Passion, Calling, & Our Future

As many of you know, we spent the past couple months prayerfully considering whether or not to continue serving in Quito at Alliance Academy for a third year. We are so grateful for the prayers and encouragement from people we love as we’ve gone through this! There have been many pieces to sort out, aspects to consider, and yes, tears to be shed.  But at long last we were finally able to discern the best path to go down, and we’ll be staying in Ecuador for the 2014-15 school year.

There were many factors we considered and prayed about, not the least of which were questions of passion and calling, ministry needs, the implications of caring for a new baby here, and financial concerns.  While the last two were the easiest to get caught up in, they are also the two that most spurred us on in trusting that the God who brought us here would continue to sustain and protect us. Ultimately, the decision really came down to figuring out where God could best use our gifts and passions to meet needs in the world.

We’ve thought a lot about what calling and service means throughout this process, and I have increasingly felt the weight of the truth behind one of Frederick Buechner’s most famous writings. In Wishful Thinking, he writes an excerpt on vocation, saying, “The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done.” If one or the other is missing, it’s likely not the place you’re supposed to be.

I have largely felt that the calling to care for people’s hearts and emotional well-being is also the one that gives me the greatest sense of meaning. It is the work that I need most to do. Therapy has been the workplace manifestation of that, and since being at AAI I have been blessed to see how God has indeed met great needs through it.  However, I have also felt that I could continue that work wherever we are – whether here or back in the U.S.  While parts of my heart would break at leaving Ecuador, I would gladly continue serving this way in either place, for in both places there is that great need. This has both felt freeing and compounded our decision-making process!

Doug’s position, though, has been more challenging. While he came here with excitement and calling to teach, it has since become clear that it’s not the ideal intersection of his passions and people’s needs.  That’s tricky when your place of ministry is in a school.  The past couple years have confirmed that he is most talented in and most fed by more practical work in technology and web development, and the season for him to be spending the bulk of his time teaching is clearly coming to an end. The question remaining was whether there was a need at this school for the things he is most passionate about or whether it was time to seek that elsewhere.  As we explored this, we discovered there is in fact a great need for AAI to develop its online, technology, and media presence, and while resources to do this are currently quite limited, they decided to prioritize using Doug’s abilities to help them advance in these areas.  So he will continue teaching AP Computer Science and doing some photography next year while spending the bulk of his time on graphic design and web development for the school.  This was a much closer match of personal passion and ministry needs, and it was the clarity we needed to decide to stay another year.

In some ways, it feels selfish to seek to serve in ways that fulfill us as well as help others. Shouldn’t we be willing to do and sacrifice anything if God asks us to? Yes, I think so. But I also think he created us with unique talents and passions for a reason, and there is a lot of damage caused by missionaries forcing themselves to continue doing something out of pure obligation.  On the other hand, finding the place where our “deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet” (Buechner again!) breeds purpose, efficacy, and longevity.  For us, for now, it seems that place continues to be Quito, Ecuador for another year. Yes, we’ll need to raise more financial support to make it workable and yes, we will most certainly miss spending our baby’s first year of life closer to family!  But being where we are meant to be and getting to serve a community like this one are most definitely worth the sacrifice.

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angela February 27, 2014 Ecuador