I Will Give You A New Heart

I wanted to personally introduce this amazing couple …. Brady and Lisa Stark are dear friends of ours! We go to the same church, as well as serve together on the mission field. They are both leading a May 17-28th mission trip (with Cherrie Cornish) to Ethiopia with Visiting Orphans – if you want to join the team there is space available. The first time I met Brady, I was a little intimidated. He’s a cop and security for the church staff on Sunday mornings. He’s very serious on the outside, but I could also see his big heart. Lisa told me that her hubby’s life was changed going on a mission trip and I’m thrilled to share their story to encourage you today! This is a very personal testimony and I hope you’ll spread them some support and love in the comments.

My Life Is Crazy Too is a new series of reader submissions. This is your opportunity to share stories about life, love, and mommyhood to provide understanding, hope, and compassion in the unique situations each of us face every day. If you would like to submit a story to this series, email me. Today’s crazy guest is Lisa Stark.

God doesn’t change, but He can sure change us.  He can change our focus in life, our direction of decisions, and even our marriage. That’s what God did in our life and our marriage.  He picked us up and redirected our course of life.

The beginning of our story is not unique.  Brady and I have been married for 20 years now, but the majority of these years were spent in struggle, division, and isolation.  We were living under the same roof but the only unity it seemed like we had in our marriage was our foundation in Christ.

We attended church regularly, and volunteered in various ministries in our church, but something was missing.  For many years, I was the spiritual leader in our family.  I developed a close relationship with God and He became so real to me.  But it seemed like Brady was very content to remain constant in his walk with the Lord.  He did not seem to want, or need, a closer relationship with God.  Brady was content where he was.

This went on for many years.  Then in 2007, Brady sensed a stirring within himself that God wanted him to do more.  This stirring consisted of a quiet thought that kept coming to him about disaster relief and medical aide.  From that, Brady started praying for direction from God.  Brady finished his bachelor degree and decided to apply for PA (physician assistant) school.

In October 2008, I took my first mission trip to Venezuela and it changed my life.  This trip was a construction / medical based trip.  While on that trip, I sensed God’s calling to become a medical provider to the poor and to those in need.  After returning home, I approached Brady about God’s leading.  I was somewhat apprehensive about pursuing this calling because I did not want Brady to feel like I was in competition with him by returning to school also.  Brady was very supportive and in agreement with this leading.  I applied to the nurse practitioner program at SLU and started in January 2009.

Meanwhile, Brady applied but was not accepted into the PA program.  This rejection into the program was huge to Brady.  He questioned whether or not he even heard from God to begin with.  Brady struggled with why God would lead him this far, only to have a closed door.  It was during this time of struggle and questioning that I said to Brady, “God has something special for you.  Maybe it’s just a matter of timing.”  Those words resonated with Brady; and still do to this day.

During that time of trying to figure out what he was going to do, now that he wasn’t going to the PA program, I signed Brady up for a mission trip to Africa.  Surprisingly, Brady decided to go.

Brady served on that trip and came home a changed man.  God revealed Himself to Brady in a miraculous way.  Brady experienced suffering, hunger, sorrow, illness, poverty, abandonment, and thirst.  He also experienced a physical healing of a young woman after members of the team prayed over her.  Brady experienced God’s presence in a land of brokenness.  And then God broke Brady’s heart.

Brady came home from that trip a different man.  And he has never been the same.  God became real.  So real, that God became Brady’s focus.  That change in focus brought about change in our decision-making.  From those decisions, changes in our marriage occurred as a result.

Our eyes were opened.  We wanted to serve our God, by serving those in need:  the broken, the sick, and the lost.  When our focus to serve God in this capacity occurred, a unity in our marriage occurred.  We became one heart, a heart for God.  Christ was no longer just the foundation of our marriage.  He was the walls, the windows, the door, and the roof.  God used our service on a mission trip to change the focus and the direction of our lives.  We both went on separate trips, at separate times, and both came back changed people.

I prayed for many years for a whole marriage, a unified marriage.  I prayed for many years for God to reveal Himself to Brady in a powerful way.  I prayed for many years for God to use me, for God to change me.  God doesn’t change.  He hears our prayers and gives us our hearts’ desires.  He has a way of molding our hearts’ desire to become a desire to serve Him.

And yes, it was all a matter of timing.  Brady applied again for PA school and was accepted into the program.  I graduated last year and now work as a nurse practitioner in an underserved area.  After Brady graduates, we hope to serve in Africa; whether it be a disaster or whether it be the disaster of poverty, our hearts’ desire is to work in the mission field as medical providers.  To give not only medicines and health care, but most importantly, to give eternal hope to those in need.

Brady returned to Africa six months later on another mission trip.  But this time he took our son with him.  As Brady stood in the dump in Korah, he realized God’s plan.  As he stood in the muck, the decay, surrounded by the hurting and the hungry, he wept.  He was in God’s presence.  God was there.  Brady would give up everything he owned now to serve his Lord.  It was no longer about the cars, the money, or the ‘things’ of life.  He experienced a glimmer of God and he didn’t want to be anywhere else.

All because of prayer.  All because of a mission trip.  “And I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put within you…”  Ezekiel 36: 26a.

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