In 2004 I visited Melbourne for the first time on a short-term missions trip which was a spiritual mountaintop experience, after almost three years of raising financial support the Lord allowed me to return as a full-time Missionary but instead of the spiritual mountaintop I experienced discouragement.
The Lord has since used that experience to teach me many things about Missions and spiritual growth, so earlier this week I began to share the story in an extended form part one can be found here. It’s my prayer this story can help you endure the Tuna Quiche experiences of your own life.
Almost three years were spent raising financial support during my deputation ministry while desperately trying to recapture the missions trip experience. While the Lord did bless in powerful ways, the emotion of that night in February always escaped me, so on January 8 my heart was consumed with the desire to return “home” after thirty-four months in the United States.
Friends and family who had come to see me off were trying to wait till the last possible moment before letting me go; I don’t blame them because this wasn’t just goodbye for a few weeks or months, it was goodbye for two and a half years. Yet as they talked about the good times and how much they would miss me my mind literally screamed, “let me go!”
Finally the moment arrived and after hugging my family goodbye I walked towards the security checkpoint wrestling with tears of sorrow and joy at the same time. This strange mix of emotions caused me to foolishly set off the first (of many) metal detectors by leaving a laptop in my bag and being given the first (of many) lectures from airport personnel. After being sufficiently scolded I literally sprinted to my departure gate.
Thus began my epic journey home to Melbourne or as I like to call it, “the dumbest decision that I ever made.” Wanting to be a wise steward of the financial support God had given, the cheapest flight possible to Melbourne had been purchased. Unfortunately this meant flying from Charlotte to Chicago, Chicago to London (yes that London), London to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Sydney, and Sydney to Melbourne.
Contrast this with the normal flight being Los Angeles to Sydney and then Melbourne and it’s easy to see why I NEVER did it again. Especially since I only saved $200 with the ticket…that’s right, roughly fifteen hours in the air and flying to three different Countries saved me $200.
Finally on January 10, 2007 at 10:30 PM I walked through the double doors that God burned into my mind three years before and was welcomed by friends and fellow missionaries to Melbourne.
Soon a missionary couple was taking me back to their home where I would stay till a rental property could be obtained. They spent the trip talking about the cultural differences between Melbourne and the US, the history of Australia, and future ministry opportunities. I stared out the window at the city that God had called me to and didn’t hear a word they said.
A few hours later they had gone to sleep but my mind and heart was much too excited to rest. Instead I sat on the bed and listened to the wind blowing loudly outside imagining it whispered “it’s not a dream mate, your really here.” Eventually my jet-lagged body won and sleep came with dreams of February 2004.
The next day I met with another Missionary about the possibility of gaining a Permanent Residency Visa. Because Immigration laws were changed a few months before, I was unable to gain Permanent Residency but came in on a two-year Religious Workers Visa instead.
The pastor explained that because of these changes the only way a new Visa could be gained was by working through a solicitor (lawyer) and there was a strong possibility of my never receiving one. This was a shock to me because I understood it would be fairly simple to gain a PR Visa without going through a solicitor, which could end up costing a lot of money, however I was sure the Lord would work things out.
Today five and a half years later I still don’t have a Permanent Visa
During the meeting he congratulated me on having an important name (my first name being John and middle Howard) and I responded with the look a dog gives when they hear a high-pitched whistle. The missionary graciously explained that Mr. John Howard was the Prime Minister and leader of Australia…not to self, learn more about Aussie culture.
After embarrassing myself and learning a Permanent Visa wasn’t possible I was ready for some good news. My hosts obligated by informing me my first two months in Melbourne would be spent getting used to Melbourne. This was fine by me until I learned this meant for at least one month there wouldn’t be many ministry opportunities so I could focus on adapting to the culture.
Make sure to come back Saturday for Part Three of “The Tuna Quiche Experience”