"This journey started about 10 years ago on a business trip in New York City. God had already been working in the lives of my wife Amy and my oldest daughter Haley. Haley had become interested in a youth program at a local church. Amy brought her and started attending herself. At the time, I was managing a boat manufacturing plant, and spent most of my time and energy on work. I remember being on that trip, and God just starting to touch my heart. I was brought up in a great, God loving home, attending church and christian school, but I never had a personal relationship with Christ. It was once I returned from that trip, I began to attend that church with my wife and daughters. The seeds that were planted throughout my life, were watered, and one sunny afternoon by myself in a Publix Supermarket parking lot, I gave my life to Christ.
God started to work quickly in our lives, we became members at Hollywood Community Church, and got involved in different ministries. God used us in some wonderful ways. Amy became a small group leader for middle school girls and I worked in children's ministry. I was then privileged to be asked to serve on the elder board for the Church and school. Amy and I took over the youth ministry two years ago and are currently a part of the Missions Committee. Over the years we have grown spiritually and have put our faith completely in Christ. We have had many curve balls thrown our way, but God has always pulled us through. I used to jest with my wife that if God had us digging wells in Africa some day, we were ready! It was more of a state of the heart and a submission to God's will than a desire or calling. That state of the heart allowed God to start moving, and what was once a playful statement, began to shape up as something much more.
My brother Jeff has been involved with a mission in Africa for many years, and he kept asking me year after year to join him on a trip out there. After years of Jeff's persistence, God had gotten me to a place where I was not necessarily ready, but was willing to go anywhere He wanted me to be. I started sharing with my wife that I really felt that God may be calling us to Africa. To my surprise Amy's response was not what I expected. God had been working on her heart also, and she stated that she also believed that God may be calling us to Africa! So we began to pray, and we made arrangements for Delaney (our youngest) and I to go to Africa with my brother.
The desire was there, but there were two hurdles we had to cross. Was there a need for us there? And would God put the same calling in the heart of our 15 year old daughter who would have to leave friends, fast internet and other conveniences that we have become accustomed to here in the U.S. We knew that if this was a calling from God, then He would place that calling on the hearts of the entire family.
After landing in Africa, I was overwhelmed with the tremendous need and the many opportunities that were there. Still wanting to hear from God, I waited for His voice. One late night, I was up speaking with Ruth Cox, the missionary there in Burkina Faso. She shared with me that she was praying for God to bring a family to take over the orphanage. "WOW!!! The need is there, but God, if this is from you, just give me confirmation." It was then that Ruth stated these simple words..." Mike, there is also some funds set aside for digging wells if you had an interest in that too". These words were God's voice saying "I've been listening!"
There was still one last hurdle. How could a 15 year old girl want to move to a difficult environment like this? We had a good time, we loved the people, but this was leaving society and leaving friends and family behind to live in a new and very different culture. It took a couple weeks, but the final confirmation came. Delaney came to me and said, "Dad, we're supposed to be in Africa!!"
It is amazing to see how God has had His hand in everything all along. We are seeing pieces of a puzzle put together one at a time, completing a beautiful picture of God's love.
The journey begins........."
That was back in 2011. Our family packed 2 suitcases a piece and began our life in West Africa. There have been challenges along the way, but never once did we feel that we were exactly where God wanted us to be...at the center of His will.
In January of 2016, Mike lost his life in a terrorist attack, but gained eternal life in heaven. He left an amazing legacy. He impacted thousands of lives and was a father to so many. This is still a puzzle that isn't finished and God continues to reveal each piece in His perfect timing. I am excited to see the pieces as they come and am honored to be called to this journey God has me on.
This is what the Lord says—
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you what is good for you
and leads you along the paths you should follow."