When I met Ross about 10 years ago, he was an All-American tennis player at the University of Tulsa. My early impressions of him was that he was a genuine and humble young man. He was quick to acknowledge his faults and eager to examine his heart. His wife Kamryn was an outstanding golfer at the University of Tulsa, and hailed from Pryor, OK, where I spent the first 8 years of my childhood.
I recently asked Ross if he would be willing to answer a few questions for my blog as part of an ongoing series I am entitled “What God Is Doing Around the World.” Here is that interview.
How did you end up in Brussels, Belgium and how long have you been serving the Lord in this place?
Through a trip to France when I was 17, I felt a calling to return to share the gospel, as I had met several people who didn’t know anything about Jesus, or who had never even heard of him. During this trip, I also saw language as such a gift from God meant to be used to share about him and about salvation through his son alone, and I felt like God was pressing me to use this gift to do just that, similar to what we see in Romans 10:14-17. How are they going to call on the one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?
I didn’t know what my return would look like, but I was ready to go. After college, I was applying for service with the International Mission Board when I was hit by a car, severely injured, and missions was put on hold. I then got married to a girl who wanted to grow old and live in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the rest of her life. Maybe this wasn’t wise for someone who felt called to missions to do, but I said, “if God can call me to missions, he can call the one I love to missions too and call us together.”
We were married almost 2 years when in December, 2012, we were in Edmond, OK seeing a friend whose father was the pastor of missions in the church in which I grew up. He had just returned from a trip to Brussels, Belgium, where they were partnering with a local church. He invited us to come on a trip and my wife said yes. I was shocked! She said she wasn’t against going on a week trip, just moving somewhere else. In January, 2013, my friend informed me that they were looking to send a couple to Brussels long-term, for 2-3 years, and through prayer, they thought we were the couple they wanted to send. I told him that I wouldn’t mention this to wife for fear that it would ruin the week trip. As God would have it, the night before we left, my wife and I were cooking together and she said to me, “Wouldn’t it be cool if this church had an opportunity to send us for a couple of years over there?”
My head spun! I said, “You know churches don’t really do that right? It’s missions organizations who send people long-term and have the funds, etc. to do that.” She had no idea.
I questioned her if that was something she would even want to do, or be interested in, and she told me that maybe God had been changing her heart on the subject, and maybe she would even enjoy it. These were thoughts that had been stewing in her head for some time, but she didn’t want to share with me as to not get my hopes up.
I asked her if she knew something that she wasn’t telling me, and she said, “Nope.” I informed her that they had offered exactly what she had mentioned, and we broke down in tears together. After the week trip, we saw that moving to a different culture, language, and area of the world still wouldn’t be easy, so we prayed for 3 months, and finally pulled the trigger to go.
During your time in Brussels, how have you seen God working?
I have seen God teach Kamryn and I to trust him and rest in him, even when comforts are stripped away and uncertainty is present. He has taught us to hold the future loosely and be content with him no matter where we are in the world or what we are doing.
We have seen God working amongst the youth in the church with whom we partner. There have been several youth (defined as anyone under 25 here), but more specifically, several between ages 18-25 come to know the Lord, and among the same group a huge hunger to grow their faith and devotion to God and share it with others. Discipleship has been a goal of many of these youth, and they are striving hard to learn from others, as well as disciple younger believers. God is using these young adults to evangelize in Brussels, and even calling several to go out to the world to share the gospel and be pastors.
What have been some of the larger challenges (e.g., physical, spiritual, doctrinal) in recent years?
Physical challenges can be defined as inconveniences here really. Brussels is the capital of Europe, so it is highly developed, BUT, life is not convenient here. We get so used to everything being so available, and so easy to get to in the US with stores like Wal-Mart, and fast food so easy to come by, and parking lots anywhere you want to leave your car, for free at that! I realize that these are all “first world problems” but sometimes they can be like that fly or mosquito that won’t leave you alone and do just enough to bug you.
Spiritually, Brussels was explained to us as “a dark place.” And we have seen that. The city of 1.2 million is 40% Muslim, and in the part of town in which we live, 80% Muslim would probably be an accurate number. We share with our Muslim friends as much as we can, trying to lead any conversation we have into the gospel and how there is salvation in Christ alone, and how he is the Son of God, and is God. But there is an incredible hardness to the gospel and an incredible stubbornness among this North African people. Whether it be life practices, or the gospel, they are very set in their ways and believe that what they’ve been taught from birth is the right way, even if these practices or beliefs make no sense at all. We have seen a handful of Muslims come to faith in Christ, and it is such a glorious occasion! But it is a big challenge, and we see firsthand how the Holy Spirit must do a work in the heart of someone to turn the hearts of stone to make them alive, to open blind eyes and make deaf ears hear.
Doctrinally, it is indeed challenging to partner with a church in another culture. There are a few fundamental doctrinal issues that I disagree with in the local church. I’ve always believed them to be important theologically, but I’ve seen over the past few years how practically, they are important as well and can cause problems and divisions in a church. I won’t go into details much, but Ecclesiological issues are a struggle for me, namely leadership structure, membership (or lack of it), and teaching on communion. We are part of a wonderful church that seeks to honor Christ and grow in him, and we are so thankful to find that in a city with few believers, so we try not to get hung up on these things, but it often saddens me see divisions come and power struggles happen, and people miss out on the rich blessings of partaking in the body and blood of Christ, where these problems could have been avoided by following a more accurate biblical ecclesiology.
Do you ever wish you could move to another country or city?
Absolutely, haha. We committed to come here for 2-3 years, and it’s now been almost 4, so we’ve really been praying about where God would have us after this commitment, whether it be staying here, or going elsewhere. So beyond “wishing” to go somewhere else, as if we were trapped here for a lifetime, we want to stay mobile and ready to go to the next place, Lord willing, or stay put, Lord willing. We have loved the taste of living life “on mission” and want to continue that attitude wherever we go. Furthermore, we see God leading us to live, whether it be in or out of the U.S. in a place where there are low numbers of Christians, and to share our faith like madmen.
Through prayer, desires, and circumstances, we believe God is directing us in the coming months to move to Santa Cruz, CA, where my brother has recently planted a church. God is doing a great work through my brother and his family, and Drew (my brother) has asked us to join them to help. I could tell several stories of how God has had a hand over the whole process in the church, putting people together, putting desires in hearts, etc. but long story short, in a place with less than 2% Christians, in less than a year, the church has grown from zero to over 60 people! This is seriously a miracle in itself, and we are extremely excited to be a part of it, and trust in the Lord that he will provide a way to make it happen.
How can the readers of this blog be praying for you?
- We ask for prayer that we would finish our ministry well in Brussels. We want to keep our eyes set on sharing Christ here, and pleading with our lost friends to receive Christ, as we know that we don’t have a lot of time with them. Pray for God to save people. Pray that God would work as we see in Ephesians 2, taking those who are dead in their trespasses and making them alive together with Christ. We don’t want to leave this place without doing everything we can to share every bit of truth we can, that some would come to know Christ.
- We ask for prayer for our future. We feel led, and desire to go to work with my brother in California, but God must open the door. We have no jobs waiting for us there, and our living details are yet to be determined, so we need God to guide us and open doors. I will try to do something that sounds crazy to many; open a business selling merchandise on Amazon, that would allow us to be greatly flexible to help in ministry and in the church. Please pray that God would make it successful, and that we would see any money from the business as the Lord’s, and not as ours, to be used for kingdom purposes and not our greater comfort.
Thanks for your time to read a little about me and my family, and what God is doing around the world. More importantly, thanks for your prayers! We are thankful that there are faithful brothers and sisters reading this who will petition our Father to work for his glory around the world and continue to spread his name, making it shine brightly in the dark places.