This particular summer started in January. I had only been a Christian for about three years. From the beginning of my Christian journey, I wanted to be a missionary. The roots of this desire were undoubtedly formed while reading Maryknoll magazines as a young Catholic girl and loving foreign languages and geography as a student. As much as I wanted to do this, I was bound in a lot of fear. However, that January, the thought to spend the summer with OM (Operation Mobilization) stuck in my mind.
One of the pastors was familiar with OM’s ministry and I was drawn to this particular ministry because it was a faith organization: meaning, you must pray for your support and not ask for it. You were permitted to respond to any inquiries, but could not bring up the need for funds. Quietly, I mentioned my desire to go with OM in the Summer of 1983. That was all.
Other ministries were going on in our church and my little solo jaunt across the pond wasn’t getting that much attention. By March, I had raised only the money I had sent from my part-time job (I was a full-time college student at the time). I kept praying. During a prayer meeting sometime in March, Nikki, the meeting leader, mentioned my trip. She asked in front of everyone if I needed support, I felt free to share my need. Leslie Weber, to my astonishment, wrote me a check for $400, one-third of my support. I was overwhelmed at her generosity.
By the end of May, I had nearly all the money I needed for my summer trip. Every little bit of money that came my way, whether it be from friends, tax return or pay, was immediately forwarded to OM. I was very diligent in this task.
The weekend of the big departure came. I believe it was Memorial Day weekend. I was to leave Tuesday morning to catch the Greyhound to Akron for our USA conference, then together with the other Americans, bus to New York and fly to Zaventum in Belgium. In my excitement and preoccupation in getting my studies and work assignments finished before I left, I failed to purchase my bus ticket to Akron. That Saturday, I realized my neglect. What was I gonna do??? I began to pray in earnest. I was still bound by the faith agreement in not mentioning my needs. So I prayed…I hoped in the thought that someone at church might slip me the money I needed to buy my bus ticket. Sunday came and went. Maybe Monday, someone would come by. Nobody. Late Monday night, I was finishing some projects for work. I was nervous, but just kept praying. I could not ask. My mother came in and asked about the trip. She asked about the bus trip, she then asked specifically about the ticket. I said I did not have it. She wondered how I was going to get it, I said very weakly, but resolutely, that I would get it somehow. Good night, she said then. Night. Yikes!!!
I went to bed late after finishing all the projects. When I woke up the next morning, my mom had already left for work. On my nightstand was an envelope. An envelope with $200 cash from my wonderful mother. God still blesses his hopelessly harried daughters.
Now, once we got to Belgium, which was and perhaps still is, the main meeting place of all the European and American OM Teams, I was to decide where I wanted to go. I had planned to go to Ireland, I even designed my prayer letter with Irish decals. I have learned since that things rarely go as planned. The Irish teams were filled. There was a great need for the Belgian team. I liked Belgium, but I wanted to see a little bit of Europe while I was over there. Alas, after prayer, I decided to stay in Belgium. That choice afforded me one of the most pleasurable and gratifying experiences of my life.
The first month, I was on a team of about 14 living in Ghent. We lived in a kinda trailer with two large rooms, one for the guys, one for the girls. The trailer must have been near a pond or something because there were ferocious mosquitoes which was the only drawback of the summer.. We spent our days selling books and doing street theater. It was during this time that I discovered that most wonderful of breakfast cuisines: Nutella. Now, we did not have enough money for actual Nutella, so we used a generic chocolate, which was just fine. Also, in Ghent, there were friter trucks where we purchased french fries with our extra money. These trucks were all over the place. It was a wonderful month.
The second month changed for me, and my teammates, Susan and Peter. Leo wanted to put together a training team consisting of music directors: Susan and Peter and a drama team leader: moi. Since I did drama back home, I was chosen to teach the other Belgian teams all of the skits we were doing on the streets. We were moved to the year-long team’s house, which had showers and beds, and no mosquitoes. Yay!
Leo spoiled us, he took us out and showed us this wonderful city. We went to the annual Gentse Feesten. While I worked hard teaching the skits, I grew in confidence. The Lord blessed me. I learned to work with others who were different from me. At the end of the summer, there was a final conference in Leuven. I remembered a skit we did in our drama team in San Francisco, and I pitched the idea to Leo. He gave me the go ahead to teach a team of kids, and I directed. We put on “This is the House that Jacob Built” for the entire conference. The team did great. I couldn’t believe I was a part of this work. I went home to continue to help in the drama team.
Today, June 8, 2013, I went to the local library’s book sale. There I found a copy of Amy Grant’s tape “Age to Age” the very same tape I listened to 30 years ago on a canvas cot somewhere in Leuven, Belgium. I thank God for this wonderful memory, the wonderful lessons of faith I learned and the wonderful experience of being a part of God’s work in this world. Hope for the Eighties – for always – Jesus Christ. It has not changed.
Loben den Herrn!