Wednesday, May 7, 2014

From Cairo to China...

June 11th, 2013. Ryan and I were in Cairo, Egypt for a time of prayer and seeking God's direction for us. We were visiting a team in Cairo to see how they worked, with the potential of joining them one day. But after a week, we both sensed that this wasn't the right fit for us. So, we were asking, "then what?"

That morning as we read the Bible and prayed, I asked Ryan, "What about China?" Since college he had intended to live there one day. He'd been there 4 times, including a semester studying abroad, had studied the language enough to get around, and had gone into engineering partly for the purpose of being able to live and work overseas. And every time he'd tell me about China, his face would light up...

But his eyes had turned to the seemingly greater need in the Muslim world. For the past few years he'd been looking to going there. But when the place he'd focused on wasn't seeming to fit, he replied he'd been thinking about China too. So we prayed...

A few days later we were riding in a taxi with an older gentleman named Bob who had spent his life working in the Muslim world. Surely he would see the great need there and encourage us to pursue it. As we were discussing things with him, conversation turned to the city we were in. Ryan mentioned that he loved big cities, and, having spent time in Shanghai, that "it is the city of my heart." "Then what are you doing here?" Bob asked. After explaining our reasoning, Bob nevertheless encouraged us to look into China again.  Incidentally, his own daughter had gone the China route - so he was able to speak to us from experience. Hmm... coincidence?

So we continued to talk and pray. For months. We made pro & con list to compare staying where we were in Iowa, moving closer to family, or going to China. We went in circles, as they were all good options, all with opportunities for ministry.

There were other things to think about, though, as our first baby was due the end of October. So we prepared for the birth, while talking to people about the possibility of moving to China. We thought of getting support to learn the language and then looking for a job. But things just didn't seem like they'd work out with that scheme. Hadassah was born and we settled in the craziness and joys of parenting. By January, after a LONG trip to go see family, we decided to just look for a job closer to parents. We wanted our little one to know her grandparents!

So the job search began... writing a resume, getting it critiqued, and submitting it to any and every relevant company within a few hours of our parents. Nothing. Time was running out as our lease in Iowa was up the end of March and we wanted to move by then. But then, things were coming together! An in-company transfer was opening up for Ryan to move to their southern branch. We'd be directly in between our parents. What could be better?

But on a whim, Ryan had submitted a resume to a Chinese engineering company at the beginning of February. Hearing nothing from them, we put it out of our minds. Finally it looked like we'd be moving south! As we began looking for homes to rent in Alabama, an email rocked my Monday morning on February 25th. The company in China wanted to talk to Ryan? My brain, which was already gearing up to move closer to home, went whirling. But when Ryan saw the email and began jumping in joy, I knew it was something we'd pursue.

Things moved quickly. In less than 2 weeks he had 3 phone calls and exchanged lots of emails. At the same time, the in-company transfer was lining up... We were torn. And confused. Which one would actually be happening? But amid the confusion, we had peace. We knew God would bring us where He wanted us to be.

Monday, March 12th dawned early for us. If we didn't get a job offer from the Chinese company, Ryan would be signing on for the transfer South. I got up early and checked email... nothing. With the time difference, it was already late evening in China - after working hours. "Does this mean we're moving to Alabama?" I asked Ryan, and he confirmed. We were both excited now, talking about houses and budgeting and when to move, and how exciting it would be to be closer to family and friends. We read the Bible and prayed and made breakfast. I also couldn't help but email family and close friends sharing the news of our exciting move!

But then, not 20 minutes after I sent that email, Ryan was getting ready for work while I sat down to see if anyone had replied. That's when I saw the email in the inbox, from the Chinese company, with the subject: "Job Offer." "No" - I thought - "No - we were so sure... Ryan!!!!" And so he jumped up and down again. We laughed and agonized and prayed. It seemed crazy - we'd wanted to move closer to home, not half-way across the world... But when would another opportunity like this come?

So Ryan accepted the job. He put in his two-weeks notice at work. I wandered around the house wondering where to start... I was supposed to pack to move to China? We freaked out together later that afternoon, feeling a little sick to our stomachs realizing what we were giving up. We wondered if it was the right decision, and prayed for peace. And God answered. Ryan's parents told us they'd store stuff in their basement so we wouldn't need to get rid of our barely-a-year-old wedding presents. One of my close friends said she'd come to help me pack. My parents said they'd come to help us move out.

Thus began the process of listing all of our furniture for sale on Craigslist, making bags and bags of things to donate, and boxing things to store, while making a smaller pile of things to bring.  Within 2 weeks, on March 24th, we were pulling out of snowy Cedar Rapids... on our way to Shanghai, China.

I'd finally be getting to see the place that had captured my husband's heart. And though I was still nervous about all that was left to do, I was excited!

We aren't there yet. Work permits, visas and final packing take time. We've been blessed to have weeks to see family and friends to say "Goodbye". At least for now. There'll be yearly visits home, and we're planning to evaluate again after 3 years. But, we know this is where God would have us be. It's been a crazy lesson of faith to get us there... And we can't wait to see the rest of the story!


  1. Anna thank you for sharing. I was wondering why you were moving. God's timing is amazing. I can't wait to read the story as it continues. You, Ryan and Hadassah are in my prayers!

  2. Thank you for writing out the story of how God is working in your lives recently! I'll definitely be keeping y'all in prayer as you walk along this new path the Lord has placed before you. =]

  3. Wow, enjoyed reading how it all came about; very inspiring! Will pray for your transition to China!

  4. Excited to be able to keep up with your blog!

  5. That is so exciting Anna! I know just a little bit how you must be feeling - my husband and I are preparing to move to Germany this summer for his work. I'm so excited for the adventures that await you in China! I hope you continue to post updates - it will be great to see another couple going through the same ordeal/excitement of an international move and settling in to life in a different country! May God continue to bless you and your sweet family,

    ~Jessi L.