This is a really long post, but it’s been in my heart for a little while now.
In February we were privileged to attend a Family Relationships Seminar hosted by Baptist World Mission in Decatur, AL. The guest speaker was Dr. E. Allan Griffith of Biblical Family Ministries. We discussed communication, the husband-wife relationship, the parent-child relationship, and relationships pertaining to ministry (both during deputation and on the mission field). During the seminar we were each asked to give our personal testimony to the rest of the class.
As I prepared to share my testimony, I began to think about how God had directed my steps to prepare me for the ministry He is giving us in the Bronx. It amazed me how God had put specific experiences into my path to guide my heart to the home mission field.
I was a sophomore in high school when we began attending Highlands Baptist Church. It was my first experience with a missions-minded church. God used my time in the youth group at Highlands, and Pastor Musgrave’s heart for missions, to call me to the mission field.
During high school I worked at McDonalds. In Denver we have a large Hispanic population, and I worked with many of those people at McDonalds. I was studying Spanish in school, but as a homeschooler I didn’t have many people to converse with to practice my pronunciation. McDonalds reinforced that aspect of the Spanish language for me in a very practical way. So many of my friends were Mexican or Hispanic, and I found myself falling in love with their culture.
As I prepared for the mission field I enrolled at BJU. I remember thinking that I was overwhelmed with classes like speech, history, arts, etc. and all I really wanted to study was the Bible. As a “school of religion” major I was taking double the required Bible courses, but I still didn’t feel like I was getting enough.
Through the experience of sitting out a year of college to work and save money, God directed my steps to transfer to Ambassador Baptist College. During that year that I stayed home, some missionaries on deputation, with Baptist World Mission, stayed in our home. Mr. Starin had just graduated from ABC. It was a Bible College and it sounded just like what I was looking for.
As a student at Ambassador Baptist College I attended Pastor Frank Camp’s church. Pastor Camp is just a little bit of a matchmaker, and during my sophomore year he asked me to pray about Ben Hamilton. Now as a missions student I was pretty set against dating anyone who was not a missions major. But God started answering prayer requests for Ben. And it seemed like everytime I was on the sidewalk going to class, Pastor Camp was there also and he would say, “You been prayin’?” So…I started praying. And then I started dating Ben.
The summer after my junior year I completed my missions internship in Spain. I loved my time there and I would have loved to go back there, or to any Spanish speaking mission field. I was still dating Ben and I really had to wrestle with what a missionary is. I came to realize that a missionary is someone who takes the Gospel to people who do not have it, and usually a foreign missionary is someone who plants a church in a foreign culture.
Not only did the Lord continue to direct my steps regarding my relationship with Ben, but He was leading me to be willing to serve anywhere God wanted me – not only on a foreign field, and not only in a Spanish culture. Ben felt called to be a church-planter. As the Lord confirmed that He was “the one” for me, He also caused me to be satisfied to stay “home” and be a church-planting type of missionary.
After college we were married and we moved to Virginia Beach to continue Ben’s seminary studies. When our time there was coming to a close, we were seeking God’s direction regarding where to serve. God reignited Ben’s desire to work in an urban setting. We began praying about New York City, since Ben had completed a summer internship there with Shalom Ministries.
The missions-major part of me started to get excited about going to New York City. The whole world is there! There are so many cultures – all in one place. Could God really be fulfilling the desire of my heart in this way?
When we moved to NYC Ben intended to work a job while church planting. The expense of living in the City and our experience with Ben trying to do ministry and work full time led us to believe that we needed to do deputation before church planting. Then God directed us to apply to Baptist World Mission. My pastor, Jeff Musgrave serves on the board of BWM. It was a BWM missionary that God used to take me to Ambassador. I never thought I would serve with such a large mission board, but here we are – approved church-planting missionaries with Baptist World Mission! And now we are on deputation and I am experiencing another aspect of missions that I thought would not do as a “home missionary.”
As God continued to direct our steps He led us to the Bronx. Would you guess? The demographics of this area are 53% Hispanic! One of our ministry goals is to have a Spanish speaking ministry come out of our church plant.
I am rather in awe that God would take my desire for missions and my love of Spanish people, and bring me to the point where I was willing to let go of my desires and plans in this area. He led me to marry a pastoral major and not a missions major. He called me to stay home instead of to go. Then, in His goodness, He has brought it all full circle and given me the desires of my heart. He has brought me to the largest city in our country – a culturally diverse mission field. We are serving with a mission board and traveling on deputation. And He is calling us to plant a church in an area which is over 50% Hispanic. Does it get any better than that?