By the time you are reading this article my family and I will, Lord willing, be in Chad serving as CLB missionaries to the unreached. God has been very gentle with our family in leading us through preparation for the field these past five years. Now we must grab ever so tightly onto his loving hand and take this big leap of faith to a foreign land, trusting that he will continue to be right there by our side, despite the not-so-gentle feeling of the unknown challenges and obstacles sure to be ahead in this harsh environment. We are reassured by Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV), which says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
It gets cold in France. Not the arctic cold we experienced in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, which is usually accompanied by sunshine. In France, it’s a gray, damp cold. Sometime in March, as we were getting toward the end of that kind of dreary cold winter here in France, I went through a season of fear and doubt about our future in Chad. Are we ready, able, or worthy of doing this? NO. But through the blood of Jesus, who calls us and carries us (Matthew 28:18-20), we go.
What about the kids? A concern of one of the parents at Missionary Training International (MTI) last summer really struck me. She said, “I don’t want my children to lose their joy [by going to the mission field],” and were those kids joyful! And we may at times lose our joy, but I’m hopeful that if we continue to instruct each other in the Lord’s ways and abide in Christ there is no better source of joy, for in his presence is the fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). I was told it was ok to have questions, even doubts and fears, and actually, if I didn’t, it would be worrisome. I have met a group of righteous Christian brothers here in France at language school with whom I could process this. Not wanting to dwell here too long, allowing my emotions and the devil to get a foothold, I got on my knees and laid it all down, giving my burden to God and trusting that this is his will, and in the great hope he has given us in Jesus Christ.
When God initially put this call to the mission field in Chad on my heart five years ago, I had one reservation—and it still pops up today. I was newly sober, three months to be exact. Ninety days earlier I had been on my knees crying out to Jesus in repentance, asking for a new life free of the obsession of alcohol, and to be completely filled with his Spirit. “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:17-18, ESV). (See also Galatians 2:20.) I was finally living the way God intended, as a present, nurturing husband and father, broken free of the chains that were keeping me away from the ones I love most in this world. I was now able to provide for and be fully engaged in their lives. But then came this sudden call to serve him in Africa—to the ends of the earth!
I said, “God, I am now sober and able by your grace to be a great dad. Isn’t that enough for now?” Then God revealed the bigger picture. He revealed that it is not about me and my family and just being a good dad. He wants all of that too. But this is about him, as Abba Father, the Father of all creation, and for him to be known and worshiped among every nation (Revelation 7:9-10).
Claire and I have a heart for and are called to Chad. We have had years to process and prepare for this ministry as a family, and I truly believe that this is God’s plan for each member of our family. Each one of us will be used by him in some way, as an instrument for his glory, during our time in Chad.
What has enabled me to persevere with this calling these past five years is this: I love Claire, Ashley, and Austin so much; I care for and want the best for them; I want to protect them from all the evil in this world. The thing that lets me loosen my grip on them is the fact that God loves them more, God cares for them more, and God sent his Son to die for them, conquering evil.
Dan R. serves the Church of the Lutheran Brethren and Lutheran Brethren International Mission as a missionary to Chad, Africa.