can you say change?
by Jenna Simpson
CHANGE MAKES US UNCOMFORTABLE and gets us out of sorts. So why bother? Because change can be a good thing! It is often an indication of progress and growth. Life is about changes: adolescence, adulthood, marriage, children, jobs. However, decisions also bring about change. Some decisions are easy; others are difficult.
One of the most difficult decisions my husband Barry and I have made in our married life was resigning the church we pastored 16 years, a church we had been part of for 25 years. That decision created other changes in our lives.
In October 2006, Barry was offered a position with Free Will Baptist International Missions (FWBIM) as director of development. The offer caught us by surprise and brought unsettling feelings. After much prayer, however, we decided Barry should accept the position, even though we knew it would result in huge changes for us and require a depth of sacrifice we had not previously experienced.
Barry accepted the position to help the department restructure its current funding system—the way we send and keep missionaries on the field. We both recognized the magnitude and import of this undertaking. Not only would our decision require changes in our family, it would require change across the denomination. We felt it was a worthy cause in which to invest our lives; a year later, we are confident we made the right decision.
Have you considered the sacrifices missionaries make, not only going to the mission field but the sacrifice to get there? We watched Shannon Little (from our church) struggle almost three years raising funds to get to Japan. We continue to see first-time missionaries struggling on deputation to raise support, enduring theexhaustion their families experience during this period.
After arriving on the field, it is a constant concern whether their account will remain strong enough to keep them there. Our hearts have been broken to see their frustrations. These are the reasons why Barry left the pastorate to become the director of development at FWBIM. If missionaries can make sacrifices to get to the field and meet challenges once there, we could sacrifice some of our time together to help them.
We had to make many adjustments after Barry took the FWBIM position. For me, the hardest adjustment has been the amount of time spent home alone. We were accustomed to family dinners every evening and Sunday lunch together.
Our two boys are testing their wings and thinking of leaving the nest, so they’re gone more than they are home. Barry’s position keeps him on the road many days and nights at association meetings, churches, and conferences. It has not been easy for us. Except for his three-week trip to Russia in 2001, Barry and I had only been apart for a few days at a time until he accepted this position.
We continue to worship at the church we pastored (New Hope FWB Church in Joelton, TN). For the first month or so after Barry began traveling on weekends, it was hard for me to get through services without him there. The change from pastor’s wife to church member was not as difficult as attending services alone. After several months, I began to adjust. The adjustment will be an ongoing process, since Barry’s schedule changes frequently.
Barry’s first few trips for FWBIM were extremely difficult for me. One of those weekends I forgot a Women’s Brunch at our church because I was so “out of sorts” with him gone. A few weeks later, I attended a Sunday School class dinner alone. That may not sound so bad, but I found it difficult to be a single among couples. This was a new class for me, because we gave up the young couples’ class Barry taught during his pastorate.
I quickly learned two lessons: what it’s like to be single in a couple’s world and a small taste of what widows experience. Yet one widower put things in perspective when he told me, “At least your husband is coming home. My wife is not coming back.”
A month or so into Barry’s travel, I was invited to attend a play and arrived home fairly late—for me anyway. Early to bed, early to rise, has always been my motto. I went to the basement to put our dogs in their kennels for the night, only to discover they had found a box of poison and eaten the entire box. Of course, Barry was out of town, so I called the boys home to help get the dogs to the emergency pet care facility. It seems these things happen at the most inopportune times. I am thankful that our boys are old enough to come to the rescue.
Two years ago, I reluctantly accepted a part-time position at Free Will Baptist Bible College. I say reluctantly because I had not worked outside the home in 17 years, and it was a big deal to reenter the work force. I felt the Lord had given me the OK to take the job, and I am so glad I did. I absolutely love it.The job has been such a blessing in my life.
God saw ahead in time and knew I would need this outlet when Barry changed ministries. I work with Lifetime Learning and Teacher Education, which allows me the opportunity to know some of the students both on campus and online.
What a joy to help distance-learning students through phone and email. I can relate to those pastoring churches and taking online courses. I was a pastor’s wife for many years and understand their demands and challenges, making the job a good fit for me.
What a blessing to rub shoulders with students seeking God’s will for their lives and preparing for service. I want to encourage them during their time at FWBBC. Most Free Will Baptist international missionaries were trained at the college, and I am sure many more will get their training here. I am glad to be part of seeing the before and after, so to speak, of these future missionaries who come through FWBBC.
Living With Change
Barry’s first year with FWBIM has been a time of change and adjustment, a time of challenges and blessings. God is good. We have our health, and Barry has enjoyed safety over many miles of travel. And praise the Lord! The goal for the World Missions Offering was met last year. Our prayer this year is that the denomination will embrace the new funding system for the sake of missionaries and mission efforts around the world.
I know more changes await us, but He who does not change will continue to be our Rock and our Fortress. And, Yes, Barry and I have learned how to say change and smile!
ABOUT THE WRITER: Jena Simpson serves as Lifetime Learning/Teacher Education associate at Free WillBaptist Bible College. Her husband Barry is director of development with Free Will Baptist International Missions.