My older brother and his family are moving to the Dominican Republic.
I suppose it should have come as no surprise. My family and I and most of our relatives grew up in Ecuador and traveled regularly between the Americas. Relatives on both sides of my family, Stücks and Erdels, are wanderers. We are foreigners and strangers on earth. We bounce from place to place with practiced ease.
Many of my relatives, however, have settled more or less permanently in one place. I had assumed my brother Andrew and his family were among them.
I guess I was wrong.
Andrew and his wife Sarah own a house in Indiana. When they bought the place, it was kind of a wreck. They worked tirelessly to fix it up. They planted an enormous garden, which they diligently pruned and weeded. (Heck, even I spent more than a dozen hours yanking weeds out of their garden.) My brother and sister-in-law built a hen house and raised at least one or two generations of chickens. I haven’t even mentioned their cats, of which there were three at last count.
For all appearances, Andrew and Sarah and their little ones had settled in to stay.
At this moment, Andrew and Sarah are in the process of selling their house, giving away their possessions, obtaining passports for their three children—their youngest, by the way, is just a few weeks old—and preparing to move to some country they’ve never visited in their lives.
They are doing all this by faith.
When I talked with Andrew about their decision over the phone, I told him he should follow wherever God led. I could not, however, hold back my opinion that dropping everything abruptly and moving to another country seemed “ill-advised.”
I think Sarah found a better word for it in one of her emails: “crazy.”
Andrew and Sarah believe this crazy, ill-advised decision also happens to be the right one. I agree with them. They have good reasons to believe going to the DR is God’s will… and they have the faith to go.
They amaze me, and I’m proud of them.
I’m also not sure I have that kind of faith.
I was recently asked whether it took faith to grow up on the mission field in Ecuador. I replied, honestly, that it didn’t take much. My family was always there. My future always seemed secure. Ironically, it was when I stepped off the mission field and came to Indiana in the US that I found myself really depending on God.
Surrounded by strangers, disoriented by culture shock, out of place, uncertain of the future and feeling very much alone, it was hard for me to begin college in Indiana after leaving Ecuador six years ago. It was just as hard to leave Uruguay and return to Indiana two years ago.
Moving forward is still hard, and I’m settled comfortably. If God told me to leave everything—my cozy apartment, my fast Internet connection, my peaceful neighborhood, my endless supply of coffee and Cheez-Its from the local Wal-Mart—would I go? If a three-hour drive overwhelms me with anxiety, how would I handle moving, say, to Kenya? If depression makes my life in Indiana a challenge, how would I survive depression in some unfriendly, faraway place?
If God tells me to go, will I go?
One day after Andrew and Sarah confirmed their decision, my Scripture reading took me to Hebrews eleven. Yes, this is the By faith chapter. It lists all these great biblical heroes and the great things they did—things done by faith, of course—and then…
These people all died having faith in God.
The chapter goes on.
They did not receive what God had promised to them. But they could see far ahead to all the things God promised and they were glad for them. They knew they were strangers here. This earth was not their home. People who say these things show they are looking for a country of their own. They did not think about the country they had come from. If they had, they might have gone back. But they wanted a better country. And so God is not ashamed to be called their God. He has made a city for them.
My brother and his family, like our dear parents and so many of the wonderful people in my life, have chosen to be strangers on earth. They’ve given up safe, permanent homes and faced all kinds of difficulties for rewards they’ll never see in this life. They live by faith. And so God is not ashamed to be called their God.
By faith, my family follows God.
I’m trying to do the same. It scares me, especially on the days I suffer from severe depression or anxiety, to wonder where God may lead me.
Wherever it is, I’ll follow. By faith, I’ll follow. At the very least, by faith, I’ll try.
After all, as I never tire of saying, “Through many trials, toils and snares I have already come. ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”