Jesus advised a rich young man, "go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Matthew 19:21, NIV) The man went away sadly, because he could not do that.
Patrick and Jana Crisp held a two-day tag sale last weekend and sold most of the possessions they've worked eight years to accumulate. The house was already sold, and they have moved out. They didn't give the money to the poor — in today's world, financial obligations have to be met and missionaries must contribute to their own support — but they accept whole-heartedly Christ's injunction to "follow me."
Within a few months, Patrick, Jana and three children, age 1 to 5, will make the first move that will eventually take them to Africa, where they expect to become career missionaries.
"We're Christians," Jana said, as a short answer to "Why?" "For us, that means more than going to church and trying to be a good person."
On reflection, she provided a longer explanation.
"Every person in the world, American or African or anyone in between, needs to know that they were created by God with a purpose; not to wander aimlessly through life, but to know Him, to love Him, and to find their reason for being in Him. And once we do come to understand that, it is our privilege to share it with others who have never heard."
Jana said she has wanted to be a missionary since she was 14. After college, she served two years in Senegal, Africa, and when she returned home, was ready to turn around and go back.
But the Crisps married soon afterwards, it took longer to pay off student debt than they anticipated, and they became parents to three children.
"We kind of lost momentum," she said. "We thought 'our dream is gone.'"
Separately and together, both she and her husband had served in some short-term missions, and a year and a half ago, they decided the dream was not gone. They listed their house with a realtor and began a long application process.
Because Patrick is a licensed pilot and aeronautical graduate with experience in the aviation industry, they decided Proclaim Aviation Ministries in Minnesota would be a good fit. They will move there in January and stay for about a year. The organization serves as a bridge to getting missionaries into the field, she said. After that, they will move to Nairobi, the largest city and capital of Kenya, where they will remain another nine to 12 months, while Patrick transfers certifications and ratings and learns the language.
They will work with African Inland Missions, which has a 100-plus year history in the region and current bases in Uganda, the Sudan and Kenya. The Crisps could be assigned in any of those countries, or others where Jana said "access is limited."
Page 2 of 2 - His job as a missionary pilot will be as a servant to other missionaries in their work, to bring food and connections from the outside world, transport medical supplies and take doctors and nurses to remote villages to set up clinics and mobile surgical units.
Jana's role will be much the same as it is in Pratt — to provide a stable home, educate their children, and minister in informal ways to people she meets in the course of a day.
They acknowledge some risks in leaving behind a comfortable life.
"There is inherent risk to everything," Patrick said. "I feel like the cause justifies the risk. There is such a need to reach people with the Gospel who are hurting, in desperate situations. I feel like I have the gifts, talents and abilities to meet that need."
In Nairobi, they will have modern conveniences, Jana said, and once they move to a village, it is expected that Westerners hire native help. She's pretty sure she can't make a meal starting with a live chicken or do laundry without the appliances she's used to. A helper will be beneficial in other ways, instructing them as they learn about a new culture and what is appropriate.
They also acknowledge the difficulty, as missionaries, in looking to others for their support. Making the decision and selling their possessions was the hardest thing he has done, Patrick said.
"I'm number four in a line of western Kansas farmers, where a man makes his own way and is a good provider for his family," he explained.
At the same time, he believes his citizenship is not here on earth but in the Kingdom of Heaven, and that there are enough resources within that kingdom to support his family.
"I have an abundant faith the Lord will provide our needs according to his riches and glory."
"In America, we're taught to be independent, to be capable," Jana said. "This (depending on contributions to the ministry) is very humbling, but it's good to accept help. When someone offers to help, they become a partner."
The couple will hold an informational session at their sending church, First Southern Baptist in Pratt, in the near future to explain their mission.