If you don’t know where you are going, any path will take you there. - Sioux proverb
Twenty-five years ago, I didn’t know where I was going, and I most definitely did not imagine that I would end up where I am today. But God knew where I was going, and He knew the path I had to take to get here.
Born and raised in Michigan, I met the love of my life, my wife Liisa, while we were students at Concordia College in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We imagined that our life together would be one of service to God in a traditional Lutheran church setting, she as a schoolteacher and myself as a pastor. That all changed in 1988, when I graduated from the seminary and received my first call into the ministry – as an evangelistic missionary in Venezuela, South America! We left the United States when our oldest daughter, Sonrisa, was only two months old. Three more children were born in Venezuela: Gabriela, Veronica, and Benjamin.
Although college and seminary had prepared me well to be a pastor, I was not well-equipped to be a cross-cultural missionary. In 1995, I began studying missions as a student in the Ph.D. in Missiology program at Concordia Theological Seminary, a course of studies that would last throughout the remainder of our 13 years in Venezuela, and beyond. Our time in Venezuela ended when I accepted a call to serve as a mission executive for the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. I continued in that role until 2004, when I accepted a call to plant a mission church in Miramar, part of greater Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I served as church planter/pastor of New Life Lutheran Church until 2010.
Even though we were back in the States, God was still directing my life down the path of cross-cultural missions. In 2009, I became adjunct faculty at Concordia Theological Seminary, teaching in the Ph.D. in Missiology program. In 2010, I followed God’s missionary call on my life by starting Global Lutheran Outreach, an organization dedicated to sending and supporting cross-cultural Lutheran missionaries. At the end of 2013, I accepted a call from the Lutheran Church of Chile to serve (starting in mid 2014) as a missionary church planter in Santiago, while continuing to direct the operations of Global Lutheran Outreach.
Serving as a missionary has been absolutely life-changing for me. Studying the Word of God from the perspective of another language and culture opens up completely new and unimagined insights into every aspect of my life, from marriage and family, to parenting, to pastoring, and even to my understanding of God. In my writing, I want to share with you some of these unexpected blessings that have so enriched my life.
When Liisa and I married in 1984, neither of us would have guessed that we would raise our four children in Venezuela, or that our whole family would be bilingual, or that we would be so thoroughly in love with missions. But God knew. That is the path He had in mind for us, and we can’t wait to see what’s next!