We have heard a few questions repeatedly when we speak to people about what we are planning to do.
- When will you go to Malaysia? Of course, that is a question we can not answer, only God can. We are now hoping that we will be able to board a flight for Malaysia toward the end of July. But we don't know when flights will resume or when Malaysia will open up to US visitors, Californians no less, where COVID has taken a heavy toll. We will likely begin our ministry to Malaysia and the Philippines from the US until we can get confirmed flights.
- What about the language barrier? Will you be teaching in English? In Nepal, the Philippines, Malaysia, and in the former Soviet Union, it is common to find college students and recent college graduates who have some English language proficiency, at least conversationally. They study it in school and are often motivated to improve. And in seminaries where we will be teaching, English is often the language of instruction for masters' degree level education. When we teach, we will always teach in English (it is, sadly, our only real option). Sometimes we will teach with a translator, but often that won't be possible, as there may be many native languages represented in the room. And of course, in most places that won't even be necessary.
- Why Asia? When I (Rich) was 24, I was in a small group of senior students talking about our vision for our lives. I was not much older than those students, and so while the focus was on students sharing their vision, I shared mine. I had at that point been to the Urbana Missions conference three times (in '79, '81, and '84) and in part my answer was an answer to the question, "Why aren't you planning to go as a missionary overseas?" I said, "I want to be wherever I can be most strategically used. I want to be in student ministry in the US now, where youth and energy is so prized, when I am young. When I am older, I want to serve in a place (like Asia) where age and wisdom are valued." Now, certainly, I could not have known then what course my life would take, nor the twists and turns that has taken me to Africa and Europe, and now, to Asia. But my/our desire to be used in ministry in strategic locations remains, and the church in Asia is awakening to become a vibrant part of the outward movement of Christ's global church. We have no illusions about being at the center of the very large move of God that is happening there, but we do hope to take our place alongside people who have gone before and Asian nationals who have said yes to God's call.
- What is happening to your house? We have a lovely family with adult children who will be renting our home, and they have an affection and appreciation for old homes with lots of wood. And we have realtor ministry-minded friends who will help us manage it while we are gone. The power of Jesus' promise (one hundred homes) wouldn't be so great if the cost (leaving your home, among other things) weren't so great. It is hard to leave our home, but our experience teaches us that we will enjoy many homes in the years ahead, some as guests, others as hosts, but endeavoring to have a light hold on our life, because in fact we know this is not our ultimate home. We don't know if we'll ever live again in our home, but if we do, we will receive it as a beloved gift that came back to us.
- What about Lisa's mom? Five years ago, when we set out to do our first trip to Eastern Europe and Asia, Lisa's sister Ruth was alive, as well as Rich's father. They both have since passed away, but Lisa's mom Nancy remains a pretty hale nonagenarian, with her wits about her, and she is tech savvy for her age. We expect Skype calls and other forms of communication will keep us well in touch, and perhaps twice yearly trips back at least for Lisa to keep up with her mom, at least initially.
- What about your dog, Luna? Friends of ours from the Bay Area have taken Luna, and they have assured us that they have a "Luna-shaped hole in their hearts", ready to be filled.
- When do you get back and what will you do? We do not know the answers to these questions. When we went to Eastern Europe in 2014-2015, we were planning to do a marathon, as we thought of it then, 40 back-to-back mission trips over the course of one year, living out of our luggage the entire year. This time, we are not thinking primarily of it as a race at all, but as change of location and focus. It will be more like a hike, walked not run, at a pace we can imagine sustaining over several years, perhaps only three, perhaps five or more. We are pretty willing to take a step forward on the path the Lord seems to be opening up, without full confidence or clarity about the destination or duration of the journey. Ultimately, we know the One who has all those details well in hand, and we rely on him to guide us, through open doors and new opportunities we cannot now imagine.