How did an Australian born Chinese ever cross paths with an American missionary kid who grew up in Africa? It’s a story that will leave you scratching your head and marveling at the beauty of our God who weaves together even the most unlikely characters for His glory. Here’s how it all started…
A bit about Luke
I first traveled overseas at the age of two. The airplane touched down in a hot, dry, dusty, West African airport marking the beginning of a life filled with dramatic and unanticipated twists and turns. Over the next several years I moved with my missionary family all over Ghana, West Africa spending two of those years at a Christian boarding school in neighboring Ivory Coast. When I was eleven, my family moved to Kenya for another four years before returning back to the US.
It wasn’t until then that I began to realize that there was more to God than the Bible stories I grew up hearing. He was real and active; He wanted His people not just to know Him but to follow Him. God began to press upon me an interest in missions. He brought to mind the many missionaries I had known or heard of who had moved to the mission field but then had left because of burn-out, discouragement, or conflict. He was sending me out to “bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” His desire is that “they will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” (Is.61:3)
I earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Minnesota. Within a year of graduating, I was able to pay off my college loans. I attended a Member Care in Crisis Situations workshop where I made contact with Food for the Hungry, a Christian relief and development organization. I was immediately attracted by their vision to see the whole church bring the whole gospel to the whole world. While my desire was to go back to Africa, the home of my youth, God saw fit to send me to Peru. I worked with Food for the Hungry for five years as a short term teams coordinator, a project manager, and then as the coordinator for our international staff. I now see how God used this time to show me that it was not just missionaries, but all Christian workers who need pastoral care.
A bit about Priscilla
I grew up living in two different worlds. I was born in Sydney, Australia not long after my Christian parents immigrated there from Hong Kong. At home I grew up speaking Cantonese and was surrounded my family’s Chinese culture and heritage. At school I spoke English and was thoroughly immersed in the Australian culture of the city I lived in. All through my childhood, my family was very involved at Central Baptist Church in the middle of Sydney’s Chinatown. It was during my primary school years that I decided to follow God with my life.
Mission and being a missionary was never part of my plan. I went to the University of New South Wales where I completed a Bachelor of Commerce. After that I worked for a few years as a business analyst at the Commonwealth Bank. But in 2003, God challenged me about how I was going to use my vacation time. Would I use it travelling around to the tourist destinations I wanted to go to, or would I use my time to serve God? I decided to use my vacation time to do beach mission. Then God challenged me about my job. Did I really want to spend the rest of my life working in the corporate world? I decided I could take a little time out to serve God. So I went to Peru with SIM as a short term missionary for 9 months. While I was there God challenged me again. Would I trust Him with my whole life? I gave up control of my future to God and committed myself to go wherever he would lead.
I returned to Sydney for two years to study at Sydney Missionary and Bible College and then returned to Peru with SIM as a long term missionary. I moved to the small, rural Andean city of Abancay and then to capital city of Lima to disciple young women and work as the short term coordinator.
How our Paths Crossed
By now you’ve probably guessed where our paths crossed, but do you know how? In early 2008, Priscilla travelled down to Lima for three months to help out with bookkeeping in the SIM office. After the second month she attended a Terrorism and Poverty workshop put on by SIM Peru. A few missionaries from other organizations had also been invited to attend. We met for the first time at the SIM guesthouse; we dialogued briefly as the participants were still arriving and then wandered off to talk with other people. The event lasted all day, towards the end we found ourselves sitting next to each other during one of the activities. We talked a little more and decided to exchange numbers so that we could arrange a time for Priscilla to come learn more about Food for the Hungry.
After the event, Luke lost no time in calling her up and inviting her for coffee. We soon found ourselves hanging out quite regularly pressed on by the short one month interval before Priscilla’s inevitable return to Abancay. The night before Priscilla left Lima, we started dating.
Over the next few months Luke took every chance he got to make the 15 hour bus trip to Abancay to visit. We quickly realized that if the relationship was to work, we needed to find a way to live in the same city. At the time Luke’s plan was to return to the US at the end of the year to get a Masters degree in Counseling and Priscilla’s plan was to continue working in Abancay. Putting our plans in God’s hands, we talked to our respective supervisors and within days, plans fell into place for us to both live and work in Lima! At the end of the year we were able to travel together to meet each other’s families in Sydney and Minneapolis. Soon after our return, we got engaged. We got married on June 27 in Lima with both of our families in attendance.
From Peru to Bolivia
Not long after we married we began praying for way to work together in mission. We again put our plans in God’s hands and began talking to our respective missions about the existence of such an opportunity. At first, no such opportunity opened up until one day we received an email out of the blue about working with El Alfarero, a SIM project in Santa Cruz.
We had not really considered working leaving Peru but as we continued praying and researching, we felt lead towards serving in the area of discipleship with students in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
In January 2010, we said our goodbyes and left our lives in Peru. We flew to North Carolina so that Luke could begin the process of becoming a member of SIM. In March that year we were officially appointed to work with SIM in Bolivia. At the end of August 2010, after home assignment in both our home countries, we arrived in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
Our first year here we were trying to figure out how discipleship could work with university students in Santa Cruz. We experimented with different groups and materials, tried to learn more about the culture and began to figure out where we were going with discipleship. Our vision is to train up university students to understand God’s Word, live it out in their lives, and to be able to teach it to others. This year we have three discipleship groups, we continue to learn as we teach and walk alongside the young people God has brought into our lives.