You are working for a respectable IT company, doing a job you enjoy, working with coworkers you consider friends, and being given a pretty nice paycheck for what you do. Your wife is enjoying her job at an architecture firm, being wined and dined with colleagues at really cool restaurants, and enjoying the exciting albeit stressful work of designing hotels. You’ve been married nearly 2 years, but with no kids yet. You live close to your families, but are still on your own. You found a great church, are thriving in your relationship with the Lord, and have supportive, godly friends who you just enjoy living life with. Oh, and you’ve just put a down payment on your first house that is being built in an up and coming neighborhood north of Dallas.
Life seems perfect, or nearly so at least. But something nags at you on the inside. Something doesn’t fit right. You shake it off and press on.
Shortly after the foundation has been poured for your house, you lose your job unexpectedly. In fact, most of your coworkers lose theirs as well. Eventually, you find more work, at a company you’re eager to work for no less. Your house continues to be built, and you keep living with a thankful heart. Flash forward a few months to the weeks following September 11, 2001. The hotel industry is struggling, and your wife loses her job a mere two weeks before you’re supposed to move into your newly built home. You both make a really tough and heart-wrenching decision. Cancel the contract on the house and hope you don’t lose too much money from it.
The Lord holds you up through it all. He encourages in just the right way, he comforts, he provides, he challenges you. Your friends cheer you on; help you to keep your focus on the Lord. You’re going to be fine. You lost the house, without too much of a financial hit, and you’re keeping your chin up. You’re working on a fairly safe contract for a company whose name alone will boost your resume. It was just another bump in the road.
But something still doesn’t seem right. Something still nags and unsettles you; you can’t put your finger on it. Then, several months later, you lose your “safe” contract.
It’s clear now, partly at least. The Lord’s working out something in you and your wife, but what it is, you have no idea. With three job losses in a year and a half, maybe it has to do with work. But you’re an IT professional who lives a typical mid-twenty-something life. What could the Lord want from you?
One day, you and your wife sit down to pray through your unsettledness. In the midst of which, you both shake a little as you say the words “Lord, we’ll do it. Whatever you want, wherever it is, we’ll do it.”
And that’s when a breeze of an upcoming whirlwind begins.
A friend casually mentions becoming missionaries and working for a specific mission organization. You laugh out loud and remind her whom she’s talking to: an IT guy and an Interior Designer, both of whom are introverts. Then you pull up your collar and ignore the breeze that seems a little stronger.
Later that week, your wife gets curious and looks at the organization’s website. She finds a maze of information about job needs, then sees in bold letters: Computer Specialist and Graphic Designer. She shows it to you out of bafflement—ministries need people like us? But then both of your eyes shift to the dreaded words “all jobs require individuals to raise their own financial support”. Silence, complete numbness to the breeze. You both turn off the computer and go back to your unsettled lives.
Slowly, over the next few weeks, you begin to feel the breeze again…from your Bible reading to gentle nudging from the Holy Spirit. Then one day, in your Sunday School class, it happens. The breeze becomes more than a breeze, it’s loud, insistent, and literally brings you to tears in the midst of a crowded room. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” You both leave the class as quickly as you are able, without causing a scene. You don’t say a word to anyone, not even each other. You find yourselves sitting in your car, sobbing out of fear, love, acceptance, every emotion you can imagine. You drive home.
Two days later you take the first leap and send off your resume. Not to a well-paying, well-known IT company, but to a non-profit mission organization. You sit back to wait. The wait was enough for you to seemingly take only one breath, and the phone rings. It’s a man named Mark who has been praying for technology minded people to be called by the Lord. He says he has the perfect spot for you and wants you to talk with a colleague of his in Germany.
The whirlwind is in full force now, and you wrestle with all sorts of questions. Some answered quickly, some not. But you keep moving forward in faith. You officially apply for the job and gather references, you go through psychiatric testing to see if you would “survive” living overseas, you try to find the tiny town in Germany on a map but then give up because apparently it’s too small. Your apartment lease is up, so you take another large leap of faith, sell all your furniture, whittle down your material goods, and ask your parents if you and your wife can move in with them for a short while. A short while turns into three years because that is how long it took for two introverts, doing administrative work, moving to the seemingly Christian continent of Europe, to raise the amount of funding you needed to live. Three long years, during which you question if you made the right decision, but in faith you moved forward.
Two weeks before Christmas in 2006, you step off a plane in Zürich, Switzerland. Knees a little shaky from a mixture of excitement and fear, you make your way to a tiny German farming town, population 3000.
Your life in full-time ministry begins. It’s not necessarily an easy road. You’re used to corporate America and the not so touchy-feely world of computers. There are trials, encouragements, failures and successes. You eventually find like-minded technologists who love the Lord and want to use their skills to serve him. You and your wife are now parents, bumbling along through an even more foreign career. Your wife thrives living cross-culturally, but she sometimes crashes too.
You definitely don’t live in the Bible belt anymore. Spiritual apathy is thick around you. Churches are small; some don’t even operate aside from tourism. A country that sits only a twenty-minute drive away is known as a “missionary graveyard”; you can feel the difference even just crossing the border. It’s dark in Europe, but you know the Lord’s light is powerful and can penetrate a place that seems so densely hollow. You see things with different eyes and learn more than you ever thought you would.
You’re a missionary family. But, you’re also still the same computer guy who married his right-brained high school sweetheart; neither of whom attended seminary and certainly never thought you’d call yourselves missionaries, but that’s what the German visa in your passport labels you as. You work in an office, sit behind a computer, and come up with ways to make ministry run more smoothly behind the scenes. You are a missionary.
It’s 2014 now, and life still moves along. Your next big step is a move to Hungary to continue and improve on the IT work you were doing. You’ve learned a lot about the Lord, yourself, the world. Trials still come, sometimes really big ones. Blessings come too, some in small, wailing bundles that grow and change every day. Cloudiness and uncertainty in your life continue to be methods the Lord uses to bring clarity to your faith. You still work in computers, enjoying day-to-day work in code or data. Now you know your purpose. A mission. A calling that the Lord graciously, sometimes mysteriously melds with your love for technology. You’ve gone from an IT professional in his mid-twenties working at Microsoft to one in his mid-thirties working as a missionary, and you still find yourself asking the same question, “Lord, I’m just an IT guy, how can you use me?”