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One Family's Unexpected Mission

I have discovered my own personal key to faith. It's what people once said I couldn't do.

By Marty Via, Waycross, Georgia

As appeared in

"Is there really such a place in Georgia?" Dale asked. We got out our atlas and opened it to the map of Georgia. Sure enough, there was Waycross, a small town perched on the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp. Dale and I exchanged worried glances.

"Are we really going to do this?" I asked.

"If we're sure it's His will," she said, "then I think we should."

"It just seems so unlikely," I said.

Dale called in Chris and Lindsay from the backyard. We explained that we were feeling led to move. "We're not sure where the Lord wants us," Dale finished. She gave them each a blank piece of paper and a pen. "I want you to go up to your rooms and pray about this and write whatever you think of."

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Chris came down first. "This is all I could get, Mom," he said, handing her the paper. On it was written the word "way." Lindsay followed, looking disappointed. "I couldn't think of anything," she declared, "just this." She held up her paper. It had a large cross. I felt a tingle of excitement run through my body again, and when I met Dale's eyes, I knew she felt it too.

Every reasonable instinct told me it was crazy for us to leave our church, to move to a faraway town we'd never even seen. Every night I offered up my doubts to God. And every night I was filled with that same sense of certainty: You are doing the right thing.

We rented a moving van and headed south, Chris and Lindsay in the backseat with the cat and the boxes, Dale up front with me, a roadmap spread across her knees. We only had a vague idea how far it was to Waycross, and as we left Ohio behind and the terrain became unfamiliar, the doubts returned. We pulled into Waycross after 18 straight hours of driving. There wasn't much to see—row upon row of pine trees, run-down houses, empty storefronts, a Piggly Wiggly. My heart sank. I'd uprooted my family, and for what? What have I done? There's nothing here for us.

That first night, we slept in a campground on the edge of the Okefenokee. "You'll want to keep your cat locked up," a park ranger advised us, "the 'gators eat small critters like that." There had still been snow on the ground in Ohio when we left, but here the heat was stifling even after dark. I tossed and turned, listening to the strange hoots and howls coming from the swamp.

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The next day we drove into town and found a cheap house to rent, then Dale and I scoured the town for work. We went everywhere from the convenience store to the lumber mill, but times were tough in Waycross, and we had no luck.

One evening a few weeks later, I lay in bed offering up my usual prayers for guidance. Our money's running out. This seems like a dead end, Lord. Did I hear you wrong? It was another hot night—we couldn't afford air conditioning—and the humid air seemed to lie on me like a damp blanket. Then I heard it: Workers I have many, ministers I have few. "But all I know how to do is work with my hands," I said out loud. "I'm not qualified to be a minister."

I woke up again around three in the morning. Dale lay sound asleep beside me. I went into the kitchen, grabbed a pen and some paper, and sat down at the table. I wasn't really sure what I intended to write, but in a moment my pen began moving across the page. I wrote until my eyes drooped, then went back to bed, falling asleep immediately.

In the morning I reread what I'd written. I couldn't believe my eyes! It was the outline of a benevolence mission that would provide food and clothes to the needy. Beneath it I had made a list of congregations and pastors. I showed Dale the list. "How do you know all these names?" I shook my head. I didn't recognize a single one. We consulted a local phonebook—every pastor and congregation was there.