Missionary, Latin America/Caribbean/Dominican Republic
In January 2018, my wife and I waited to board our flight from Arizona to Ohio following our first Converge International Ministries leadership meeting. The flight was booked solid, and we had the last two nonadjustable seats at the very back of the plane. As we waited in the terminal, I checked my app one more time and found two open seats beside each other near the middle of the plane. I quickly changed our seating assignment and thanked the Lord for that little blessing.
After takeoff, the young lady sitting next to my wife in our new seats began talking. Eventually, tears rolled down her face as she shared the heartache of an abortion and broken relationships. The Lord used my wife to care for and minister to her. We could tell she had an accent, and so we asked where she was from. The young lady said, “the Dominican Republic.”
My wife and I immediately looked at each other with wide-eyed amazement.
We had reached a decision point. Do we continue living in the American middle-class business world as we had for 25 years, or take our family of five into full-time international missions to the place God had been drawing us: the Dominican Republic?
The Lord had been systematically opening our hearts and various doors. We had to decide; either follow Jesus way beyond our comfort zone or hold onto the lure of a “comfortable Christian” life. I wish I could say it was an easy decision for me, but a spiritual battle ensued.
We received conflicting advice from family, friends and pastors. And the enemy pressed heavily upon us in tangible and intangible ways, scarring our family and challenging our faith.
Amid this struggle, the echo of Matthew 16:24 was deafening. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” We were challenged deeply by the point of Kyle Idleman’s book Not a Fan. Were we going to be actual followers of Jesus or merely his fans?
When we finally wiped away all the noise, lies and excuses, Scripture and the Holy Spirit were clear to us in several key ways.
God was asking our whole family to surrender everything (our wants, our comforts, our plans, our very lives) for the sake of his Kingdom, which for us included moving to another country.
We had to fix our eyes on Jesus and hold desperately to him even when things did not make sense; not relying on our ways but trusting his higher ways as the Son of the living God.
We must walk by the Holy Spirit and allow him to lead us step by step along the way, regardless of where that took us.
After months of wrestling with God and our flesh and gaining further clarity, we stepped out of the boat and onto the international battlefield.
On the field, we have found that fights may change in form but certainly remain. Fears come and go. Doubts rise and fall. Temptations persist. Successes are found and lost. Daily battles rage. That is real life.
How then are we to rise above and advance the Kingdom afresh to see new gospel movements among the least-reached?
It seems to me, the Lord’s message is the same here and now as it was before: Surrender our wants for his, hold on desperately to the way, the truth and the life that is Jesus, and allow his Spirit to lead us step by step along the way.
As I look at significant times of growth throughout church history — the first century, the revivals, the underground churches — it seems to me this simple, and yet difficult, common thread existed. When there is full submission to the Father’s will, the Son is exalted and the Spirit of God is given true control to bring about that will, what is most likely to come about other than the glory of God?
I wonder what mark Converge will make in the 21st century. Do we find that common thread reflected in our organization, on our teams and in our lives?
If so, I believe God will move in powerful ways. In small things, in big things, among new peoples, in spaces and places where we can only stand and be amazed. He will move and be glorified!
May it be so, Lord. May it be so.
David Connell, Missionary, Latin America/Caribbean/Dominican Republic
David Connell leads Converge's Regional Impact team across Latin America and the Caribbean.