How long are you willing to wait for something? At what point would you give up on an unrealized plan and pursue something completely different? What would it take to make you understand that the detour was God’s plan all along?
These are questions that Sam and Joy* faced again and again during their 13-year journey to the field. Along the way, there were so many delays and closed doors. But God had His purposes through them all.
Joy had felt called to serve as a cross-cultural worker since the age of 10. After she and Sam got married, they began pursuing serving in Albania with Christar. But as the years moved on, numerous challenges, including recurring health struggles, kept Sam and Joy from being able to leave for the field. Over a quarter century after God first planted the desire to serve Him overseas on her heart, Joy wrote to the couple’s support team: “I am a bad ‘waiter.’ I like things to happen quickly. And, honestly, I like things to happen ‘my way.’ But that is not the story of my life. … Through this journey to Albania, God is teaching me to wait on Him.”
During their time of waiting, Sam and Joy determined to serve the Lord where they were, keeping their eyes open for opportunities to minister as they raised their three boys and continued to pursue long-term cross-cultural ministry. They invested in a church plant in a rough part of town, and Sam worked as the first director of an after-school program in the same area.
They also started reaching out to international neighbors, especially the Muslims in their community. “In God’s goodness, while He has us on hold here in the U.S., He continues to bring the world to us,” Joy wrote to their support team. “We are humbled by His love for us and desire to use us in sharing His truth with the least-reached.”
In September 2015, God opened a door for in-depth ministry that Sam and Joy would have totally missed if they had left for the field sooner. Through a contact at church, they became aware of Imad, a young Muslim man in need of short-term housing. “We said yes, and that evening we had a West African man begin living with us,” Joy recalled.
Imad stayed with them for two weeks before finding permanent housing arrangements. His wife, Shakira, arrived in their community four months later and, as Joy put it, “Our lives would never be the same as we grew to love them instantly!”
Over the next two years, Sam and Joy stayed in close touch with Imad and Shakira, enjoying family functions together and sharing Christ with them countless times. When the couple returned to their home country in the summer of 2017, Joy, Sam and their sons were heartbroken, as the two families had become part of each other, though they were hopeful they’d visit their West African friends in their homeland one day.
But God wasn’t finished working through this relationship for His glory. He was using that West African couple to change the trajectory of Sam and Joy’s ministry. In September 2018, Joy reached out to a Christar worker serving in Africa to find a Christian in their friends’ homeland who could continue to reach out to Imad and Shakira. This worker put her in touch with the administrator of an international Christian school there. After a few emails back and forth, the administrator asked if Sam and Joy would consider coming to help at the school!
“We said we would pray about it, but thought we were headed to Albania,” Joy explained. “After two months of praying and seeking wisdom and advice from others, it became clear the LORD was opening the door for us to move to Africa, in a country where Christar was not serving yet!”
But God had yet another twist in store for the family. In April 2019, Joy learned she had a benign tumor behind her eye. Once again, the Lord worked through delay and hardship, strengthening Joy’s faith as she prepared for surgery to remove the mass. In July, she wrote to her supporters, “If the Lord does not miraculously heal me of this tumor before [the operation], we know this is the path He has chosen to work through. WE TRUST HIM. Our prayers have not been in vain, or unheard.”
By God’s grace, the surgery was successful. But Joy also had to undergo some radiation treatments, postponing their departure for the field yet again. Finally, in September, the family of five was able to move to West Africa, just days after Joy’s final radiation treatment.
On their first day in their large city, Joy and a new friend went into a sports store. Imagine Joy’s surprise to hear her name called—it was Shakira and Imad! “It could only be the Lord’s doing to make our paths accidentally cross with the only friends we have here, the family we felt called to go to and keep sharing Christ with, and confirming to us this was no chance meeting!” Joy said. “God was in this all.”
“While waiting to serve overseas, the Lord taught us that His work IN US, was more important than His work THROUGH US!” Joy summarized. “While struggling with the desire to go, and never seemingly being able to make it all come together, we realized that God didn’t need us overseas to save anyone. By His grace, He would use us in His way and in His time, but He could do His work IN US wherever we were.”
“We love seeing our West African friends and continuing our friendship and witness with them on a regular basis,” Joy concluded. “While there are challenges, we have true peace and deep satisfaction in knowing we are here because of Him, and that through it all, He is continuing His work in us and our boys.”
How can I get involved?
- Lift up Joy in her ongoing trial of health issues.
- Pray that Sam, Joy and their boys would continue adjusting to life in West Africa.
- Ask God to bring forth fruit from their ministry, especially in the lives of their friends.
- Pray the Lord will make His will clear through the challenges and “setbacks” in other workers’ journeys to the field.
Learn more about how Christar staff support and encourage workers on their journey to the field.
Your gift to our Mobilization Fund allows us to recruit and train followers of Christ to plant churches where none currently exist, as well as mentor and support new workers on their journey to the field.