Today's post was written by Jessica Roberts. For Part 1 of Jessica's story, click here.

Dating is difficult. Dating after having been married is hard. Dating after being made a widow, as a new creation in Christ, and with a toddler in tow is only something God could orchestrate. Rhodes hadn’t really ever been around babies much. Well, neither had I, except my own, for that matter, so it was always a new and challenging experience in each milestone. God was extremely gracious, as I believe He is for all new parents, but He gifted Rhodes with the patience and tenderness toward Ava that brought a peace to the process.

Tell’s parents graciously affirmed our relationship and welcomed Rhodes in with loving image-2humility. Rhodes and I married after about a year and a half of dating and moved to South Carolina where God began to open my eyes to the Christian life. We joined a church, and for the first time in my life, I wasn’t confused about who God was or my identity. I remember reading Galatians 2:20 and thinking, “Yes! Absolutely yes!” We started attending a small group, and I learned what Christian love looked like in accountability and encouragement. When I had struggled with past sins, a friend lovingly reminded me of 2 Corinthians 5:17 and prayed with me to rest in this. I can’t recall how many times I caught myself breathing deep and thinking about it all, “So this is what this feels like. A Father. A family. A hope.”

And I suppose it would be lovely if the story ended there. But God’s work of sanctification never ceases.

While we were living in South Carolina, we became pregnant and had a little baby girl, Elloree. We were a nice little family of four. And oh, we bought a sweet little house in a cute little neighborhood and had all the markings of “let’s settle and live comfortable Christian lives.” But as I believe we see in all testimonies, God had other plans. Somewhere between learning how to have a quiet time, reading God’s Word daily, and reading the “preview chapter” of Radical on the website, God began to burden my heart for obedience to the calls to “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Prov. 31:8-9) and “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20).

Something wasn’t adding up in my life. If the blood of Jesus Christ had ransomed me for salvation from my sin, surely there was supposed to be something other than “comfortable.” Oh, this began a wrestling. I had just had a baby, we had just moved into our house, and life was starting to flow at a manageable (and predictable, I’m sure) pace. But there was an unsettling.

About the same time that all of these thoughts and questions were racing around in my heart, Rhodes’ brother began working for a ministry close to Birmingham, Alabama (he was the one who recommended Radical to me). The ministry was called Vapor, so I started looking more into what God was doing through Vapor in the world. To say the very least, I was very intrigued and grateful that God had placed someone who worked with them so close to us in life.

image-1This would be a good time to ask about my loves; Rhodes, Ava, and Elloree. God is so good in His wisdom not to let us all jump ship in our roles in life the moment we hear about the lost, or the poor, or the orphan. I may have packed a bag or two in my mind while I nursed Elloree in the rocking chair, thinking about those who were perishing apart from the gospel. Oh, but He knew what He was doing. There was much refinement and sharpening needed in my own walk. I had so much to learn in the way of grace in the mundane, mercies for each day after mistakes, and loving sacrificially. And not only all of that, but God was giving me more time to know HIM. Time to long for Him, time to seek satisfaction in Him alone, and time to enjoy Him and this new life in His Son that He gave to me. All the while I was having this burdening to go…or to serve…or something, just to move. God kept me very much in place through Rhodes, again. Rhodes was not itching to jump into life as a nomad. He wasn’t poring over the Joshua Project website everyday. He didn’t ponder the poor in India. Yet. So I waited. Patiently? No, not always. But I did want to honor Rhodes as the head of our family, so I waited…and prayed.

Finally an opportunity came to go on a Vapor trip to Togo. Rhodes consented for me to go without him as he had to work, and so I went. Strangely, I came home with a stronger desire to be the wife and mother I knew I should be according to the biblical model. I could wait for the mission field. It wasn’t that I didn’t experience all that short-term mission trips are designed to demonstrate: need, indigenous leadership, partnering with the church, life on life discipleship, etc. It was really that I saw a humility and love for the Lord so strong that I knew I needed to act in obedience domestically in my own family before I sought to share with others.

And then a call came from Rhodes’ brother. Vapor needed a position filled in their thrift store operations in Alabama. Would we consider moving to a small town outside of Birmingham to work for the organization? Whoa. Hold the phone. I thought I had it on my heart to move to the nations, not to the headquarters of a ministry that served the nations! Surely Rhodes wouldn’t settle, right? He knew my heart, right? Plus, it meant a very large pay cut and staff housing and no nice farmers market nearby and we had just painted our house and started our own small group and I had a hair dresser I loved….well, you get the point. I was willing to be radical, but on my own terms. It was the nations or Charleston. No in between. But God doesn’t really work on our own terms, as we see.

So Rhodes said yes. He did a video conference interview, and within weeks, we began packing and saying goodbyes and went to the Folly Beach pier one last time. I tried to take a picture of the big, beautiful moon over the water. But my flash had something against me, and I didn’t get it and I cried.

We’ve lived here outside of Sylacauga now for just about two years. It has been a truly life-changing experience for me. I’ve become aware of my own pride and selfishness more than ever before, but also grown to love and desire the Lord every day more than ever before. God has changed my heart from craving a squeaky-clean church appearance to bowing low before a holy, just, and gracious God, the Creator of all things. I have seen my sin - ugly and wretched and naked and shameful, and I am forgiven. Christ has revealed His sufficiency in payment for my sin, and the Holy Spirit has convicted me to love and obey. Faith has wavered, faltered, and almost fallen until the loving voice of God in His word reminds me what pleases Him, and I have been strengthened in more faith. And ultimately the thought of being “with the ransomed in glory/his face I at last shall see/it will be my joy through the ages/to sing of his love for me” is enough to cause great wells of tears and compel praise, on any day.

And about 7 months ago, just as I drew into a determination that this indeed may be my earthly home indefinitely and that I would give thanks, Rhodes came home from work and said that there was a request for our family to work with Vapor abroad. Huh? Oh no, you see, I am giving thanks for being here. Thanks. I had started a new fitness ministry with the teachers at the local school. The Lord brought me some teenagers to disciple each week that I love. This means again that it’s not on my terms when or where we go. Had I forgotten? So abroad at first meant to the Vapor centers in Kenya, but after some logistical issues and recognition of the need for a project manager, abroad means Haiti.

And to Haiti we are preparing to go. January 2014 is the time slot for our departure, and it will be more of a mid-term assignment, around 2 years. I had an opportunity to go there with Rhodes leading a trip this past summer. I felt a peace that only the Lord provided, as it wasn’t a peace like, “Oh this is so great! I’m in love and it’s going to be a great and glorious adventure,” but more like, “Oh Lord, I need you, every hour I need you, to equip us to do this.” I am homeschooling Ava in preparation for homeschooling there. We are attempting to learn the French language from our couch at night, and I am praying for His grace to be abundant in the shock that is inevitable in a new culture. I am grateful for a church to glean wisdom from and am looking forward to this new season of our lives.

I think to sum any of this up, I must reflect on a conversation with a friend I had recently. I was thinking about how writing this story, actually taking the time and mental effort to write it out, has shown me how God’s saving power really does transform one from death to life. Death to life. I suppose maybe I was thinking about wanting death, so that I could be near Tell when I read those words from the Psalms. But now I see that I truly did need death: death to myself, my sin, my idols. And the glorious truth is that it doesn’t end there. This death produced life in Christ, for eternity. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (J.n 5:24). Amen.
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