What was your family’s life like before coming to MBU?
For the last seventeen years, we have traveled in evangelism, and our life was fairly consistent that whole time. During the school year, we would travel to different churches and hold revival meetings, evangelistic meetings, and family conferences. After taking a short break in the spring, we would spend the summer serving at The Wilds Camp in North Carolina.
Even though we had an unusual lifestyle, our daily life was predictable for the most part. The bulk of our day was dedicated to school and practicing music with the kids or with the team. Around 5:30 p.m. we’d wrap everything up and prepare for the evening service at the church. I would take the kids home around 8:30-9:00 p.m. and usually get them in bed by 10 o’clock. Travel days—usually Friday or Saturday—were challenging when the girls were young, but they got easier and more fun as the years went by. Some weekends we had nearly a thousand miles to go, and others we had only a few. But we learned to value the time together and enjoy the journey!
We loved being together and traveling as a family. Mark and I always encouraged the girls to view our ministry as a family ministry, not just “Dad’s ministry.” We involved the girls in ministry as soon as they were old enough, giving them age-appropriate ways to help. I really think we had an ideal situation in which to raise a family: we had a lot of time to disciple, train, teach, play, explore, read, and serve—and we were together almost all the time! Living in such close quarters taught us all to get along and seek to love and serve each other, and the girls learned to love people and ministry.
In the summers at camp, I was the junior camp nurse and Mark assisted the junior camp director, helping with music, games, program, sponsors, and staff. The girls helped in various ways around the campsite as well, and when they reached seventh grade they began to work “officially” and could make some money. They were also able to be a camper for a week each summer, which they always looked forward to!
In January 2014 we visited MBU because our evangelistic team had been invited for the opening revival meetings, and we came back for revival services again at the beginning of 2017. Both times we were on campus, we noticed the friendliness of the students and could sense the happy, unified spirit that pervaded the student body. Toward the middle of the week during our second visit, our daughter Megan, a sophomore in high school at the time, told us she really liked Maranatha and wanted to consider it for college. Mark and I looked at each other and said we’d pray about it. MBU was on our short list for our girls, but no definite decisions had been made.
Two days later, Dr. Marriott and Mark were having a casual conversation, and Dr. Marriott asked Mark if he had ever considered any other ministry than our current one. Mark explained to him that we had, in fact, considered other ministries from time to time when opportunities arose, but so far God had not clearly directed us toward a change in ministry. Later that day Mark told me about their discussion, wondering what had motivated Dr. Marriott’s question. The answer came the next evening when the Marriotts had us over for coffee, and Dr. Marriott asked if we would be willing to pray about Mark joining the administrative team at MBU.
On our way home that night we talked it over and agreed that this was a unique and exciting opportunity. Mark said, “I really think this may be the next ministry that God has for us!” When we got home, we shared the opportunity with our two oldest girls and told Megan that it looked like she would be going to MBU. She was very excited! As we prayed about the opportunity and talked with trusted counselors over the next couple of months, we sensed God’s clear leading in the direction of MBU. When we visited the website and read through the doctrinal and commitment statements, Mark’s comment was, “I couldn’t agree with these statements more!” We knew that a shift in ministry like this would mean major changes for our family, but none of us had any doubt that Maranatha was where God wanted us.
What has the transition been like?
I am not a person who loves transition and change; in fact, they are very hard for me. I am a sentimental person, so, selfishly, I like to find my normal and stay there. The only lifestyle we had known for a long time (and the only one our girls had ever known) was a traveling one, and while it is unique, it had become our normal years ago. So, when Dr. Marriott offered Mark a position at MBU with the caveat that it would not be available for about a year and a half, I was secretly relieved that I would have some time to adjust to the idea. I was so grateful to the Lord for that time—it was His good gift to me and a reassurance that He knows me and cares about me.
As we anticipated the big transition that was coming, we faced a new challenge: keeping our focus one hundred percent on the ministry God still had for us on the road. We had so much to think through, and sometimes it was overwhelming! But, realizing we had only one more year to travel, we determined to cherish that time and, by God’s grace, finish that ministry whole-heartedly and with no regrets.
Moving from a trailer to a house has been a huge change! A house has so much more space, but a trailer utilizes every bit of space efficiently. So I have had to tell myself that it is okay to “waste space” in a house! We did not own any furniture since a trailer’s furniture is built in, so we had to start completely from scratch. We had a few things in storage, but none of the big things we would need in a house. It has been a blessing to see the Lord provide for us in the last few months.
We prayed for a home that would be conducive to entertaining and hospitality, knowing we wanted to have students, friends, and family into our home very often. We prayed that God would provide just the home He wanted us to have and then help us be content with the home He provided. And He has done just that! In the spring we found a home for sale less than two miles from campus. The seller accepted our offer, and we closed on the house just days before we had to leave for camp! Since we planned to spend the whole summer at camp, we made arrangements to have painting and renovations done while we were gone. Our church family and some others helped us move our things in right before we left. When we came back from our summer ministry, we felt like we were on a reality TV show seeing the “after” results of our renovations! It felt so good to be home!
A fear of mine that has come with our transition has been the feeling of vulnerability in long-term relationships. In our former lifestyle, with the exception of summer camp, we were usually at a place for just one week. Many of the relationships we made felt broad but somewhat shallow. I knew that living in one place all the time would mean fewer, but deeper, relationships. Being a part of a local church was something I looked forward to the most but also feared a bit for the same reasons. Being in a more stable lifestyle meant people being around us long enough to know our weaknesses! “What if everyone doesn’t like us?!” became my secret fear. But the Lord has helped me see that fear as nothing more than sinful pride, and He is kindly helping me repent of that and embrace new, long-term relationships.
Since we have moved to MBU, we have made so many new friendships and have felt so welcome! Our girls have loved getting involved in church, in Maranatha Baptist Academy, and in the University! They have made new friends while still keeping sweet, close relationships with friends from other places and with each other.
God has given us the wisdom we asked for during this time, and we are being challenged, grown, and stretched. Though change can be difficult, it can also be good in the truest sense of the word. It can cause me to focus on the One Who never changes—Who is the familiar One when everything else around me is changing. He is my Rock. No matter what He ordains in my life, I can trust that it is for my good and for His glory!