Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Some of you may be reading my blog for the first time. Please allow me this first paragraph to catch you up to speed on our family's lives. We recently left our careers as an attorney and an occupational therapist to enter the mission field with YWAM (Youth With a Mission) As a result, we are now in Kona, Hawaii, at the University of the Nations,, serving as operational support for the University campus through the end of this year. If you read more of my posts below you will see some of the amazing things God has done in our lives as He has taken us on this journey. This is actually our second time to the U of N, as we first came to learn about YWAM during the month of July 2006.
Also, you can go to our website, at, and see our mission, newsletters (,com_docman/Itemid,36/task,cat_view/gid,18/) and other information about us. This post, however, is dedicated to explaining who was one of the key people God used to help us find God's way for our lives. That person was none other than Wade Burleson, the pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Oklahoma. Although some may criticize Wade or wonder about his commitment to missions and evangelism, I can attest to the mighty ways in which God uses men like Wade based on my personal experience. Not only have I seen him witness to a waiter in a restaurant at the drop of a hat, I also know he is committed to helping young men and women like my wife and me succeed as we transition into the mission field.
Along my journey over the past 6-9 months I have twice asked Wade for specific counsel. He has become somewhat of a mentor to me after first meeting him while I was serving on a pastor search team. He struck me as being a man of God's word, of strong conviction and leadership skills, and of great and passionate grace. I've been blessed to visit his church and his home, as well as to spend many hours listening to his sermons via the intranet.
The first time I sought his counsel was simply an email message in passing. I knew he was very busy with the Southern Baptist Convention approaching and all that was being said in the blog world. I hated to bother him. So, several months ago I sent him an email that said little more than, if you were going to consider going into the mission field, what organizations would you recommend? His brief email response named three organizations, the first of which was YWAM. It struck an odd but good chord within me as I had known a couple of families who had ventured out with YWAM and who recommended it highly. At that point, I didn't even know if I was really being called to missions, seminary, or just a different job than the one I was working as an attorney.
Fast forward to August 4, 2006, the last Friday I was set to be in Hawaii this summer, and the Friday upon which I was called by Loren Cunningham, the Founder of YWAM, at 6:45 a.m. to consider some special projects for him. We (Tara and me) were overwhelmed by the request and had already planned to do something completely different. We simply wanted to return to NW Arkansas, take 3 months to build support, and then go to a discipleship training school within YWAM to learn how to become missionaries. We had no grandiose plans or desire to take on any new responsibilities. We were already overwhelmed with the changes we were making and did not believe we had the strength to do anything else. In essence, we said "no." But, at Loren's request, we committed to consider the request in prayer and specifically knew that if God truly wanted us to take on this new request that we would need a very clear answer from Him.
On that Friday, I emailed a dozen or so men who are close friends and counselors. Wade was one of those men. My family then took the weekend to see the Big Island of Hawaii for the first time by renting a car for the weekend (we had been on foot at the YWAM base prior to that time). During that weekend of fun and relaxation we didn't talk much about it, but we prayed. I had also requested in my email that my counselors would pray and seek God's word for us.
On Monday, August 7th, I then began calling some of those who were praying for us. I called Wade right in the middle of a marriage counseling session, so he then called me back later. Our discussion was incredible. He didn't overspiritualize things and ask me questions like "have you prayed," or "what verses of scripture have you looked at." Instead, he immediately went to the bottom line and asked how would God provide financially for such a venture (because all positions in YWAM are support based only and not paid any compensation), and what my wife, Tara, felt.
Both of those practical concerns basically advised against making such a move from our plans. I was, frankly, relieved, because at that point was much more comfortable with our plan. We also discussed other aspects of the "job" such as "fit" with my strengths, etc. In sum, I was thinking that I had been given great advice and that such advice fit well with what I was already thinking, which was to continue on with our plan and not take on this new opportunity Loren Cunningham had presented us. (So, of course, it sounded like great advice (smile)). Moreover, Wade noted that God was interested in my heart, and that unless I heard a clear word from God to take a particular path, so long as my heart was in the right place, the place of obeying and following Him no matter the call, then I couldn't make a "wrong" choice.
There is always a "but." So.... BUT, then we prayed together. After we prayed, Wade asked me a question that I thought was odd. I assumed he must have gone back to discussing the financial realities of returning to Hawaii, if I were to undertake Loren's opportunity. He asked what it had cost my family of 5 to get to Hawaii. I was thinking to myself, I'm not sure it really matters now, because I'm pretty much not thinking at all of returning. But, I told him that our tickets were almost $800 per person.
He then brought me to a burst of uncontrollable tears with this statement: "Bryan, I really don't think it matters at all which choice you make, and I won't be concerned at all about either choice, but, if you do decide to return to Hawaii to work with Loren, know that I've got your family's plane tickets."
You see, at this point, we had not asked anyone for a dime. I wasn't asking people for money. I simply wanted to get back home, be able to explain what our mission and plans were, and then start raising support. We had undertaken all the expenses for making this transition and exploratory venture in July, and we really hadn't fully committed yet in a way that seemed fair to ask people for support. Meanwhile, I'm praying that God would give us a clear sign that He was calling us. And, here I am, talking to Wade Burleson, a man whom I knew through a pastor search team process, but not in any way where we had been in ministry together, and suddenly am being offered a gift of several thousand dollars. The fear that overtook my comfort was overwhelming to the point of a multitude of tears running down my face. I felt as though God must have spoken audibly through Wade at that moment.
Then the fear of telling my wife hit me. You see, earlier that day she had told me that this still wasn't even on her radar screen and I had agreed. So, I simply cried. Poor Wade, who was still on the other end of the phone, as I tried to blubber my way to good bye.
I'll never forget walking in to tell Tara and her looking at me and saying: "What is wrong with you?" It makes me laugh even now, because it wasn't with that concerned look on her face she said it. She knew I had been talking to some of the people I had emailed, so to the extent she was concerned it was more about whether I was actually considering taking Loren up on his offer, not about any reason I might be crying.
Then, one by one, nearly all of the other men I called felt that God was moving us toward returning to Hawaii. And, through the nudges of the Holy Spirit (and I think for the first time in our marriage without me trying to persuade), Tara saw that it was a part of the plan for us, too. And, so, we returned just 6 days ago to the University of the Nations and have been so blessed throughout this journey of faith and obedience.
Thank you to all of the men who prayed for and counseled me throughout this process. You blessed my family tremendously. Thank you to Alan Cross, Kevin McCollum, Kevin Bussey, Mike Roberts, Robby Bader, Rob Husong, David Roth, David Price, Bill Barley, Bryan McKinney, James Cooper, John Ray, David Spruell, Wade Burleson, Paul Burleson, Kevin Sanders, HD McCarty, Jim Hightower, Jim Nizza, Andy Huddleston, Steve Pulliam, and Jody Farrell. Okay, that was more than a dozen, but praise the Lord there is success with many advisers! (Proverbs 15:22).


Kevin Bussey said...

Cool story,

Thanks for sharing. I will continue to pray for you.

Dorcas Hawker said...

Bryan -

So much going on for the two of you, and yet you and Tara still took time to pray for me and respond to my questions about life direction.

There is wisdom in much counselors. I am honored. And thanks again to you.