Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. - Galatians 6:9, NIV
Sometimes, written words do not come easy to me. Putting the ink down on paper feels so final, so real and perhaps, more emotional and raw. I have tried to write this blog several times over the last few days, but there was nothing, at least nothing that I think someone wants to read. It was not until this moment that my thoughts about my life, our family and the calling that God laid on our lives were clear enough to express.
When you meet my husband Chris and I, you may get the impression that we are open, honest and transparent, but the truth is that we have told a few lies as missionaries.
Before you write us off, we did not think we were being dishonest at the time that we told them.
Ten years ago, we believed that God was leading us to leave our role as pastors and move to Prague, Czech Republic to start an international church, so we said “Yes”. We began the process of raising funds to move our family of four, 5,000 miles from home. Over the next year or so, we stood in countless churches with our young family and spoke about how missions was not a sacrifice. It was simply an exchange. We would simply trade life as we knew it for some kind of grand adventure. We would step out in faith and the results would be miraculous.
Over the next two years, we felt like we were drowning in anxiety, fear, frustration and an overwhelming sense that we were so incredibly inadequate. Our son Gideon had a dream that we died. A few days later we were running late to pick him and his sister up from school. The secretary informed our daughter Karis, but did not tell our son. This began a long, painful battle for him and for us. Every day, he would have panic attacks and had to call home to make sure we were still alive.
In addition, our daughter struggled physically as she did not grow for almost two years. We did not notice at first because we were so concerned about Gideon. She was discovered to have a virtually non-functioning thyroid gland. The doctor said that her bones stopped growing about the same time we arrived in Prague. With our family struggling, no real victories to report, and missing our families back home, this did not feel like simply an exchange anymore.
The yes was getting harder to say.
The second lie that we often shared was that we loved the Czech people. We boarded a plane in Oklahoma City and stepped off the plane and into the Czech Republic and Europe for the first time in September 2012. I have often heard missionaries say that they loved the people from the moment that they arrived in their country of calling or even before then. I guess that I assumed that I would feel the same. I was not prepared for the gray skies of winter or the brutal coldness of the people. I begin to wonder if anyone here even knew how to smile.
After two years of struggling with finding our place, I walked into Albert, the grocery store that we often shopped at. During my visit, I reached for a carton of eggs. Accidentally, I knocked the eggs over on their side. None of the eggs broke, but it didn’t matter. Within seconds, a cashier began screaming at me...over eggs!? I am pretty sure that they were not personally hers. Shaken, I came home and told my husband that I hated these people and I wanted to go home. Where was the love, you may ask? My answer would be 'I don’t know'.
Chris told me that he didn’t know what we would do if we left the mission field. We had sold our things to come here and we had no job prospects. We felt a little broken, to say the least, but we prayed and re-committed our lives to Jesus. “Jesus, if You want us here, we will stay.” Saying yes to staying wasn’t easy, but we knew it was right. Within two weeks of this prayer, two different people told us that “if we return to Prague, we will see the greatest harvest that we have ever seen.” So we said “yes.” Did we love the Czech people at this time? I would be lying if I said yes.
We still fight the repercussions of saying yes on most days. 'Yes' looks a lot different when your kids are 14 and 16 than it does when they are 6 and 8. Now that we are looking at college and our kids possibly being most of those 5,000 miles away, saying yes seems so incredibly painful. Truthfully, I am not sure that I can do it. Prague is one of the darkest places to live. Even breathing sometimes hurts. I still fight through
seasons of depression and anxiety. Saying yes without our kids living here--I don’t know how.
Even though, we have been able to see some great things accomplished, I go through seasons where I find myself continually looking for an out. Sometimes I really wish that my husband sold insurance and that we could just go to church somewhere, maybe lead a small group. However, the truth is that this experience has ruined us. We are ruined by people like Iffy from Africa, Dongpan from China, Stephen, Winnie and Elvis from Rwanda, and Agatha from the Czech Republic. We are ruined by their stories.
I would be lying if I said that we wouldn’t miss this place or these people. Even though we may not want to continue saying yes, one day we know that our lives will never be the same. A part of me wishes that we would have never come because I have seen too much and know too much. I know that nothing else may ever compare with this.
And yes, I can finally say that I love the Czech people, and this time, I am not lying.
On Saying Yes is Entry THREE in our February 2020 blog series, A Journey of His Faithfulness. Amy shares so vulnerably with us today about her struggles in continuing to say yes. Various seasons bring each of us to similar crossroads. Can you share a season where you've struggled to say yes?
Amy Hales and her husband Chris have been married and in full-time ministry for 20 years "We were youth pastors, worked with Teen Challenge, and senior pastors for all but a year or two of those. The last 10 years we have been involved in missions." When asked what shaped her ministry philosophy, Amy replied, "This is kind of a difficult question for me, but my approach to ministry is really relational. I try to connect personally with every person that comes. I value authenticity and want people to feel comfortable enough with me that they can be real with me. We have tried hard to create an atmosphere where people will feel welcome, doing what we can and allowing God to do only what He can." When Amy finds some down time, she enjoys eating a nice dinner, a good cup of coffee, reading, shopping and traveling. Her greatest passion in ministry? Relationships. Find Amy on Facebook or contact her directly by email. You can learn more about how God is using the Hales by visiting their website, www.heartprague.com