James and Stacey* have always had a heart for international students and people. Going overseas as missionaries had been on their minds, but over the last year and a half, God has made it incredibly clear when and where he wants them to go.
It started when Stacey was volunteering at the First Time Guest tent at the Alamance County campus.
She saw an international student walking into the service late and introduced herself to him. He was participating in a program that allows families to host international students over the weekend, so he was attending the Summit with his host family. She and her husband, James, chatted with him and made a plan to see him again soon.
The next week, the student and two of his friends, James, Stacey, and their kids went to a barbecue restaurant. One of the students asked:
“So what do you think about this Jesus?”
“From there the conversation just kept on going like a Holy Spirit-fueled roller coaster. In all my life never has a conversation about Jesus been so eagerly directed by the people we were talking with,” said James.
“These students spoke limited English, but as long as we spoke about Christ there was never a moment where they didn’t understand.”
James, Stacey, and their 7-year-old daughter taught them to pray and shared the gospel. The students received Christ right there in the restaurant.
The students returned to their homes just a few days later, but James and Stacey stayed in touch via email. The couple discussed discipling the students in person and started looking at plane tickets to East Asia. They wanted to go a certain week when all the students would be on spring break, so they started to pray about whether or not they should travel.
When looking at tickets, the prices were less than what it cost to fly to some locations in the U.S., and tickets were double the price the following week. When one of Stacey’s friends handed her a check for $1,000 and said “I think you should go,” that sealed it for the couple. Stacey booked her plane ticket and made the journey a few weeks later.
When Stacey was in East Asia, she was able to connect with the students but also with their families. After she returned, she and James felt a call to be missionaries in this specific part of the world, despite some fears and uncertainties.
Shortly after that, James suffered an injury that put him out of work for about a year, and the family struggled financially, mentally, and emotionally. Stacey’s mom also had a brain aneurysm during this time, so Stacey needed to help care for her.
“We said ‘yes,’ and there was immediate suffering,” said James. “We were exploring what God was asking of us, but not sure what exactly we were saying ‘yes’ to.”
They had joined a new small group about a week before James’ injury, and their group helped them right away.
“Our Summit family stepped up big time—paying our bills, mowing our lawn. We’ve never had church community like that before,” said Stacey.
In the midst of the injury, James realized this shouldn’t stop them from starting the process of becoming missionaries. If anything, he had more time to devote to all the paperwork and other things they needed to do to prepare.
James started learning Mandarin and the family moved to an apartment where they could befriend refugees while they wait to go overseas. Their children have caught the vision and excitement of serving as missionaries and ask every few days when they are moving.
“We’re not special, we haven’t been to seminary, we’re not even middle class,” said Stacey. “It doesn’t make sense financially. We don’t have a lump sum or cushion, but God is showing up and providing.”
They hope to move their family overseas in 2020. In the meantime, they continue to serve and love the international community here in Raleigh-Durham.
And they encourage other families to follow God’s call to the mission field.
“There is never going to be a convenient time to carve out time for a trip. You just have to do it,” said James. “As Americans, we pack our schedules, but what matters for eternity is people we bring with us to heaven.”
The Summit has many ways you can get involved in short-term and long-term missions. Take a look at our upcoming trips to learn more.
*Names have been changed for security reasons.