It All Began with a Piranha

Michelle Adkins

Nordic Baltic Initiative Global Worker

  • International Missions (IM)
  • //
  • Missions

It’s precisely 8:17pm as I’m sitting here writing. The kids, of which we have 5, are finally settled in bed and the dishwasher is humming in the kitchen. I’m waiting for the kettle to finish heating water so I can make myself a cup of tea coffee to sip while I try to condense a 12-year process into a 2-page summary. There is so much to be said of God’s hand in the time that Seth and I have been pursuing cross-cultural missions that it feels nearly impossible to condense. And, while I should probably have some sort of catchy lead-in to talk about all of this, I can only muster up this line, “It began with a piranha.”  

And you know what? It really did begin with a piranha! This one was pinned neatly to a missionary’s display board in sight of six-year-old Seth Adkins’ adventurous and curious eyes. He was already a boy with a mission; quick to share every Bible story he had learned in school with anyone who would lend an amused ear. He talked with people standing in line to pay for their milk and bread, with the grown-ups at church, and even with his mom’s coworkers around the vending machine. Who doesn’t love snacking on a Butterfinger while listening to Bible stories? And when that boy saw that piranha, he just knew that God was calling him to share those stories in the same kind of place as the missionary and his piranha, the unreached tribes of the world. 

But when does the enemy ever leave a calling unhindered? Seth’s resolve was soon tested as he heard a story from someone about their grandparents being burned alive in Africa for sharing the Gospel. That story brought along the sudden recognition that there could be heavier consequences for sharing the Gospel, and with that recognition, fear, and with that fear, silence. It was eleven years of attempting to do anything but missions before the Lord turned Seth’s heart and mind back towards that original call.  

We’ll fast-forward through those years of Jonah-esque fleeing from the Lord’s calling (at least there was no need to be swallowed and regurgitated by a large fish in this case), past the boy meets girl stage (although meeting and marrying me is quite the tale), and over the 3 years we spent at Ethnos 360 Bible Institute learning and growing in the Lord. Let’s begin at the point where God turned us from our planned route to the route for which he had been preparing us; cross-cultural ministry in Estonia.  

How does a story that begins with a piranha and the desire to reach the unreached tribes of the world end with a small, European country nestled along the same 59 degree north latitudinal line as Alaska and parts of Siberian Russia (brrrrrr)?  As our friend, Keith, often reminds us of in the Nordic Baltic prayer group, “A man’s heart plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps (Proverbs 16:9, BSB).” When we were married, we went to Bible college with the intent of going into tribal missions. But three years into that dream, the Lord began determining steps for us that we had not anticipated. That is a story for another time. But the transition from our dream as young newlyweds full of ambition and urgency in Christ was marked with grieving and times of wandering as we let go of one desire and waited for the Lord to make things clear for us. We heard a lot of “no’s” and faced many disappointing moments. Was this what He wanted for us? Were we simply being stubborn, Balaam-esque, in wanting what we wanted, period?   

During that time, we seemed to be in limbo. When we came around to what God was doing, our church, Virginia Hills Church, had been with Converge for around a year and was already partnering with a Converge missionary. After we realized that God had closed the door on our vision to work with Ethnos 360 to reach an unreached people, our pastor recommended that we talk with that missionary and consider moving forward with Converge IM. When we followed his advice, the change in the tempo of our quest into cross-cultural ministry was drastic. And as we look back, we realize that the Lord was using all that “limbo” time to recalibrate our understanding of cross-cultural missions, to grow us as a couple, and to prepare us for this season that is now upon us. What began as a young boy’s dream to live amongst an unreached people group ended up as a family of 7 (some could argue that he still gets to live in a tribe) heading to Estonia. 

Our call to Estonia was not one of epic circumstances or a life-long burden. We were simply called to go and over time the Lord made clear to us where we should land. In fact, for Seth, it wasn’t until he saw how expansive the need was as we finished the missionary discovery and assessment, that he realized how narrow his vision had been. But as we have followed Christ, he has been knitting our hearts with not only the Estonian people, but with the team that he has joined us with.  It did not go unnoticed to us during our vision trip to Estonia that they had been praying for help during the same twelve years that the Lord was determining our steps. Not only had the Lord heard our prayers to go during that time, but he was also answering their prayers for laborers in Estonia. And He is still answering by bringing more laborers even now! God is always Faithful! 

And as we continue forward in this season of partnership development, transitions, and growing excitement, we are constantly struck by the way the Lord is drawing people to his work in this spiritually dark country. From working partnerships between believing Americans here in the states and believing Estonians, to the constantly growing prayer network, to the Porier family and others working tirelessly in country, and to the very people who have chosen to partner with our family to see a gospel movement in this nation with only 1.5% evangelical Christians, His hand is plainly seen. We have come to understand deeply that the work of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth lies not with one believer, but with the whole of the church, unified and empowered in one Spirit. And it has been our joy to see this in action as the Lord has led us this far. 

And now, as my mug is empty and I’m closing this brief summary of 12 years in the cross-cultural-making of our family, I wanted to end with this thought. God is in the business of long-term preparation and transition. Seth began this journey as a young boy and has seen God’s hand in his life even as his plans were transformed and continue to be transformed by the Spirit working out God’s plan. Our service to Him is always evolving as He faithfully matures us into the image of our Savior.  At every point in this walk, we as the church have been tasked with the work of sharing the gospel with the nations and praying for the darkness to be lifted from the eyes of the lost. Whether that looks like the individual stepping out in faith to visit another country, perhaps even sharing his testimony around a campfire with a group of unbelievers that results in the salvation of a few (true story from Estonia!), or as a church, focusing in on one area for financial and prayer support, there is a role for each of us. The question is, how will each of us respond to His call as we walk in the Spirit?

- Michelle Adkins, Global Worker


We invite you to be part of supporting Seth & Michelle Adkins as they begin their global work in Estonia! Learn more about their journey and how you can support them through prayer and finances:



Michelle Adkins, Nordic Baltic Initiative Global Worker

Seth and Michelle Adkins have been missions focused as a couple since the start of their marriage twelve years ago. It's been an amazing time of watching the Lord work in their lives and learning to wait. In the waiting, they were blessed with five wonderful children who are just excited as they are to begin the work that God has prepared beforehand in Estonia.

Additional articles by Michelle Adkins