Dear Ladies of the Emmaus Walk,
I remember the anticipation of finally attending a Walk to Emmaus retreat. I had been scheduled to attend a Walk six months prior in the Rio Grande Valley, but it was cancelled. I jumped at the opportunity to attend the next available walk, even though it meant traveling to Corpus Christi.
I’m not sure what I expected from the retreat. It had all been shrouded in mystery. I hoped the time would allow me the opportunity to grow closer to God and hopefully find some direction. I knew changes were on the horizon for my family, but neither I nor my wife had any clarity on the matter. I was tempted to pray, “Lord, show me what you want my family to do!” However, that prayer seemed somehow misguided. Sure, God could give us direction to some place, but it would do us no good if I were lost once we got there. Instead, I began to pray, “Jesus, open my eyes to see as you see, to love as you love, and to feel as you feel.” If God answered this prayer, the particular direction — the when, where, and how of his will — would be taken care of. I remember crying out to God during our prayer times in the chapel that weekend that God would open my heart to be burdened by those things that burden him.
A few months later, just before leaving to go home from the elementary school where I teach, I was at my computer scrolling down my newsfeed on Facebook when I came upon a job opportunities posting for urgent positions needed at the Rift Valley Academy (RVA), a boarding school for the children of missionaries in Africa. My sister-in-law, Amanda, had “commented” on it. It deserves mention that my brother, Erik Hansen, works as a missionary surgeon at a hospital near RVA, and his children attend school there. As I read the post and the open positions, something stirred inside of me. The threads of teaching, family, and children, which had come to characterize my life since I got married six years ago seemed to weave together. For the first time, I could see myself teaching and our family living in Africa. I had almost assumed God would lead us back to Asia where my wife and I had worked as teachers and missionaries. Africa had never been on my radar as a possibility, but I remember saying to God at that moment, “Lord, I would be willing to teach at RVA, even if it meant partnering with others to raise the necessary funds to do so.” It startled me that I felt the way I did. With swirling thoughts, I began my walk home from work that day. Tears came to my eyes as I felt myself begin to let go of my own ideas about how and where God might call our family in the future. Despite all this, I felt this moment might have been nothing more than an exercise in submission. Certainly, Eva would need to have a similar inclination. I had no plans to bring it up.
Very early the next morning as I dressed for work, I took note of the fact that I had none of the feelings I had the day before about the teaching position in Africa. Still, it was on my mind. I returned home from work that day, and shortly after plopping down on the couch, my wife turned to me and said without any initiation, “Matt, do you want to go to Africa and teach at the Rift Valley Academy?” God and I had already had our conversation, so I said without any hesitation, “yes.” Eva didn’t expect the clear and short answer I gave her. It took her by surprise. She, too, had seen the posting, and it interested her. Initially, she had no intention of bringing up the matter to me either.
Our next step was to visit the RVA website where we watched a video together on the spiritual influence the school has on the students and how it enables Christian missions throughout Africa. Eva and I were both moved to tears. We contacted the school immediately to learn more. I soon learned of open elementary positions, and after a review process, we were formally invited to come. From there, we were directed to the Africa Inland Mission that administers the school. After a whirlwind application process, we were approved as full-term missionaries.
In the midst of all this, Sammy Lopez from Mighty Fortress Christian Fellowship in San Antonio visited our church to preach a revival. During his invitation one evening, he asked the congregation to say a prayer with him, but he prefaced it with a warning: “This is the most dangerous prayer you can pray. Are you ready? ‘God, let me see with your eyes.'” And I remember that he went on to say something like, “If you pray that prayer, your eyes will be opened to spiritual realities, and you won’t need to be afraid if he calls you to Africa or China or wherever.” It was then I remembered that I had been praying “the most dangerous prayer” during the Emmaus weekend. God did answer that prayer, and he did give me a completely new desire to work and serve in Africa. And he gave the same desire to my wife at the same time!
It is my hope and prayer for you that the Lord stirs your heart and kindles in you, too, a desire to see more like Him and to be more like Him. Christ in us is the hope of glory! (Colossians 1:27)
May God bless you in your Emmaus and 4th Day Walks. De Colores!