Eva and I met in Asia while serving as English teachers in 2004. I had come to East Asia from south Texas to teach English at a middle school, and Eva arrived shortly after from the Czech Republic to teach ESL at the university next door. It was the hand of God that brought us together in the same city, but it was three years before either of us had an inkling of God’s plan for us. It was here that Eva fell in love with Jesus, and it was here that we then fell in love with one another. We were united in faith, but from the very beginning, we were united in purpose. Though we had come from different parts of the globe, we both wanted to serve God in a country not our own.
Still, we did get to serve in our own countries. After we married, we spent the next year working with students in East Asia followed by another year in Eva’s home, the Czech Republic. I was able to learn to speak some Czech, especially with my in-laws, while at the same time teaching English to adult learners in Prague. All the while, we waited for Eva’s immigrant visa to the U.S.A. In the meantime, we welcomed our first child, Adam, into the world. And Eva’s visa eventually came, and we went.
We moved to south Texas, where I grew up. Our sights were still set overseas, but the details we left up to God. We felt it was important, though, to obtain Eva’s U.S. passport to facilitate international travel and ministry in the future. That would take three years. And so I began my job search. I searched, and searched…and searched. For an entire year, I searched for work at the height of the economic downturn. Few people were hiring. As work outside of south Texas didn’t turn up, I turned my sights towards home. I had been teaching in some capacity since I graduated from college, so why not pursue a teaching certificate in Texas? After some additional coursework, I received my license to teach and was hired at my elementary alma mater. That was a clear Godsend. Eva and I found an apartment close enough to walk to work, and we lived just two minutes from my parents.
Teaching public elementary school was unlike any other kind of teaching I had done before. The biggest difference was from having “classes” to having my own “classroom”. The experience was invaluable. At the same time, Eva and I were becoming more involved at First Baptist Church with the children and youth, primarily through AWANA and youth Sunday school.
In the midst of all of this, son #2, Samuel, and #3, Joseph, were born. Home was a hectic but happy place. We had become a large family before our fifth wedding anniversary. Both Eva and I were surrounded by children day and night. I had started out teaching fourth grade, but by my third year of teaching, I had moved to second grade. Despite the difficulties and adjustments, I “considered it all joy”, knowing that whatever lessons I learned in teaching and loving the children at school would apply to my own children at home as they got older.
Family, young people, and teaching. These were the things that had come to define our lives. These are the things that are on our minds and in our hearts. We had come to understand more deeply what it means to say “the family is the vital cell of society.” In teaching and working with young people, we’ve come to see what happens in young lives when that cell doesn’t function correctly. We deeply desire the Lord’s blessing on our family, and we want to be a blessing to other families.
And so one day after work, I was scrolling down my newsfeed on Facebook when I came upon a job opportunities posting for urgent positions 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 our lives, 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. 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. The rest is the reason we have started this blog. We hope you continue to follow us on our journey.