Sunday, September 27, 2015

When Plan B is God's Best

My story has intersected with Kathy Keller's story for a long time now.

Kathy and I both studied to become teachers at The Master's College in the late 90's, and we attended the same church.  Our paths crossed often.

In 1999, Kathy heard about my plans to teach 5th grade at Haven of Peace Academy.  She had always felt called to teach overseas, but was reluctant to go alone.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity for her.  HOPAC needed her too, and before we knew it, she was on the same path as me.  We planned to be roommates, and we even had a house lined up.

Then, out of the blue, my good friend Gil proposed and my plans changed only four months before I was scheduled to leave for Tanzania.  Of course, I was thrilled, but it was agonizing to know I was abandoning Kathy.

She went to Tanzania anyway, and she even forgave me for standing her up.

A year later, Gil and I both joined her in Dar es Salaam.  Kathy and I carpooled to HOPAC, and we ministered at the same church.  She helped us with some youth events, spent a lot of time at our house, and we became fast friends.

Kathy spent two years at HOPAC, and then switched jobs to work full-time among the South Asian population in Dar es Salaam.  For the last 13 years, she has worked tirelessly in local schools, hosted clubs and tutoring sessions in her home, and walked the streets of downtown Dar, making friends.

For seven summers, she and I planned youth camps.  Together, we figured out the best ways to prepare and host short-term teams.  We worked through the difficulties of putting on multi-cultural camps.  We solved ridiculous problems together, like how to keep 40 teenagers distracted when lunch is three hours late.  Sometimes we fought, but that just made us more like sisters.

Kathy is one of the most high-energy, committed, faithful people I know.  When she sets her mind on something, she does it with 110% percent.  She is gifted at learning language.  She gives generously.  She loves lavishly.  She has a unique ability to morph into other cultures.

Kathy spent the last few years training up a team to do what she does.  In essence, she did what very few leaders are able to do:  She reproduced herself, times four.  And now after 15 years in Tanzania, God is moving her on.  Reach Global recognized her talented leadership skills, and asked her to start something completely new in Paris, France.

So that's what she will be off to do.  In just a few weeks, she will leave Tanzania forever, and move to a new city, country, continent to become the Reach Global City Team Leader in Paris.  She will learn French.  She will cast vision for what God wants to do through Reach Global in that city.  She will recruit a team to carry it out.  It's an extraordinary task for a remarkable woman.

But there's a part about Kathy's life that few people usually consider.  Kathy has never once, not one day, been living out what she would have dreamed for her life.   Her dad died of a heart attack when she was only 20.  She experienced major brain surgery from a genetic condition that left her with stroke-like conditions for a number of weeks.  And her real ambition in life--her Plan A--was to be a stay-at-home mom.

Yet every day, for the past 20 years, for reasons we don't know or understand, God has denied Kathy the things that she wanted most.  At times, it has been unbearably painful.

All of Kathy's life choices have been Plan B.
and over
and over again,
Kathy has been faithful.  She has not sat and wallowed in self-pity.  She has seized the opportunities God put before her.  She has lived life to the fullest.  She has done things that the vast majority of young women would never consider doing--especially alone.  Traveled the world.  Figured out how to rent an apartment, buy a car, and start a new outreach in a foreign city.  Lived in a neighborhood where she was the only American.  Learned multiple languages.

Kathy lives life so enthusiastically that I would guess few understand the internal sorrow she regularly experiences.  She is one who wrestles with God, but daily, she allows Him to win.  She is a beautiful example of a surrendered life.

I still hope and pray that Kathy receives her heart's desires while here on earth.  But I have confidence that one day, she will stand before the One whom she has loved first, who will say to her,
Well done, good and faithful servant.

And she will have everything that's ever worth wanting.  Which, ultimately, is really Plan A.

Paris is a lot more expensive than Dar es Salaam, so Kathy is praying for new financial partners in her ministry.  If you would like to join her support team, please click here
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