Right after my sixteenth birthday, as the people of Brookfield, IL began to take their Christmas lights down from their snow-dusted roofs, just before the new year of 1996, my family and I moved to San Jose, Costa Rica.
We knew we would not be there long. Guatemala was our final destination and that was what we had planned for. My father, dramatically changing occupations from salesman to missionary, underwent three long years of graduate school at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, two of which involved trekking the United States visiting people and churches to raise support so we could be involved in Christian radio in Guatemala City.
For calling is not fulfilled without preparation.
Our mission board required that my parents spend time in language school learning the language before engaging in the ministry. And San Jose, Costa Rica was a city riveted with language institutes. But the thing was, we already knew Spanish. You see, we were living in Mexico when my father sensed his calling into missions. But still, the agency persisted and so we agreed and made the move.
Dad and Mom, myself, Ryan who was 12, Andrian almost 3 and baby Autumn 3 months old.
We never thought we would be there for longer than 6 months, but we ended up staying a full year in the peaceful land of Costa Rica. While my parents studied Spanish at the the Instituto de Lengua Española, Ryan and I attended school at Sojourn Academy. A tiny school for grades kindergarten through high school, Sojourn was the place the missionary kids went during their parents’ preparation for ministry in order to go to various countries throughout Central and South America. It really was like a glorified homeschool co-op with A Beka being the main curriculum. Teachers were assigned to two to three grades per classroom and the high school delivered two teachers. One for Math/Science and one for English/History. The classrooms all faced a common outside corridor with an exotic garden of native plants in the middle. Quite the contrast to the flurry of life in public high school in Illinois.
Perhaps it would have been easy to discount that year as altogether unnecessary or a waste of precious time. I mean, when I finally arrived in Guatemala I realized that an entire semester of Geometry and Geography taken at Sojourn did not count for my high school credit and had to be retaken at the missionary school there in Guatemala City. True, my parents honed in their Spanish skills, but they would have been fine without a year at language school. Another move, another transition, another house. Was it even healthy for a family with kids to uproot again?
But then I think of what I would have missed out on had we skipped that period in our lives. Friends. Like I had never had before. Friends that drew close just because we knew that our time together was short and we had better make the most of it. Friends that would not have found each other had we not been thrown together. Friendships that would last. And then there was Mr. Loren Wilbur, my English teacher. My favorite teacher of all time. He was the one who taught me to read the great books. And because of our miniscule classes, he actually took the time to sit down with me and counsel me on my writing. He was the kind of teacher that inspires you to greatness. And I would have missed that.
Oh I could go on and on about what I gained that year. Running three times a week with a lady from our mission and being unknowingly mentored by her wisdom. Enjoying my family without outside pressures of activity. Not to mention the things we experienced like soaking in natural hot springs while watching a volcano erupt before us. Exploring a dozen beautiful beaches. Eating all manner of strangely delicious fruit. Experiencing the process of coffee. Climbing mountains. Kissing monkeys. Getting rained on. A lot. Riding in taxis everywhere we went.
Somehow that waste of time became my favorite year.
Of course, that was Costa Rica. And who could not endure a year of preparation in paradise? I look at our situation now and inwardly cringe that I even dared to write about my experiences at Sojourn because it would seem they are to be envied compared to our current outlook. We live in Houston, TX. In Jason’s parents’ house. Still. Three children. Real estate ghosts from our past haunting us. House loan prospects dim. What is this year we have been experiencing? Our dreams are still strong and our calling continues to take shape. But this place where we cannot see the end for the wall that is before us, can it be of any good whatsoever?
It is Sojourn Academy. Without the exotic paradise.
And yet, something stirs within my soul. The slow outbreak of hope and faint echo of faith that this time, this wait is preparatory. And even, dare I believe, exceedingly good for me. For all of us. For this season of sojourn paves the way to our calling.