Some people have a plan for their lives. They have a goal, they know how they’re going to achieve it, and they work towards it. Others are content with where they’re at, and are happy to take things one day at a time. For Sarah and I, we’ve learned that God is the one who prepares our good works, and he may only reveal them one step at a time.
Sarah and I first met when we were six: we shared a violin teacher and did concerts together. I grew up in a Christian family in Armidale, New South Wales, Australia. Sarah lived down the hill on a property near Tamworth. Her mum taught her about God, but she chose not to follow him. At the age of 17, unhappy with the inconsistency of believing in God but not accepting him as Lord, Sarah set out to prove that God did not exist. But after reading the historical evidence for Jesus’ death and resurrection in the Gospels, she admitted defeat and accepted Jesus.
We met again when we went to the University of New South Wales to live at New College. I found this time at university formative as I had to decide whether to continue as a Christian now that I was away from my family. The teaching and encouragement I received during this time laid the groundwork for later decisions.
The year Sarah graduated as a teacher, we married. I worked as an engineer; Sarah, as a teacher, and we expected to spend our days serving God in our local church, leading Bible studies and doing whatever we could while working in secular jobs. But over time, several older, wiser heads suggested that I think about gospel ministry. One night, I attended a talk on ‘Why not?’ at Moore College. Five months later, I began a two-year ministry apprenticeship at UNSW. During that time, I led a group that eventually became a new church plant in a school hall.
The next step was theological study at Moore College to gain a solid foundation for pastoring a church long-term. I studied for four years; Sarah, for one. During that time, I continued to minister to the new church plant, intending to continue leading the church after college.
After graduation, the church employed me full-time, and a year later, it moved into an Anglican building. Parish ministry was busy and satisfying, and it seemed that suburban ministry was where God had placed us. But God had other ideas.
In 2002, I responded to an invitation to teach Moore College external courses in Kenya for two weeks. This seemed like a worthwhile way to serve, and the Parish council was supportive. Sarah held down the fort at home with our children, freeing me up to teach short intensive courses to pastors and church workers there. One trip became four trips. Friends began to ask, “Pete, have you got a return ticket this time, or a one-way?” I was amazed and challenged by the impact of the course on people’s lives—many of whom were studying the Bible in a careful and concentrated manner for the first time. Soon we began to think, “If this sort of thing can happen in a two-week trip, what would happen if we did this full-time?”
At Church Missionary Society (CMS) Summer School in 2006, God pulled aside the curtain to reveal the next good work he had in store for us. There were challenging talks on Ephesians about God’s plan to unite all things under Christ. Then Peter Blowes, Mission Personnel Secretary for CMS Australia, spoke about the need for someone to go to Latin America to coordinate Moore College external courses among Spanish speakers. There were around 1500 people in the auditorium that night, but we independently saw that it was a job that we could do, given the experiences God had given us.
The conversation in the car home that night was interesting! We decided to take some time to think, and then talk to CMS. After a long period of discussion, prayer and counsel, we bid a difficult but fond farewell to our congregation, and headed off for six months of missionary training.
In February 2009, we moved to Monterrey, Mexico. So far, most of the time has been focused on learning the Spanish language and Latin culture. I have begun teaching MOCLAM (Moore College in Latinoamérica) courses (these are the Moore College Preliminary Theological Certificate courses in Spanish). I am now preparing to take the reins from Grahame and Patty Scarratt, and will begin the process of becoming the director of MOCLAM at the end of 2010.
This is a long way from where we imagined we’d be 16 years ago when we were newly married. But every step of the way has been carefully prepared by God and revealed in his good timing.
Mexico is just the next step. There are sure to be many more to follow!