all the time. I did not tell my family about it, but I did talk to my mother. I told her that I KNEW God was calling me to the mission field, but I didn’t feel the liberty to tell my family how I felt yet because I did not sense that they were getting the same message. She pointed out that God is not going to call one spouse into the mission field without calling the other spouse as well. She said that if God was indeed calling me, I did right by saying “yes,” but I must be willing to wait on God’s timing. We both agreed to start praying for God to move Tony’s heart towards missions as well if it is indeed God’s will that we move in that direction. As months and then three years passed, I continued to pray. I had decided that if now was not the time to go to another place, I would make my present location my mission field. I began to reach out to my students in my classes at school (I’m a high school English teacher). I was determined that every one of my students would see the love of Jesus in me. About three years later, my family and I decided to spend Christmas vacation at a ski resort in Panorama, Canada. It was just the four of us there, and we had the most beautiful time together. We went out and found a Christmas tree, decorated it with lights and popcorn, and we spent our days skiing and evenings playing games, watching movies, and just enjoying each other’s company. On Christmas day, I cooked a BIG Christmas dinner and the boys came in from skiing and after blessing the food, we shared one of the most special Christmas dinners we have ever had together. God was using this time to bring us all closer together and prepare us for the first movement as a family towards his plan. After eating, God prompted me to share a little bit of what was on my heart. I told the boys that I felt like this was going to be our last big family vacation together for a while. I told them that I believed that God wanted us to start going on mission trips instead of vacations for the next season of our lives. Tony and I had already discussed this and he agreed, so I felt pretty good about sharing it with the boys. I was so relieved when they both agreed as well. It was as if God had already begun preparing their hearts for it!
Two months later, we all gathered together for lunch at our house after church one Sunday. Our youngest son, Jacob, asked us if we had seen the announcement in the church bulletin about the mission trip coming up to Brazil. As soon as he said it, I said, “Yes! I saw that!” Jacob said, “I think that is the mission trip we are supposed to go on.” I said that I felt like God was telling me the same thing. Our oldest son, Jonathan, agreed and said that he had seen it too and that he believed the same. Then Tony said, “Well, maybe I should have read the bulletin today!” We all laughed and agreed that we would go to the interest meeting. At the meeting, we found out that it was going to be extremely expensive for all four of us to go, but we had also decided that we were going to commit to the Lord to go. A few days later, as we gathered together at the table again and agreed that God was calling us to go on this mission trip to Brazil and we were not going to let anything get in the way of our committment. We followed all the instructions given and sent out letters asking for support to help us go on the trip. In no time, our trip was funded and we were set to go. In the meantime, God had prompted Jacob to plan to take soccer balls with him to Brazil to give away, so he asked the leader of our team if he could do that. Dr. Jett said he could and so we ordered 30 soccer balls and stuffed them in a suitcase. He ended up giving them to a boys orphanage, a men’s prison, a local youth soccer organization, and a few individuals. While in Brazil, it was such a blessing to me to see both of my boys ministering to people they didn’t know, sharing the gospel with children and adults from another country, washing the feet of children and giving them a new pair of shoes, going to houses and loving on families who desperately needed the love of Jesus. God used all of us mightily that week.
The last time Tony went to Haiti, he worked in the cholera clinics with SP. He also was excited to see a box of bagged vitamins in one of the supply cabinets and find out that the vitamins we had sent were indeed going out. It was cool to see the vitamins actually IN Haiti and not in a box in his office. Ha! As he was preparing to leave Haiti, a young couple tried to give him their 8 month old baby. He explained through an interpreter that he could not take their child with him because that was illegal. One of the other missionaries took a picture of Tony holding this beautiful Haitian baby, and this one picture speaks volumes about how God was moving Tony’s heart. After he returned home, his heart was heavily burdened about this child. He called me at work one day and asked me if we were too old to adopt a baby. I said, “Of course not! But we will need to pray about it.” Tony agreed and that night we both began praying about what God wanted us to do and ask Him why He had broken Tony’s heart so over this child. That night, God spoke to Tony’s heart and asked him, “What good would it do the children of Haiti for you to adopt one child?” Of course, Tony couldn’t sleep after that, so he just lay attentive as God began to pour a vision into his heart. This vision was for an orphanage and school where Haitian children are raised to love Jesus, learn English, and prepare to enter colleges in the U.S. so that they could eventually return to Haiti with their education. He also envisioned a health clinic where we could teach Haitians about proper hygiene and nutrition. The vision kept growing and growing…. Tony was realizing that God did have BIG plans, and it was going to mean some BIG changes and committments.
As soon as he told me about his vision, I cried out to God in praise for answering my prayer of six years. God was calling my husband into the mission field, the time was now right, and I was more than happy to be in agreement. He went to talk to our missions pastor about it, and he was amazed! He told Tony that he needed to talk to a couple he knew at FBC Jackson. Tony called my brother, who goes to FBCJ, and he said that he indeed knows the Gladney’s and would see if they could get together for luch. They met for lunch the next day! Tony shared his whole vision with Barbara and she listened attentively. Once Tony finished, she pulled out two sheets of paper. They were architectural renderings of his EXACT vision! They were not located in the area of Haiti that Tony was thinking, but the plans were exactly what God was leading him to do! She explained everything they had done so far with the project, and said that they had been praying for God to send them the man or family that He had ordained to continue to carry this plan out in Haiti. Tony said, “I think that might be me.” She said that God was prompting her spirit to agree.
A few weeks went by and Tony and I still had not told the boys. I was beginning to become anxious to share the news with them. Since our youngest son is a soccer player and hopes to have a future in college soccer, I was a bit concerned about how he would take the idea. I decided one day to do a Google search for Haitian Youth Soccer. I found a website and clicked Contact Us. I entered all of my contact information with a brief description of what we were doing. Three weeks went by and I was very anxious to tell the boys. Tony said we needed to continue to pray for the right time. On a Monday night, around 8:30, my cell phone rang. The voice on the other end was a foreign voice. All I understood were the words Haiti, soccer, Coach Peterson, and email. I said, “Let me let you speak to my husband.” Tony took the phone and spoke with the caller. When he got off the phone he seemed a bit shocked. The Head Coach of the Haitian National Youth Soccer Organization had called about Jacob! He explained to Tony that Jacob would have plenty of opportunities to continue to grow in his sport in Haiti. He is located not far from where we would be living, and he takes his teams all over the world to tournaments. Most of his players are heavily recruited by colleges in the U.S. and he encourages his players to get their education and return to Haiti….similar to Tony’s vision!! Ha! We were both blown away, and we knew it was now time to tell the boys. God had taken my one main concern and said, “I got this!” That following Wednesday night we shared the whole story with the boys and their response was simply, “Cool. When are we going?” Of course, we explained to Jonathan that we have no doubt that God is going to continue to guide him through his education here at home while we are in Haiti. God has led Jonathan so clearly to Belhaven and to the medical field, and He continues to lead him on the path He has for Jonathan. We know that as God provides for us to go, he will also provide for Jonathan to get his degree and maybe even one day come work as a physician in Haiti. Whether that happens or not, we won’t know for quite a while, but one thing is for sure, God is in control, and He knows the paths that EACH of us will take over the course of our lives. Proverbs 16:9 says, ” The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” He is indeed establishing our steps.
Since that night, God has continued to reveal more and more of His plan. We are not sure WHEN we will be leaving, but one thing is for sure, whenever He is ready, WE ARE MOVING TO HAITI. We have said YES, and we are excited to see what else God has planned. For the first time in my life, I have surrendered complete control to God, and it feels so good to be totally dependent on HIM! As God continues to reveal His plan, I will continue to post updates on the project. All I can say for now is, “Wow. God is so good….and He is calling the West family to Haiti!!”
Please pray for God to begin to prepare the family He would have to buy our house. Pray that God will continue to show us when, how, and where He wants to use us. And pray that God will continue to prepare the hearts of the Haitian people that he will place in our paths. Thank you.