Picture spending years striving for your dream and praying and hoping that the right opportunity would come along. Suddenly you find an opportunity that seems to tick every single box on your checklist. You change everything in your life to make that happen including moving to a brand-new culture with your young children. You’ve left your life behind in exchange for a new one and seem almost certain that it’s the place that you are supposed to be. God couldn’t make it any clearer from your perspective. Suddenly you are back home wondering what went wrong and what you missed. It would be easy to picture yourself in this situation and feel like this is where that story ends. You gave up everything and you knew everything was lined up perfectly and suddenly it all came crashing down. What if I told you that a decade later you would find yourself not in what you pictured as the perfect fit but instead in the exact right place God had for you, even though it didn’t look anything like what you thought it would. Suddenly it occurs to you that God wasn’t making the perfect fitting glove for you, but instead he was taking the time to shape you to fit the perfect glove.
I’ve heard story after story of people who thought they were in the right place only to find that God had so much more for them than they expected. This is the exact story of our ministry partners Matt and Kristy Messick. For them the story of their marriage began in Africa in 2001 when, by what many would see as mere happenstance, they stepped onto the same bus. However, this was no chance meeting. They both had a passion for missions and had found their way into West Africa for separate reasons, but after a little time together on the bus they knew they needed more time together. That was almost two decades ago, and ever since they have been building their lives towards full time overseas missions.
At the time it seemed to them that West Africa would likely be where they ended up because it was what they knew best and loved most at that point. They were living in Salida as members of Grace Church waiting for the right opportunity to go into the field. When the Campbells came back from their assignment to Senegal, the Messicks knew they needed to make a connection. It was through the Campbells that Matt and Kristy became interested in going into the field via WorldVenture. However, through a myriad of circumstances it started to become abundantly clear that God didn’t have West Africa in their future. Even that realization didn’t make perfect sense at the time. It would seem that if you had a desire to go to a certain place and God put people into your lives that were ministering there, then God was putting the pieces together. However, they wouldn’t be deterred and started looking into other locations that God may have for them.
However, God had been preparing his purposes for Matt and Kristy and the Messick crew and soon he would show them where they were headed next. One of the biggest things needed in this life to truly follow Christ is courage to continue taking steps. Often, he puts paths in front of us and allows us to walk the different paths, and he always has something for us along the way. Often the real act of treason to our testimony is looking at the various paths that God has for us and refusing to move forward on any of them. We get comfortable and that comfort typically leaves us feeling content… for a time. However, if we are in this life, we have work to do for the gospel and for the kingdom, so even when the choices are hard, we must get up and start moving again. Matt and Kristy would not sit idly by. Even in their defeat they would look down paths and choose to move again.
The next opportunity that arose was for them to travel to Ecuador. A need arose for ministry partners in the rural areas building and fostering relationships and spreading the good news. They once again packed everything up and got on a plane, this time with a couple more kids, and changed their life again. When they arrived in Ecuador, they knew that the primary goal was to spend a little time brushing up on the language, especially the nuances of Spanish in Ecuador, and then eventually find their way out of the city and into where they had been called. However, God had different plans for them again and through the most unlikely of meetings they would find new purpose.
In needing to brush up on the language, a young woman came by four times a week to talk to them and teach them. Often her lessons would be taught to them through readings about the culture thus killing two birds with one stone. In one way they are learning the language while also learning about the culture. Newspaper clippings and local cultural magazines are a great way to create discussion in a foreign language while also learning about the country you are in. Many of the articles that the Messicks would read would happen to revolve around marriage and the culture of marriage in Latin American cultures. Often after their teacher would leave Matt and Kristy would sit and discuss these articles at length for a couple hours at a time. It seemed that marriage had become something that didn’t have the value in this culture like it does in Matt and Kristy’s own union.
Through spending more time in the city and musing more and more on the concepts that they had been presented with they started to see that God may not have the rural calling that they had originally foreseen. They started to see a need for marital classes that would help both believers and nonbelievers improve their marriages. People throughout the culture were struggling even in the church. In Loja only about one percent of the population is practicing Evangelical Christians with that number dropping to a tenth of a percent or one in a thousand people throughout the province, which means a vast majority of those believers are first generation. They don’t have examples that they grew up watching and often have never even seen a family member open and read a bible. Also, with high numbers of marriages ending in divorce people are often lacking role models of a strong marriage, fidelity, good communication and good conflict resolution. This makes it hard to break away from any cultural norms in favor of biblical teaching. Thus, the Messicks began work on their own marriage course for the people of Loja rather than the bordering rural communities.
Right now, their primary mission is teaching an eight-week course that brings in four to six couples and walks them through different parts of a healthy marriage. What I love most about this course is that they allow the members to lead it, but in turn make it incredibly bible centric. Almost every week will start out with a topic and they will start by having the members of the course share what the culture says about that topic. As an example, when an Ecuadorian couple gets married, they continue to keep all their finances from one another, because culturally you’re taught to continue looking out for yourself instead of becoming one entity. They then turn over their notepad and have the couples in the class tell them what the Bible has to say about that topic. For example, Mark 10:7-8 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So, they are no longer two but one flesh.” As the couples start to walk through this guided journey, they get to see that the Bible can offer a great deal of wisdom for their marriages.
This class has been taught to believers and nonbelievers alike. It becomes an unbelievable tool for strengthening existing relationships with Christ and fostering interest in new personal relationships with God. The Messicks found a need in their culture, marital unsteadiness, and meet people at that need. From there they invest heavily in those people through their own relationships and often get the opportunity to then present the Gospel. This reminds me so much of Mark 2:17 when Jesus says, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” Matt and Kristy have found a way to meet people where they are sick and in that manner help to heal not only the wound that is obvious, but also begin to understand the need for larger healing in their soul from their sin.
When you speak with Matt and Kristy now it is so obvious that God has them right where he wants them. They are bold and excited about their work and love sharing story after story about how God is working through the relationships they are developing in these courses. Our interview this month feels like small testimony after small testimony and it was amazing to me that I basically just got out of the way and let their passion and excitement shine through the conversation. I don’t pretend to know all the ways that God works, but I can’t help but think that through the years in Guatemala and then feeling defeated back in the United States, God must have been working on them and teaching them that sometimes the plan isn’t at all what you think it will be. Even when they went to Ecuador, they went with different purpose then what they are doing now. However, I think God had been teaching them along the way that sometimes he opens a path and your job is to just start walking that path faithfully. Perhaps along the way another path will arise and, even though it looks nothing like the map that you had, it may be the exact place that you needed to go.
The Messicks are now living in Ecuador with their six kids and are following God’s guidance every day. They continually find themselves matching up with God’s plan for them. It’s an exciting time and they are completely devoted to helping people in Loja learn how to fight and stand firm for their marriages. They are honoring God with their work and are so excited for big plans to come. Currently they are trying to expand the class that they teach and are looking for God to deliver other instructors into their lives. They are asking for prayer that God would lead someone to them that has a healthy marriage and can help teach this course going forward. With only four to six couples per course they feel like they’d like to be able to offer the course more frequently, but that would require more teachers.
Just like all of us, the Messicks often find themselves struggling with time management. Their other massive prayer request for us as a church body was that we could pray for them to find balance in their ministry and home lives. The topics they are dealing with are heavy and can be difficult because you want to always be available for people, but as Kristy said to me, “Every time I say yes to something, I’m saying no to something else.” When you are investing in a community and a culture it can feel like even a very God honoring yes can end up putting a strain on your own family and asking for God to help them know their balance is a huge need they have in their lives.
I’d love for you to not only pray for the Messicks, but also reach out to them and encourage them. Learn more about what they do directly from the source. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, you can support them financially by clicking on the following link going to the following webpage, https://www.worldventure.com/themessickcrew.