“Be careful, keep calm, and don’t be afraid.” (Isa. 7:4, NIV) These words jumped out of the page of Isaiah chapter 7 one morning during devotions. In this passage, God is speaking to Isaiah with a message to King Ahaz to reassure him that even though two kings were coming together to destroy Jerusalem, they would not succeed. God likened them to two burned embers. He reassured Ahaz that even though he and his people were fearful and “trembled like trees in the wind”, they need not be afraid.
In this, similar yet different new chapter of our lives, moving from one continent to another, many conflicting feelings surface - grief, joy, fear, excitement, longings to remain on the African continent, yet yearnings to be back home if only for awhile. In the midst of packing, saying goodbyes, sifting through years of paper and stuff, and uprooting from friends and acquaintances, the changes in our life and situation causes us amazement and perplexity.
We committed to international ministry and left the U.S. for South Africa with our very young children back in 1997 - fifteen years ago! After spending the last six years in Zambia, during which time we had only a couple of months back in the states, this transition back to the states for our one-year U.S./Puerto Rico assignment period will be a big one. Life has changed! We left teenaged children, one as a high school senior and two as college students, and now we have three adult offspring who have finished university, are working, two are married, and one is raising a family of his own. We left and took with us three little children who had not begun elementary school, and now two of our MK’s (Missionary Kids) who grew up on the field with us had already left the nest for college, and our youngest also has just graduated high school and will be going off to college in the fall.
On the Friday before our Monday flights to the U.S., we were informed that our confirmed and already purchased airline tickets had to be changed at the last minute because of an airline oversight. The mad scramble to negotiate the travel obstacles and get everything done over a weekend, with their airline office closed, could have caused major hair-loss, but those calming words of Scripture reverberated over and over. “Be careful, keep calm, and don’t be afraid.”
Then on our way to Sunday morning worship service, just the day before we were to hand over our vehicle to the new owner, we were struck by a hit and run driver. With heads reeling and "heart in throat", we had to face the situation of explaining to the guy who had just bought the vehicle from us and already transferred the title into his name that our insurance won't pay! In trying to get our household stuff shipped back from Lusaka, Zambia to Lafayette, Louisiana, we were quoted outrageous and unbelievable shipping costs. Our shipment size of 9 cubic meters had to be pared down to 5 cubic meters in a matter of days! Our mantra became “sell it, give it away, or throw it away”! But even in the midst of the craziness and all the hassle and the grief of leaving, those calming words come to us again and again. We know that God is in the plans and He knows the next step, and how the next chapter will be written.
We have ahead of us the crucial task of raising the financial support in order to continue on the field in this mission work of sharing Christ with unsaved people, educating HIV/AIDS orphans through The Wellspring of Faith and Hope Community School in Lusaka, and carrying out theological and Bible college training of pastors. Your giving has made a great difference in so many lives. We are excited about returning and being in the U.S. for our year of deputation and church visits and sharing what God is doing through you and your support of this mission work. We already have invitations and plans to be with some of you during the September and October 2012 World Mission Offering time. We would love to hear from you and be invited to come and share with you and your region, church, group, and mission-minded friends. We pray for you and thank all of you who have faithfully contributed.
Please contact us by sending an email to us (firstname.lastname@example.org), or to our Missionary Partnership Team (MPT) convener Ruth Ann Greene (email@example.com), or to our Missionary Partnership Network (MPN) email-address (firstname.lastname@example.org). We need each of you and so many more to pray for us and be partners in our MPN. We thank God for you and your care and concern for us, your faithfulness in prayer, and your giving that has allowed us to serve Him on the continent of Africa in South Africa and Zambia for the past 15 years.
May God richly bless you, and we will see you soon!
Charles and Sarah West
MPT Website: www.westinzambia.org