Have you ever thought it hard to understand why God would ask you to do something? To put it bluntly, you simply felt He was asking too much! As ministers’ wives, we are often called to uproot ourselves and follow our husbands to work in various places. It is not always easy. We do not see the blessings God has in store for us in His overall plan.
Recently, my husband and I were shifted back to our homeland of Australia. We had worked for 21 years of our 33-year ministry in other locations. My dream had come true. I was at last returning home!
We had enjoyed life back in Australia for just one year when the unexpected happened. My husband received a call to work as Union President for the Southeast Asian Union Mission based in Singapore. My mind was racing. Why would God do this to me now?
After being away for 14 years, I had been so happy close to my grown children, numerous friends, and to my aging parents (my mother is 90, and for the first time since I had married, I lived an hour’s drive away from her). I had a teaching job that I adored, and to top it all off, we were building a lovely dream home!
I recalled that I had read the book The Prayer of Jabez and had prayed that God would make me willing to go wherever He wanted to send me. A very dangerous prayer, I thought!
I struggled within myself. Didn’t God want me to feel settled, happy, and content with my family? How would I ever know what He really wanted me to do with such a difficult, emotion-filled decision?
The next day I announced to my husband that I had asked God for a sign. I explained that if God could do it for Gideon, He could do it for me! Now I know many people would never operate this way, but I desperately needed some reassurance that God really wanted me to go to Singapore.
While our house was being built, we had been living in a beautiful location backing onto bushland. We had enjoyed watching a family of tawny frog-mouthed owls living in a tree near our kitchen window. We observed the doting parents teaching their two little feathered offspring to fly. Then one day they were gone. We had not seen them for more than five months. Someone had told me that owls never return to their nesting place until the following year. So I asked God to send an owl and specified the exact tree. My husband laughed, but I noticed the day after we received the call, he was out with the binoculars looking for owls!
That Sabbath, it was almost uncanny. Of all the Sabbath appointments for the whole year, where should my husband be going to preach? The Chinese Church! We had such a wonderful time, and we both came away feeling positive about the prospects of working with such lovely people.
Sunday morning I was eating breakfast and looking out the kitchen window. I jokingly told my husband I was looking for owls! He laughed and followed me upstairs. I was headed for the shower when he called me to look outside the bedroom window. And there, in the very tree I had selected, sitting less than three meters away, was an owl, eyes wide open and looking at us! I burst into tears! I really didn’t want to see it!
Our son was staying with us at the time. He was understandably opposed to us leaving when he felt God had led us back to Australia. When we told him the story, he stepped out on the balcony and called out, “Mum, there is not one owl, there are three!” The mother and her two grown babies had returned. My son was stunned and impressed. I was overwhelmed. God was really not letting me reason this away as a coincidence, I thought. He was telling me in no uncertain terms what I needed to do! After that day, we booked plane tickets to visit Singapore, so that we could feel more comfortable making an informed decision.
I felt I should be willing to go, but I was still struggling. We had bought lovely new furniture for our new home, after disposing of the old furniture we had had for endless years. In Singapore, I would be living in a Class B apartment, which meant all the furniture was supplied by the mission. It probably sounds materialistic, but I wanted to take my furniture so it would feel more like home. I prayed that God would work that detail out for me.
So we arrived in Singapore. It was hot and sticky. I almost melted! It was the hottest time of the year, and it sure felt like it! We discovered it was too expensive to own a car (just the license cost $60,000!). I couldn’t imagine life without a car. Being a teacher, I was anxious to find a job. There were no available positions in the Adventist school, and state schools were not interested in Adventist teachers because they were unable to help with extracurricular activities on Saturdays. On the positive side, we discovered that it would be possible to take all our furniture, and the people were really friendly and hospitable. We flew back to Australia. My mind was in turmoil. How could I be expected to go? My husband would be away so much, I wouldn’t have my friends and family around for support, and then there was the employment problem. I needed a challenging and interesting job to keep me busy during the lonely times!
Again I was having doubts. Big doubts! I felt a bit like Jonah running away. I had a definite sign that I believed was from God, but having been to see the situation, now I really didn’t want to go. I began taking promises out of my promise box. They were all so pointed. My brother-in-law said, “You know the water doesn’t part until you put your foot in it.” Those words remained indelibly in my mind.
Friday evening, three days after we’d returned from Singapore, I was busily getting the evening meal ready. I heard a “whoo-whoo, whoo-whoo” noise. “What’s that?” I asked my husband.
“There’s another owl in that tree,” he replied.
We had never heard the owls make a noise. It was as if God was saying, “Don’t you forget those owls!” And do you know, we never saw or heard the owls again.
This was too much for me. I stated with tears in my eyes that if my husband felt he should go to Singapore, I was willing to go too! I also added it was up to God to work out the job details for me.
Then the next testing situation arose. The Singapore government, which is renowned for its red-tape procedures for granting employment passes, declared they would not give us permission to come (we think they may have wanted to localize the position). They said we could resubmit information.
I thought that was fine. I was happy to stay! Maybe I had gotten the whole owl message wrong! The new information was submitted, and we were told we would have an answer in 6-8 weeks. Within three days, the message came that we had been granted permission to work in Singapore. It was like God was again telling me, “Look, you may not want to go, but that is exactly where I want you!”
Our house was completed. We enjoyed living in it for eight weeks. I was so glad. It made me feel that we were the first people to live there, and I was contented then to leave. It was not easy saying goodbye to everyone, but I knew God had assured me He would be with me.
So here we are, settled in Singapore. I absolutely love it! Yes, my husband is away a lot, but God has provided me with so many great friends and a wonderful job at an international school here, a better job than I could ever have imagined!
What if I had said “No,” even after being given the exact sign by God that I had asked for? I believe God would have understood and loved me just the same. But I am so glad I said “Yes.” God has given me a richness of life, experiences, and blessings beyond my dreams. I’ve decided God knows what’s best for me after all!
And about my prayer asking God to make me willing to go wherever He wanted to send me, I have decided it was not a dangerous prayer but a very exciting and rewarding one! Perhaps the owls were saying more to me than I realized.