Acts 16:6-10 [For Paul’s second missionary journey, Silas joined him in place of Barnabas. After revisiting Derbe and Lystra and picking up Timothy] Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. Then, coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there … That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece stood there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” So we [Luke joined Paul] decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.
Not Brazil, Pittsburgh. Not our plan, God’s.
We expected to spend the rest of our lives—including our retirement—in São Paulo. I imagined receiving my grown and married children and their children in our house there—maybe once a year, maybe for Christmas.
Pittsburgh was a tough switch for both Dave and me. I was pulled out mid-stride, to go to a place where I knew not a single person. I remember telling the 100-plus participants in REVER (restoration ministry) at our church in January 2004, “I’ll be back in time to celebrate the end of this course with you in August.” August turned out to be the month Karis had her first transplant. And then rejection. And then Legionnaire’s …
More than ten years later, I finally made a special trip for an attempt at closure in Brazil. I miss our friends there and the joy of living in Brazil. Sometimes the grief of leaving sweeps over me still.
Dave took six years to realize he had to leave, and finally saying “yes” to the Lord required repentance on his part for making Brazil into sort of an idol. “What on earth will I do in Pittsburgh?” he asked me.
But God … In the Lord’s incredible grace, that was when the Brazilian Bible Society asked Dave to write the Discipleship Bible. So between trips, he had a huge, fascinating project—one he would never have found time for while living in Brazil. The Discipleship Bible is impacting people across the huge nation of Brazil, and the Bible Society expects to publish it in Spanish next year. Dave considers it his legacy.
Meanwhile, God expanded Dave’s work into Spanish-speaking Latin America. Again, he would never have found time to invest in this way while living in Brazil.
And me? Though I miss my friends in Brazil terribly, I have the pleasure of my children’s and grandchildren’s company on a regular basis, a joy I never, ever expected, since neither Dave nor I grew up relating to our grandparents. And God took me into writing as a major investment of my time, something I did not anticipate. It surprises me still. Really, Lord? Have you grown me up enough yet for this?
What about you? Where has God shut doors in your life and led you on a path you didn’t expect or plan for? And how have you seen him walk with you, one step and then the next?
Thinking about Paul, and his rupture with Barnabas: he wasn’t perfect. He was immature in some areas. But God used him anyway. Take heart.