I’ve always been intrigued by small rutted roads, paths, and trails that led into the unknown, uncharted byways. There is a certain mystery that calls out to my adventuresome spirit. From my earliest childhood, I’ve felt a keen sense of wanting to know “what’s out there,” “where does this path lead?” Sometimes, following a path into the unknown leads to high adventure, especially when you are following Someone you know and trust.
Wherever the Path Leads
When Sheldon and I recently retired from full-time pastoral ministry, we knew God was calling upon us to walk an uncharted path. With faith in our hearts and a hope for the future ministry He was calling us to do, we set out. God had promised us that in all our ways if we would acknowledge Him, He would direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). We trusted Him when He promised He would show us the path of life and that in His presence was fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). With these promises, we began the journey.
Shocco Springs, Conference Center, Talladega, Alabama
Our path has recently led us back to Shocco Springs where we are serving in the Volunteer Ministry. Our work involves a variety of tasks – some we have never done before and are avid students, learning new skills. The staff have shown great patience and congratulations as we muddle through some and excel in other areas.
What makes the experience beautiful is the people. We are continually meeting new people from all walks of life, and from all around the world. Our interaction is with not only the staff that make up the work force of Shocco Springs, but also the guests who come onto the property. Our prayer each morning as we leave our little home in the woods is, “Lord, held us offer Hope, Assistance, Laughter, and Encouragement. May our lives be dedicated to You to be an instrument in Your hands as we do our work this day.”
54th Journeymen Reunion – Shocco Springs
In October, 2019, these twenty-one retired Journeymen Missionaries gathered for their 54th Reunion at Shocco Springs Conference Center in Talladega, Alabama. When the program was brand new in 1965, God had led each of them down many paths and used many methods to get their attention and put it in their hearts a desire to serve Him in various places around the world. Each of them made a commitment to serve for two years.
God leads the paths of a 12-year-old
Ronnie recalls a time when she was 12 years old at G.A. camp in Mississippi, hearing a missionary speak to the girls. She listened attentively that night and through the years the thought of missions took root in her heart. She kept thinking about missions. One day while attending Foreign Mission Week at Ridgecrest in North Carolina, she again heard many missionaries speak about their work. Knowing she would need a college degree, she followed that path to earn not only a bachelor degree in languages, but also a second bachelors in music. God continued to lead.
In February, 1965 she heard a missionary from Korea speaking at a Young Women’s Associational retreat. She knew God had led her paths to this moment in time and immediately applied to the Foreign Mission Board to become a Journeyman Missionary. That path led her to Nigeria for two years. Upon her return, the call to missions was confirmed. She went to Southern Seminary, met her future husband (also a Journeyman), and for the next 37 years she and her husband served as missionaries in Brazil.
“God was in it all the way – I just didn’t know where I’d end up.” – Veronica “Ronnie”
Magazine Article Reveals A New Path
Paul graduated from the University of Texas in the field of Chemistry and Math. He had a keen interest in teaching, and working with y0uth. After seeing various postings about the need of teachers in Nigeria, he followed that path to the Nigerian Baptist High School. During his second year, his life dramatically changed.
Faye was always interested in missions and had read about the Journeyman program in the Commission Magazine. A veteran teacher in Virginia, she decided to apply with Journeyman and go to Nigeria. While there she taught fifth through tenth grade children. You can see where this story is going. Paul and Faye returned to America, attended Southern Seminary in preparation for career missions, and returned to Africa for the next 31 years, working with a dozen different countries.
“If you take the first step, God will continue to lead you the rest of the way, one step at a time.” – Paul
The Path Toward Missions Was Always Before Her
From earliest childhood, Berta always had a heart for missions. When a Baptist Student Union director told her about a new missionary program, Journeyman, she was excited to see where this path would lead her. Following the missionary training, the application required her to make three choices of a country where she would like to serve. She did NOT choose Africa – but that was where she was assigned to serve. After her training, she returned home only to discover boxes of material dating back to her youth when she had attended church training. The material – well, you may have guessed. It was all about Nigeria.
“I didn’t choose, Africa, but God did.” – Berta
The Path of Adventure
Sue tells an entirely different story. She didn’t want to stay in Arkansas so she took a job as a school music teacher in Michigan. Her pastor told her about a new program, Journeyman and she applied to teach music in Nigeria. Her job there was to teach all the music for the Men’s Teacher Training College.
“From the very beginning, one step at a time, led me all the way to Nigeria, and beyond – it’s about obedience all along the way.” – Sue
When one listens to the voice of God upon his or her life, there is no way to know where that path will lead. What God expects and requires is obedience. “For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he has not” II Corinthians 8:12).
Each of these retired missionaries had a willing mind, took the skills that God had given them, and followed the path obediently that God set before them.
Where have the paths of your life taken you? On adventures that you dreamed of, or perhaps places you couldn’t have imagined? I’d love to hear from you.