I know, intellectually, that wonderful opportunities are often preceded by seeming calamities. That said, it's not easy going through the calamities - but once again, I have seen the great benefits that come from enduring them.
In March, after six years of excellent work as a principal at his latest school, Jim's superintendent told him his contract would not be renewed. Jim proceeded to apply to jobs as principal and superintendent positions all over the state of Colorado, with no success. Then in June, I was fired from my job as the director of an early learning center, being told that the hiring Council had decided they needed someone with a different skill set. Jim will be 62 in September, and I am 58, and no matter the law, no one wants to hire people our age. Many, many job applications later we were both still unemployed.
We spent many sleepless nights tossing and turning (woulda shoulda coulda) and just plain worrying about what would come next. How would we afford our house payments? And how in the world could we put the house up for sale in this area, where it takes a year to sell a house even when the economy is good? There are houses in our town that have been for sale for four years and more. How would we afford health insurance? There is no way we could go without, not with Jim's history. Other questions plagued us, and our prayers seemed to stick to the ceiling.
Then one Sunday, as the Senior Primary (Sunday School at our Mormon church) children sang "Army of Helaman", I bore testimony to them about the blessings of serving a mission (I served in Sweden at age 21). I challenged each one of them, girls and boys, to serve a mission. And after church was over, I had some children and adults both approach me and thank me for my testimony. I thought nothing more of it.
A frequent Sunday activity in our house is an afternoon nap. I was asleep while Jim was on the computer, and then he left to visit some ward members. When I awoke, I saw that he had printed out a page from lds.org about senior missionaries and the opportunities for those with education backgrounds. Intrigued, I read the printout, then went to the website and read more. When he came home, we talked casually about the opportunities.
On Monday, we called the phone number given on the website, and talked to a man who assured us we were needed. "How soon can you come?" he asked - we told him we could be ready by the first of September. "We need a couple in Tonga in September," he replied. We stared at each other wide-eyed and smiled. "Email me your resumés," he requested. Long story short, by Friday we had been called by the coordinator in New Zealand, been on the phone again with Salt Lake, and had begun the application process. Ten days later, the papers were all submitted to the Missionary Department, with the note "recruited for the International Teacher Education Program" flagging our application.
We expect to receive our call about the first of August, but we've already started packing up the house. And the Lord is paving the way - four people have approached us about either buying or renting the house while we're gone. Talk about an unexpected, wonderful answer to our prayers!