The first change of plans occurred when Geoff’s brother announced a November 24th wedding. Geoff and I originally purchased plane tickets to return home in December, so a flight change was in order. We found out about this right before we left the States, but delayed changing the flights as long as possible. We weren’t anxious to reduce the amount of time we had here by any amount of days, no matter how excited we were about his brother’s marriage to an INCREDIBLE gal. Something about scheduling the return flight was just too final for me. I didn’t want to leave; even for a visit. I always fear leaving a place that I love because you never know when you’ll get to come back, regardless of plans or intentions. Well, 2 weeks ago we finally submitted and changed our flight. We plan to arrive in Texas on the afternoon of November 13th!
Many of you may remember from former blogs, but we've had quite an ordeal with visas – even the one that we thought we had taken care of before arriving. We have a 6-month extended tourist visa, and have planned to return on a volunteer or similar visa. Long story short, a few weeks ago we hit a hard wall on the possibility of obtaining a visa in time and were facing getting kicked out of the country for 6 months, at which point we would have to start over. Well, I had no problem with coming back, overstaying our visa as long as we wanted, and paying a fine when we left. However, Mr. Conscience (a.k.a. Geoff) wasn't up for that - much to my despair. Beyond that, with all the election drama going on in the States, we were worried about what our Texan friends would think/say about us if we became “illegal aliens!” We unwillingly began to brainstorm about other options, wondering what to do with that 6-month quarantine; maybe we should check out another country, or stay in the States to earn some needed money, etc.
Well, within the same week of all this turmoil we had a Skype call and Geoff received an invitation to join a research project in Jerusalem for 6 months in which he would be doing the script-writing for a really neat curriculum project on the Temple Mount. This was an incredible honor and a great opportunity. Like many academic/research jobs, it didn’t exactly pay, but came with plane tickets, a room to sleep in, and a few hundred dollars a month for food – which was gold to our lack of income ears. This was Geoff’s dream come true. As we listened to the offer reveal itself over the Skype call, I didn’t need to look at him to feel the joy and excitement radiating from every part of his being. I also knew I needed to correct the shocked look on my face, as I tried not to fall out of my chair while this new reality sank in.
The interesting thing about this opportunity was - at no point did it appear to be something we had to decide. It was as though we answered the call and Someone let us know what we were doing next. We are usually much better at indecision than this, I assure you. We didn’t have the opportunity to engage our traditionally agonizing time period of anxiety, analyzing pros and cons and wrestling in prayer and fasting to discern the right direction. It was just what we were doing next. Period. I’m not sure why it was like this, or exactly what made it so clear, but it was. At the same moment that it seemed certain we were heading to Jerusalem, I knew in my heart even more certainly that we wouldn’t be returning (immediately) to Ecuador. Geoff was elated. I was heartbroken. Sometimes it’s just like that, and that’s still Good.
Those who know us the best may remember that it was our original intention to move immediately to Israel after our wedding, where Geoff planned to complete his M.A. at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Israeli conflicts, finances, and other opportunities changed this reality, and though we’ve returned on trips to Israel, we have never lived there together. We delayed it at first, planning to return after a year, but his mentor wisely advised that finishing his M. Div at ACU was more pertinent, so we moved to Abilene. Every decision we have made in our married lives regarding jobs/location has been largely influenced by this goal of getting to Israel, where Geoff dreams of leading study groups and sharing the incredible perspective of the Text that can be uniquely grasped in the land where it was written. Finally, we reached a point where GOD seemed to be saying, “wait.” Several good leads became dead ends, and we didn’t know what to do next. We decided to stop chasing this dream for a time; to let it go and allow GOD to bring it back if it was in accordance with HIS will. Then we made the first location changing decision of our married lives that had nothing to do with Israel. We moved to Ecuador.
I have hesitated posting about our future plans, perhaps for the same reason I delayed so long in buying our return flights. It makes the fact that we are leaving Ecuador that much more real. Though I am holding on to hope that we can return immediately after our time in Israel, I also know how expensive that time will be and that we are not likely to have the financial opportunity to make such a move. For now we trust GOD’s direction as HE leads us one step at a time. We have to start saying goodbye to Ecuador, not knowing if we’ll ever return, though I may long with all my heart to do nothing more.
I praise GOD for His provision and clear direction. I am so thankful that Geoff will have another opportunity to live in Jerusalem, surrounded by so many opportunities to pursue his great passions, and that I will be able to share his dream-come-true with him. I am certain that I will love it, and it will be an incredible experience. But right now I am still in Ecuador, savoring each breath I am allowed in this wonderful place. I’ve never been so thankful to be in any situation as I have been here. This is my dream-come-true.
As the Jews say every year at Passover, so we say now – NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM. We plan to arrive in Israel the first week of January 2013. For more on Geoff’s perspective of this transition – check out his personal blog here.