A quickly scribbled diagram on a napkin is a treasured souvenir of Bill and Doris’* journey into mission.
The jotting showed the possible routes the young married couple could take to confirm God’s call on their lives and although they didn’t realise it, it was a key signpost on their pathway to serving with SIM.
The couple, who have three young children, are planning to serve long-term in Central Asia, but if you’d told them that would be their career path when they first met at college, they would’ve laughed at you.
Bill was looking forward to an engineering career, thinking he would most likely stay in the same company for most of his life, while Doris, who’d gone to college on a Navy scholarship, knew she’d be spending the next seven years moving to wherever she was posted.
God’s first surprise was that Bill, despite his reluctance, realised he’d have to put his career second if he wanted to be with Doris, who was about to start training to be a submarine officer.
“After Doris graduated, she was posted to South Carolina and we moved down there,” he recalls. “I didn’t know what to expect, but I found an engineering job and we joined a really good church. We began leading a small group and got really involved, with lots of opportunities to host and felt quite settled.
“Even though we were a small church, it was missional and we helped support some mission workers. But we thought our role would always be sending, rather than going ourselves.
“After about 18 months or so, Doris was posted to the west coast, so we had to uproot and start all over. I had to give up my job and when we moved, I had a few months without a job. Doris was on a schedule that meant she was away for three months at a time.
“It was tough at first, but I eventually got a job and we found a good church and began to enjoy our new life. Again, we were involved in hosting small groups, often including people who weren’t Christian, but I couldn’t see how God could use an engineer and a submarine officer in missions.”
God had another surprise in store. It just so happened that the church they had joined supported an SIM mission couple serving in Asia and when the couple spoke to the church during a home assignment, Bill and Doris began to see what might be possible.
The four of them even went out for lunch and the couple patiently explained the various routes into mission, plotting them out on that napkin!
Doris left the Navy at the end of her term so she and Bill could start a family and, some time later, God produced another surprise when Bill saw an exciting job in Philadelphia and they made plans to move across the country again.
“I was as surprised as anyone, but the job was right in my specialist area,” Bill explains. “By this time we had two kids, but Doris agreed to move, so we headed off again, packing all our stuff into a van and going.
“God surprised us again because while we driving over we had a call from someone at SIM with an engineering background, who wanted to get to know us and, I think, show us engineers could go into mission!”
The area they moved to was very multicultural and the couple made friends with an Egyptian couple on their street and, again, opened their house to students and others for Bible study.
Increasingly, they were finding people coming who didn’t know Jesus but were eager to learn.
From there, they took a 16-week course in cross-cultural mission and moved through the SIM membership process.
Bill adds: “By then we were thinking it might be possible for us to go, but we didn’t really know where. We knew we wanted to go where the gospel had not been shared widely, so we were thinking it could be the Middle East, North Africa or Central Asia.”
While they were at the SIM US head office in Charlotte, God surprised them again. By his grace, their time in the guest house overlapped by one day with a couple who were serving in Central Asia with their own young children. If ever Bill and Doris needed confirmation of God’s calling, that was it.
Now, of course, God’s big surprise is that they will soon be living in that very region, doing the same work. At first, this involves learning the language and culture and neither of them has any idea where God will take them after that.
As they know, God loves to surprise his people. All his small surprises so far are now pointing to that big surprise of full-time mission in Central Asia. *Names changed
By Tim Allan
- For God to make his calling fully known to Bill and Doris as they move to Central Asia.
- For all the practicalities of moving with three children under five to Central Asia, that God would smooth support-raising, visas and everything else.
- For God to encourage and empower the couple as they start long-term service in a place where so few people know Jesus.