From the time they were dating, Nolan and Renee* had talked about serving God across cultures. But, while they took short-term trips as newlyweds, they thought they’d pursue long-term missions at a later time in their lives.
However, later began to come sooner. When their 3-year-old declared, “I want to move to another country,” they began to suspect that the Lord was leading them to minister overseas as a young family.
While Renee was willing to go anywhere, Nolan was more hesitant. But God worked not only in spite of his uncertainty but through it to guide the couple to pursue serving Him long term. Not long after he told Renee, “If God ever brought us to Europe, I’d go,” the couple’s 5-year-old asked seemingly out of the blue, “If I ever want to go to France to build a church, will you help me?”
Once again, the Lord had used one of their children to give them a nudge toward missions. Around Christmas 2014, they made the decision to pursue long-term cross-cultural ministry in Spain, serving in the Christar International office and among the area’s growing refugee population. They began completing training to prepare for the field, and by the beginning of 2018, they were making final preparations to leave for the field, now as a family of five.
The couple and their three children left their home on the West Coast, planning to journey east over the course of a few months to get in touch with supporters one last time before heading to Spain. But well into their road trip, they discovered that their visa applications, which they thought were being processed, had never been submitted by their lawyer in Spain. And, due to coming changes in government regulations, they were advised to wait to submit their paperwork until after the new policies went into effect.
When the new laws weren’t implemented on schedule, Nolan and Renee were forced to further postpone submitting their applications. “It was a huge punch in the gut,” Renee recalls.
But God had a purpose for their delay. While their plans were on hold, they were able to stay with Renee’s family in Virginia, giving them precious time with loved ones they wouldn’t have had otherwise. They also built strong relationships, gained supporters and had the opportunity to see how their children handle transition before moving overseas.
These weren’t the only reasons the Lord had kept them in the States, however. While in Virginia, Renee began to experience symptoms related to the pacemaker that had been implanted in her in 2012, eventually prompting her to head to emergency room. Though she left the ER without a diagnosis, her episodes grew progressively worse. A few weeks later her doctor ordered a monitor that revealed a major problem: One of the leads that delivered electrical impulses to her heart had malfunctioned.
God used the delay in getting to the field not only to enable Renee to deal with this serious medical issue in the U.S., but to bless her with a doctor she calls “amazing”—one at the top of his field and an expert in the type of surgery she needed. She scheduled the procedure and asked her supporters to bathe her in prayer.
By God’s grace, the operation to replace her pacemaker went smoothly. As Renee recovered, the couple continued to work with their lawyer to apply for residency in Spain, trusting the Lord to make a way for them if He wanted them to go.
Just a month after they were finally able to submit their applications, Nolan and Renee received thrilling news. They excitedly wrote an update to their support team: “Our residential permits have been approved, which means we can get our visas and head to Spain! … It has taken longer than expected in our minds to get to this place, but we are right on time in God’s eyes.”
But though they’d arranged in advance to have their visas sent to them overnight, their documentation didn’t arrive. A week before their scheduled departure, they were still waiting for that all-important envelope. But in faith in the God who opens doors, they purchased plane tickets and packed their bags.
Just a day before their flight, their visas arrived. Praising God and breathing sighs of relief, they finally boarded a plane to Spain—just in time for Nolan to teach an entrepreneurship training program for those seeking to use business in missions.
While entrenched in their period of waiting, Nolan and Renee didn’t fully know why God was delaying their arrival on the field. But, looking back, Renee says, “We don’t always understand His time, but it’s always perfect. … We believe God opened this door for us at this specific time.” And, she’s seen how the Lord used their unexpectedly extended journey to the field to build their trust in Him.
We thank God for bringing new workers to the field and for orchestrating every turn in their journeys for His glory and their good. And, we trust Him to continue to work in and through them, fortifying their faith and using them to introduce least-reached people to His eternal hope.
How can I get involved?
- Praise God for raising up new workers like Nolan and Renee and sovereignly bringing them to the field in His time.
- Thank the Lord for working even through disappointment and hardship for His glory and the good of His people.
- Ask God to continue to call and prepare His followers to serve Him in least-reached communities.
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