Write Your Plans in Pencil
By Jodi and Duane Decker / China Outreach Ministries
“Make plans, but write them in pencil; for God may redirect you as you follow Him.” “Remember, it is much easier to steer a moving car than a ‘parked’ one.”
These are bits of advice that someone gave me in my 20’s, and my husband and I have seen to be very true in our own lives…
When Duane and I married, we planned to gain experience in our fields, then go overseas as tentmaker missionaries in a closed country. We asked a couple who had a dynamic Christian walk to disciple us. Once we were equipped, they told us the best way to train as tentmakers was to start doing it where we were at. They introduced us to a Chinese graduate student, who, in turn, introduced us to his friends. As we began to spend time with students from all over the world, we realized God had brought many of the brightest and best– right here! Like Acts 1:8 only in reverse! We ended up founding a ministry to internationals and staying in town till we knew it could continue without us.
This was God’s major redirect. We were still reaching out to people from closed countries — just not in the way we had envisioned. In our next move we were able to continue in international student ministry – still as tentmakers. We planned to be in it forever.
More moves, first to Minnesota, then here – both times – when we called the colleges we thought we could work through – we came up dry. We got involved in other ministries and looking back, we can see God’s hand in this; but during those times, it felt like we had stepped out of His will, while truly trying to follow it.
Our second year here, we heard about Mission ConneXion. We jumped at the chance to learn from those actively ministering around the world. It was a way for us to renew our vision and let our kids start to gain one. We would rush from Mission ConneXion to a soccer game and get back in order for that child (in uniform still!) to attend one of Neil Mammen’s apologetics talks. I think I’ve attended all the coaching trainings (which I try to use with our now young adult children when they’re making decisions instead of just telling them what to do and how to do it…like I want to!). Attending Mission ConneXion has helped fuel our desire to have an impact for God – no matter where we are!
When we attended Mission ConneXion 2010, we had pretty much decided to wait until retirement to get re-involved in true “missionary” work. Duane’s job had changed, so we were both working more hours to make ends meet – making ministry time harder and harder to come by. Duane was wandering the exhibit area during a break time when he rounded the corner and stumbled upon the booth for China Outreach Ministries (COM). As he talked with the representatives, he realized they shared our vision. As he recounted our history and desire to serve, they challenged him to consider full time work with Chinese students and scholars.
We’ve been on staff with COM since Fall 2010 – ministering to internationals at Portland State University with an organization called FOCUS (a group of like-hearted missionaries from different organizations who work together). I’m still a “tentmaker” but Duane is full time, so able to organize ministry opportunities for others. We’re thrilled to be back in this ministry…reaching out to these amazing students and scholars that God is bringing to our shores! Thank you Mission ConneXion, for renewing our vision and helping us re-connect (in God’s perfect timing) – with this mission of our hearts!