God's Call or Midlife Crisis?

by Marvin Anderson

I stood in the middle of a small acreage and surveyed the biggest piece of real estate I had ever owned. We finally had it-a little place in the country, with eleven huge oak trees in the front yard and two big black walnut trees. There was an old silo, a tumble-down five-car garage, a small barn I planned to turn into a horse barn, and a 135-year-old thirteen-room farm house.

We moved during the worst blizzard of the year. The movers couldn't bring the furniture for three days, due to blocked roads.

I had worked as a salesman for a number of years. The company had made me a provincial salesman, and requested this move. We had given our daughter a horse and boarded it; now she could have it at home. We told our middle child he could have a dog if we ever moved to the country. Our youngest soon brought home a scruffy cat-a male, he was "sure," but it soon multiplied to twenty-three cats. Eventually we had steers for 4-H, horses we trained and boarded, and even a couple of pigs. We loved our new home, and I had no intention of changing careers.

Shortly after we moved, we agreed on a church. It was little, but good for us. Sometime the next year I went forward and committed myself to do whatever God wanted me to do. Lorraine had taken this step several years earlier. I did not have missions in mind; both of us were convinced we were too old to change to missions. We had three children in school, the oldest about to enter college. The only thing clear to me was that I needed some Bible training. Lorraine and all three kids knew more than I did.

A Hunger His Career Couldn't Fill

I had a hunger for the Word and many questions. Our pastor encouraged me to go to Moody evening school. I agreed, but did nothing about it. Some of my questions were theological, others experiential. I had heard missionaries speak of God answering specific prayers. Why didn't I have that kind of experience? One thing I knew experientially-if my wife prayed for someone, that person had better watch out! She prayed for me.

I began losing interest in my work. Sometimes when I got a big order, I came home, threw it on my desk, and didn't even write it up. Sometimes I wouldn't go to work, or I'd waste time with the horses, or sit in my chair. It was as though I was tired, but I wasn't. Perhaps I was suffering from depression (a good logical explanation). It couldn't be God answering my wife's prayers…could it? She didn't think so. She became so concerned that she talked and prayed with the pastor. I am sure (now) it was God.

Finally, I walked into our district office and resigned. My boss was shocked! When he asked why, I told him I wasn't being fair to my customers or to my company. "Well, surely you won't quit now," he replied. "You need only three more orders this month to qualify for a trip to Bermuda!"

Now I was shocked! I had no idea I was that close. Only about twenty percent of the 2,000-man sales force made it in any year. "I have no interest in going to Bermuda or anywhere else," I replied.

The Testing Grows Intense

For the next several years, God led us down a difficult path financially, physically, and emotionally. One son and Lorraine both had automobile accidents. Lorraine broke her back. I learned to ask God to provide finances to pay bills. (I had never prayed about finances in twenty years of marriage.) When we accepted the call to missions in Canada, we experienced His power to deal with the struggle of a teenager uprooted and moved to another country. God showed me He is able to do all He promises.

Why would one pursue a career in missions, if life became more difficult after the decision than before? Because of what God clearly showed us. He seemed to ask me to compare temporal values with the incomparable eternal value of the lost and dying world. There was no comparison! Since God had called us, and through so many difficulties and trials proved Himself to be more than sufficient, I had no option.

God does call people who are settled and happy. He does provide abundantly more than we could ask or think. Could He be calling you? I would not change places with anyone! God's Word is true and sure. We can depend on it and on Him. He is still calling individuals and families. There are many openings throughout the world. Are you ready to place yourself in the hands of the One we have found to have the surest, most powerful, and loving hands in the world? Make this a matter of prayer. I encourage you to respond as Isaiah did: "Here am I; send me."

Marvin Anderson retired as missionary with the United Indian Mission in July, 1999, after serving for 26 years as a church planter. He and his wife still worship with the church he planted, Prince George Native Bible Fellowship. His son, Doug Anderson, now serves as Canadian field director for the mission. UIM is headquartered in Flagstaff, Arizona.