That’s the question Mike Curry asked me a while back over coffee. Mike has been my ‘Mission Trip Mentor’ ever since we took our first Bellevue team to Kenya in 2009. He and his wife Teresa were in Memphis for a Christmas getaway to the Peabody in late 2018. They invited me over for coffee and we were sitting in the lobby trying to hear each other over a college choir signing Christmas carols and the ducks causing their usual commotion in the fountain. That’s when Mike asked the question that would have us praying and searching God’s will for the next year. He sensed a calling and an equipping in my life to lead mission teams and projects on a more full-time basis. Sometimes God sends people our way with a specific word or blessing. That morning began the vision that is about to unfold with The East Africa Project.
The most important meeting Mike and I had was in Conway last August. Over dinner, he tried to prepare Susan and me for the biggest obstacle we would face, our common enemy Satan. Mike told us that if we took this step it would be a matter of when, not if, Satan would attack. He was right! As we sent out our first letter last December, Susan woke up with a bit of back pain. After it didn’t get any better we went to the minor med and got some muscle relaxers and a steroid pack. No relief! After a trip to the Ortho Dr. she had an MRI and we found out she had a herniated disc. We can’t pinpoint any injury that could have caused it, but there it was, and it was getting worse. We decided to try non-surgical treatment hoping it would improve enough for her to go to Kenya on our February trip. But after trying several things including a nerve block, she got no relief. For almost a month she couldn’t stand longer than 20 seconds without severe pain.
To say we were discouraged would be an understatement. This trip in February will have several ‘celebrations’ and now Susan can’t make the trip. That was hard for her to accept. Satan loves to attack men by attacking their loved ones. We men tend to be fixers and problem solvers and there is no more helpless feeling than to see your wife suffer and not be able to do anything about it. Then, one of the couples that was signed up to go with us on the February trip had to back out. There is no doubt in my mind that this was an orchestrated attack designed to deter us from moving forward. But we know that our steps are guided by the Lord. Isaiah 30:21 says, ‘Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left.’ And so, we pressed on.
To shorten the story, Pat Sexton recommended to us a wonderful neurosurgeon named Dr. Kevin Foley. We made the appointment to see him and when they watched Susan trying to walk in they started trying to move things around to schedule an early surgery, because it would have normally been the end of February before she could have been scheduled. The surgery was scheduled for a week later, on Friday, January 24. On the following Tuesday morning Susan and I prayed they would be able to work her in earlier because her pain had become almost unbearable. Late Tuesday afternoon I got a call and they had a cancellation and they could do the surgery on Wednesday!
God prepared the way and guarded her with angels. Three of the four nurses we had we
either knew or had a connection with (we didn’t know that before that day). Then God did a miracle through Dr. Foley and Susan walked out of the hospital Wednesday afternoon PAIN FREE! She is still regaining her strength and won’t be able to go to Kenya (this time!) but we are more sure than ever that God is calling us to this work!
So, “What’s Next?” The East Africa Project gets underway full speed ahead on February 12 as I depart for Kenya with a team from Bellevue. We will conduct 2 pastor’s conferences, continue teacher training at 4 schools, dedicate ground for a widow’s home and celebrate the opening of two schools and the dorms at a new pastor training facility. Groundwork will be laid for three different medical projects and we will meet with some of the IMB staff in Nairobi. We are going to keep walking through doors until God tells us to stop! We covet your prayers!