When we arrived to the States 7 years ago, I was heartbroken. It was a really tough transition (that many of you who care to read this helped to us walk through). I was lamenting to our missions pastor about how we had no idea how long it would take us to accomplish the different things we felt led to during our time state-side. We had 3 goals (besides surviving reverse culture-shock and figuring out US life): Leo’s citizenship, either one of us (or both) getting our master’s degree, and doing some kind of higher-level seminary classes/training so we could get back on the mission field asap.
We had high hopes.
Then we had to survive.
Then we got jobs that gave us some fulfillment. We bought a house, and tried to surrender this season to God’s plans, not ours.
Then I got pregnant, and we welcomed the blessing of Elias into our lives.
I stepped down from vocational ministry for the first time in over a decade and dedicated myself to home-making and bulked up my music lessons. I volunteered at church with worship and the kids choir when I could, but stepped down when Elias hit the “stranger danger” stage of infant hood.
All the while, the dreams we had before we came to the US were still in our minds… but we had no idea how that could happen with already being over-stretched.
We stayed in contact with new friends in South America, and when the petition came in for us to travel down in the summer of 2019, we decided to go for it. Either we were going to step out in faith or keep listing the never-ending stack of reasons not to try.
So, we took our son and traveled for 2 months to Ecuador, Bolivia and Colombia. I’ve blogged a bit about the first part of that amazing trip. I will get to more of it as I can, but one thing I walked away from after the summer was this: I need to go to seminary.
My dad is an American Baptist pastor. The American Baptists have long accepted women into all levels of leadership- head pastors as well as empowered lay-leaders. But truth be told, I don’t really remember hearing many women preach when I was growing up. Probably because I was always where my dad was, and if he was somewhere, he was the one preaching.
There have been distinct fundamentalist male (and female) voices in both my formative years and years of missionary service who have had very specific ideas of how women can serve the Lord. For some reason, amidst all the affirming voices I have been honored to serve alongside in both the American Baptist and Assemblies of God (and more recently the Foursquare and Vineyard Movement), the fundamentalist voices seemed to be the loudest.
And, even within the affirming voices, there were messages of “I agree that women can serve in any area of the church, I would just prefer not to attend the type of church where a woman is a head pastor”. Or “the weakness of a woman in leadership is…..”.
Leo and I have had so many conversations about vocational ministry over the years. He always encourages and challenges me. Most recently, he said “babe, you’re really the one holding yourself back. You have to get over your fears, get those voices out of your head and step into this next season. People will always be critical, but you have the choice.”
I cried my tears of fear and insecurity, talked to trusted friends and mentors, and took the step to apply to Fuller’s online program. When I reached out to people I have journeyed alongside and admired in their vocation to ask if they would be willing to write a reference, it was a resounding “YES!”.
The day after I finished my application, I remember thinking about a girl I used to mentor. She bravely posted one day about some specific dreams she had for her life–one being given a full-ride scholarship to seminary. I didn’t even utter the words, but the thought came to my mind “It would be awesome if I could get a full ride.”
Later that evening, I got an email describing a very specific full-ride scholarship offer. It was for students entering the MDiv or International Studies program, entering in Winter of 2020. The woman it was in honor of had just passed away in the summer of 2019. She was a USAmerican, married to a Mexican, who worked on the border with kids and youth. She and her husband developed all kinds of programs to help kids with Biblical literacy as well as community development. She was amazing. Her legacy is amazing. I felt like the scholarship was meant for me.
I found out that I was accepted while I was on the phone with my dad. The email popped up, and I opened it. I hadn’t told my parents about my application yet. I figured I would wait to see if it could actually happen.
The next day, as I was sharing at my dad’s church about our summer trip, he put me on the spot and said “would you like to share with the congregation what you told me last night?” I was shaking as I explained that I had gotten accepted into seminary. The church erupted with applause.
I found out that I was awarded the full-ride scholarship a few weeks later.
We had about a month to get our routines in place… laundry, cleaning, cooking, a play-room/study room set up, and then it was time to jump in.
I’m on week 3, and still on a very steep learning curve. I haven’t written papers in 20 years. I am a late-night person, so instead of scrolling facebook or Insta or binge-watching shows, I am now diving in to all the reading, so excited about what I’m learning! But that often means that I’m up until 3 or 4am (the night hours are the only hours I can really concentrate), and then living on 5-6 hours of sleep.
When I talk to moms who are going to school while their kids are in school, they have no idea how I function on so little sleep. But coming out of the infant/breastfeeding/night-wakings time of parenting, this is nothing!
One of the laments I spoke out loud to our missions pastor seven years ago was this: “I don’t want to have to wait until I’m in my 40’s to step out into what God has for me!”. Isn’t that hilarious?!?!
So, here I am… a 40 year-old toddler mom who is going back to school 20 years after she graduated (yes, I did finish my bachelor’s degree at 20… lol!). It’s never too late!
I have no idea where this is going to lead. Leo and I have some dreams that those closest to us know about and are helping us discern. But right now, it’s the training ground. It’s learning as much as we can so we can pour out.
I will be using this blog to write about the things I’m learning/processing. I’ll also be posting links to articles that my professors send our way. My focus is on Race, Cultural Identity and Reconciliation, so those topics will come up frequently. I would love to have you on this journey.