Ready, Set . . . Wait


In January 2019, my family will leave New Jersey to join The Alliance as international workers (IWs) in northeast Germany. Five years ago, Karissa and I met in Germany while she served as an apprentice and I assisted their team with childcare during a staff retreat. We married nearly a year after meeting, and we pursued the steps necessary to become IWs together.

Since then we have lived in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New Jersey, had two children, and assisted with a church plant in New Jersey. God has used this journey to prepare our hearts for future ministry and to fall more in love with Him.

To-Do List

Before we met, Karissa was already becoming a part of the Alliance team in Germany. Having heard the call for missions at a young age, she was doing what God had called her to and what she loved. For her, this position was a dream come true as she ministered through English camps, played on a German soccer team, and helped with a church plant.

Returning to the United States to marry me meant she had to put this dream on hold. She had already “arrived” but now had to wait while I went back to school. Although she knew God had brought the two of us together, leaving the field not knowing if we would ever return was a difficult decision.

I had an accounting degree, so I needed to go back to school and start The Alliance’s process to become an IW. To me, this was a checklist, a series of to-dos that once I completed, we could go to Germany. After education, the biggest to-do for IW candidates is the Alliance Licensed Ministry Experience (ALME).

Who Am I?

For us to get to Germany as quickly as possible, I thought the best option was to go to a church that has sent IWs before and where the people already knew us. I wanted the quickest, most secure route to Germany, so we began our first ALME internship with this mindset.

As I transitioned from accounting to working in a church, I assumed this job would be carefree and conflict-free because I was working with other Christians. Not long into the internship, I got into a disagreement as my expectations for the internship were not being met.

Karissa and Kenny, with their daughter, Elsie, attend a worship service at Building on the Rock Community Church (Manchester, N.J.). Photo by Jord Christopher

With more time and unresolved conflict, the internship unexpectedly ended a year later. The “easy” checkbox suddenly seemed like nothing more than a giant hoop to jump through as we wanted to serve in Germany immediately rather than continue to wait in the United States. This was not the journey we had planned, and we both felt extremely discouraged and confused.

After having already been in Germany, Karissa felt this process was unnecessary. Thoughts flooded our minds: Karissa was supposed to be a missionary, not an intern. If we made it to the field, she could jump right in, and I could finish my preparation there.

We pushed and asked that an exception be made for us because we thought we were ready. We made phone calls and sent e-mails but were asked to continue in the process laid out for us. This process pushed Karissa into an identity crisis because she had wrapped who she was entirely in being a missionary. The longer we were in the United States, the more she lost sight of who God had made her to be.

Come and Die

Having failed in our first ALME, we felt un-hirable. We knew we were called, and we knew God had a plan. As we applied to and interviewed for six ALME opportunities, God worked in our hearts.

When looking for a job, I wanted security, especially financial security. I wanted to know months in advance that our housing, utilities, food, and other expenses would be covered. I felt overwhelmed and hopeless not knowing the plan and losing control.

We were rejected from all six ALME opportunities—none worked out. Feeling defeated and rejected, we still heard God’s call on our lives. Through His voice and mentors, we knew He was calling us to press on, so we did.

Finally, we were told about an internship in New Jersey at Building on the Rock Community Church that was not a traditional full-time or even part-time paid position. The job offered was simple: “We can offer you an internship, but our offer to you is come and die” (see Matt. 16:24–25).

Despite how crazy this may sound, it was real—an offer to come and die to our past hurts, misplaced identity, and false sense of security and lay it at the feet of Jesus. As we observed the church community live in continual repentance, forgiveness, and sacrificing for one another, we knew this was where God wanted us and where we needed to be to grow. Four months after the first internship ended, we packed up and moved with our three-month-old son from Ohio to New Jersey.

Transformed Hearts

No matter the situation, God wants us to know Him more. He wants us to fall deeply in love with Him. This often requires us to step out from where we are comfortable. We felt crazy for saying yes to so many unknowns, but Karissa and I had never been more certain this was what God was asking us to do.

During this internship, God taught Karissa that her identity is not in being a missionary but in Christ and in Him alone. God used this nontraditional internship and job to teach me that my security and comfort can be found only in Christ.

We knew God wanted to continue transforming us, but we had no idea what was next. Having failed when faced with conflict before, we were immediately placed in situations where we would face disagreement.

Like many people, I avoid conflict as much as possible, but when working closely with others in a fast-paced church plant, fights happened regularly. Frequent conflict gave us an opportunity to repent and forgive often.

Conflict is not a bad thing. The question is what do we do with the conflict? Do I dig my heels in and let pride get in the way? Or do I ask God to show me where I need to first repent then allow Him to change me? Conflict gives us the opportunity to live humbly and contrary to the way of the world.

Repent and Forgive

We love seeing the Body of Christ grow as the church lives in a state of continual repentance and forgiveness. It may be easy for us to live this way with our church family we see regularly, but what about those in our past?

Karissa and Kenny completed an Alliance Licensed Ministry Experience (ALME) at a C&MA church before being sent to serve in Germany. Photo by Jord Christopher

Seeking forgiveness for a recent offense is easy. It is in the forefront of our mind, but a hurt from the past can be uncomfortable as we need to go out of our way to talk to the person or bring up the past.

God showed us we needed to ask forgiveness from our first internship’s church. We knew this is what God wanted us to do. Just as we had regularly sought forgiveness and restored relationships in New Jersey, we used what God had taught us to restore a previously broken relationship.

Without repentance and forgiveness, there would be no possibility of restored relationships with our church family. If we cannot live these truths out, then we have missed the point because even more importantly, our relationship with God is restored through our repentance and God’s forgiveness. We bring the gospel of reconciliation. How often do we withhold the forgiveness we’ve been given?

God’s Timing

Looking back at the past five years, we can see God’s perfect timing. We wanted to get back to Germany as quickly as possible, but we needed time to learn and to grow. We were not ready when we thought we were, and God wanted to make us more into His likeness.

Through His timing, we learned our identity is not in a job or career but only found in Him. My security does not come from what I can do but from the hope I have in Him. No checklist will get us to Germany. Rather, God desires we daily live in obedience to Him.

Our preparation took longer than we initially thought it would, but now we can say we are grateful for God’s grace in taking us on this journey to grow closer to Him.

We leave for Germany together, trusting that these lessons will last a lifetime as we get to bring this hope we have to those who have not yet heard. We leave with a greater understanding of Christ’s love for all. We leave knowing there is a lost world out there not yet reconciled to Him.

The world needs to know the good news. We are humbled God wants to use us to share this news and live out repentance and forgiveness so the world can know what Jesus has done for them. How amazing it is that God desires to continually teach us and mold us into His image so the world may come to know Him!

3 responses to Ready, Set . . . Wait

  1. Dear Kenny and Karissa,

    Can´t wait for you to join us in Europe for the Kingdom´s sake. Praying for you as your are sent and as the Waren team receives you. Peace of Christ!

  2. Thank you for sharing, you encourage us in our struggles to know Him more. God bless you, I will pray for you and your family.

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