Wow! This is such a big question. It’s certainly one that we have asked ourselves a time or two. The real answer is that understanding why God does things, and how He chooses His agents is definitely beyond the realm of human understanding. That said, there are a few reasons that I believe contributed to His selection.
Brandy and I met in Ulm, Germany in January of 1990. We were high school students attending a Department of Defense High School on a very small Army base. It was the second tour in Germany for both of us. While Brandy lived on the base, I lived about two hours distant in a remote German village just north of the Bodensee (Lake Constance).
Many of my fondest memories of that time in my life (at least the ones that don’t involve my future wife) are of the lifestyle and culture of the people who lived around us. Bread came fresh every morning from the baker down the street, and going out to dinner could take all night. The house we lived in was built a few years before a little known Italian explorer would mistakenly discover America. I remember distinctly, the celebration of reunification going on in the streets the day that East and West Germany became a single nation again.
The point of all this, is that living in Germany for a large portion of our lives has given Brandy and I a love for the German people, their culture, and their way of life. In a lot of ways, we are prepared to go and adopt that way of life as our own. It will have challenges, but I think it will be easier for us than for people who did not have the formative experiences we have.
Secondly, this suits my calling. It has been clear to me for many years now that God was calling me to change culture through media. It was my impression that He meant here in the United States, and I hope that long term I will have the opportunity to pursue that, because I think we need it. However, in the last several years, He has made it abundantly clear that He has prepared us for Europe.
I spent my early adulthood training and performing in Musical Theatre. Like most actors, I did my time waiting tables, but I quickly discovered that I could do contract computer work with the same level of flexibility and make a lot more money. Thus, when I married Brandy, the transition from acting for a career and computing for cash to computing for a career and acting for a hobby was the logical solution to settling down and raising a family. Being a sensible guy, I soon found myself gainfully employed at MCI (which would became Worldcom).
It didn’t take long for God to start tapping me on the shoulder and letting me know he had other plans. However, I was all about the logic and reason, and with a wife and children a transition from a lucrative computer career to the media business did not seem financially sensible. How would we eat? On the basis of that objection, I put off making the move for years.
Finally, some friends of ours decided to do missions in Peru. Somewhat unwillingly, I proposed to them that I produce a video to help in their fund raising. I proceeded to produce my first video, which was attrocious! At that point I thought, “Ok, God. There. I made you a video.” And proceeded on my merry way. Not surprisingly, God continued to hound me. He was calling me to something else, and I was ignoring him. So, I found myself walking into work one morning, conflicted and struggling that I continued to refuse my calling. Only to be greeted by an email from my missionary friend, now in language school in Costa Rica. It basically said, someone saw your video and their company is donating a pallet of computers to our center in Peru. Thank you so much, your video has made a huge difference. I replied by pouring out my heart, sharing the calling I had been avoiding and the deep conflict I was feeling. My friend replied almost instantly: “You should talk to my brother. He runs a school for Christians that want to get into the film business.” Stubborn I may be, but I have my limits. It wasn’t long before I had quit my job and headed off to school (coincidentally only a month before Worldcom errupted in scandal). School was wonderful, a new opportunity to engage my artistic bent. I came out ready for whatever God intended me to do. I was gung-ho and ready. Or so I thought.
For a year and a half, I worked occasional freelance jobs, and never managed to pay the bills. It was my worst nightmare come true. I had stepped out in faith, and placed my family in a terrible predicament. I began by applying for the newly forming Media Director job at my church, continued by appying for jobs all over the country, and very quickly began applying for computer jobs again. Eventually, I was applying for any job. I just wanted to be able to make ends meet. In a year and a half, I had one interview, and one polite rejection letter. No phone calls. No emails. Nothing. My quest for a job was met with total silence.
During that time I was invited to be a deacon at my church. I had rejected the suggestion previously on the grounds that I was “much too busy.” Having lost that excuse, I accepted, and was assigned a mentor. As it happened, my mentor was Devere Curtiss, at that time the communications director for Greater Europe Mission.
As is often the case when two men meet, Devere’s first question to me was what I did for a living. He took an immediate interest in my employment situation, and asked Brandy and I to stay at his house after a potluck dinner so he could give me a look into his outlook address book. Unfortunately, his contacts were fruitless for me, as I had been through the phonebook and thus contacted all of the people already. However, he chose that night to suggest we think about taking our skills to Europe with GEM.
Brandy often shares with people that she had spent the first year of our ordeal praying that God would reveal his will to me. But that after a year, she finally started praying that God would reveal it to her, since clearly I wasn’t getting it. Thus, it isn’t a big shock that a lightning bolt struck her that night at the Curtisses. She immediately knew that going to Europe with GEM was exactly what God had in mind for us. And she was terrified!
Taking the Next Step:
After a fair amount of prayer, feet dragging all the way, we began the application process with the mission. They put us through a series of tests (psychological exams, theological exams — the works). We very quickly got the feeling that if the mission was going to give us the time of day, God would have to move on our behalf. In fairly short order, we were invited to attend candidate orientation so that we could get to know the mission a bit better and they could get to know us. It was a wonderful experience, one we are never likely to forget. It was becomming very clear to us, that working with GEM was something we would really like to do. At the end of orientation, we were pulled aside and offered an appointment with the mission. God had moved. Still unsure, though, we asked for a few weeks to pray over our decision. Our request was gladly granted.
Finally, we accepted that God was absolutely intending us for Europe. He had transformed our hearts from the dollars and sense logic that made missions a ridiculous choice, and the terror of packing up everything and moving half way across the world, to a genuine belief in missions, and an excitement about returning to Europe. I picked up the phone and called the mission, accepting the offered appointment. After a year and a half of unemployment, continuing with no salary to begin fund raising for over seas missions seemed overwhelming, but we felt like if it was God’s will, we could do it. Within an hour or two of hanging up the phone with the mission, the phone rang. It was my church, offering the Media Director job I had applied for a year and a half before. That job wound up being a life line to help us back out of debt, and a crucial piece of the training I needed to be ready for Europe.
I could continue the story of how God has been at work on us. There have certainly been some exceptional moments, but I hope in my narrative, you begin to see how God has been working to get us to the mission field. One of the neatest aspects of the whole process for me is being able to look back and see God’s preparation of me for this ministry. We are going to join a ministry in Europe which helps the church do Music, Drama, Video and Web Design and is based in Germany. So from my first move to Germany at the tender age of 6 to my years in Musical Theatre, God was preparing me for this moment. I am constantly stunned as I think of it.