Before even arriving at the altar, my then-boyfriend and I contemplated our future together. We both were committed to taking the jump and raising our family overseas together. This common dream helped seal the deal.
Then life happened.
We did live, work and travel overseas for the first few years. It proved to become good early marriage cement, setting a foundation and establishing us as a family.
But life did happen. Finishing up a teacher’s certificate. Work. Graduate degrees. Start of ministry. And, in time, children.
Twenty years and three kids ages 11, 9 and 5 later, it hit us. We hadn't taken that jump after all. We weren’t living, working and raising them overseas as we had planned. We hadn’t adopted from overseas as we had thought we might.
We were living the “typical” American life, which was exactly what neither of us had wanted.
But for us, there was a twist.
We had been ushered into a life of ministry outreach to international students. This common ministry heart and direction arrived as an answer to prayer. Over the years, and long before children were on the scene, our home and lives had been full of people from all over the world.
Somehow, in the flurry of raising children and a vibrant ministry outreach – plus jobs and other responsibilities, like paying our bills – that earlier dream seemed to float away.
We almost didn’t notice.
Until one day. Our oldest was 11, entering middle school. An opportunity arose to join a team from our church headed to the Philippines for 10 days in January. The group was led by our then-pastor and his wife, veteran missionaries to the Philippines. So they had a bevy of contacts.
It was time to take the first jump, to reclaim the dream.
The trip caught my attention because our three kids had been “sponsoring” and corresponding with three children in the Philippines through Partners International. I wondered if we might be able to meet the child my oldest son, Justin, had been getting to know through letters.
The answer was “Yes, we could.” That proved a good first jump outwards for my oldest and for our family.
Then I went with my daughter, Erika, a year later for a short-term missions trip to Thailand. That, too, had some powerful impact on both of us.
The winds of change were in the air.
Around that time, Dale and I revisited our early dream. Had we simply given up?
No, we reasoned. God had opened up doors for fruitful connections with and ministry to thousands of international students over 16 years already.
Our dream to add variety to our family through adoption was no longer on the plate. We had revisited that one when I had a miscarriage after our second child. But then, a year later almost to the day, our third, Luke, arrived on the scene.
We reasoned that the ministry to international students had met both those desires. We had so many relationships with “kids” from around the world (although they were too old to be our children at first – now is a different story!). And we also had vicariously traveled through those connections.
Still, it wasn’t enough.
When we realized that our oldest was hurtling towards high school, we could see the window was closing. This required action. We needed to make a change. To not just think about the jump but to actually take it. Now.
We had some hard discussion and prayer. Could we really do it? Would we?
It came down to this. We couldn’t not do it. We felt compelled to give our children a broader understanding of this world. And we felt as if getting them – and us – out of our comfort zone was essential.
So we made the plans. And took the steps. Lots of them. And, after many emails and inquiries, passport and visa applications, arrangements for our jobs and our house (more complicated than ordinary houses) and all sorts of change and activity – including people questioning us and trying to talk us out of it – we left for a year abroad, living and teaching, exploring and growing, in China.
There’s so much more to the story. The picture here shows everything neatly packed into suitcases and ready to go. It shows cheerful, goofy kids who seem totally on board.
Reality was, they were, but often not, too.
But we did it. We jumped out of the mainstream and made the change. And we’ll never regret it!
As the kids have grown, we've asked all three separately about their thoughts of that year. Are they glad they went? How did they change? Would they have done it again?
All three attest to the value of that year in their lives. It was a hard, but good, year. Our family grew close through the challenges. And the discoveries! So worth it!
When you jump out of the mainstream, it isn't easy. But we found the value of that year long-lasting for all of us.
What’s stopping YOU from realizing your dream – whether for yourself or for your family?