By Megan Pool
I traveled to Ethiopia six years ago with our then 7-year-old son and husband. I had an extraordinary connection with God and myself on the trip. I have been waiting to return, and this past March my dream came true!
Two common themes for me in the going with both trips were encountering and facing my fear of flying and leaving my other children at home. I had a traumatic experience flying as a young teenager, and it has left its mark on each of my flying experiences since. As a parent of young kids, I have also wrestled with having both my husband Jim and I leave the country together (on the same plane)! Both themes weave a web of fear that has kept me, at times, glued to its threads and “caught.” While I’ve not said no to any adventure due to this fear, it is always there like the luggage you bring with you.
My husband Jim travels to Ethiopia, often twice a year, and currently leads the Vineyard’s partnership there. This particular trip he invited me to come and to teach on “Soul Care” to a group of Ethiopian leaders. I felt excited the minute he asked me to accompany him. I didn’t really let it sink in as a realistic possibility though. We have four children aged 8-14. Finding people to watch them and manage their schedules is complicated. At the time, we did not have any available family to help us.
During this season I have been finishing up Year 2 in Sustainable Faith’s School of Spiritual Direction. A requirement for this year is to engage with the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius. At the time Jim invited me to go, I also “happened” to be learning about discernment and the process of becoming indifferent to my own desires - in other words, releasing to God any disordered attachments and choosing the path that is for His glory and in the service to others. I did this with my desire to go to Ethiopia. I held out my fear of flying and my fear of leaving my kids (and possibly dying) to the Lord. I was honest about my fears. I came to a rested place of trust, asking only for His will to be done. And honestly, I didn’t really expect to go. In fact, in my mind the door had already closed. We had asked a few people to help with the kids (which I had pursued mostly out of obedience when Jim asked me to come); yet I didn’t think it would work out. One couple we asked had not been responding, and the other person’s decision was based on the help they would receive from this couple.
The time came for Jim to order the tickets. Out of the blue the couple emailed us saying, “Hey what are those dates again for Ethiopia? We’d like to do it.” I was floored. Almost immediately I felt a flutter of joy in my stomach. I was going!
I’ll offer some tips on what helped me address my fears:
- I formed a prayer team and emailed them specific requests for each calendar day of the trip; especially my flying days.
- I received some focused prayer regarding my fears before the trip. Amazing!
- I wrote my kids a card for them to open each day I was gone.
- I still took some Xanax on the plane!
- I made intentional decisions not to dwell on my fears, especially about my kids. I told myself like a broken record, “God has invited me and secured my going on this trip. It is His job to care for our kids with the help He provided. He did not bring me over here to dwell in desolation.”
- I opened myself up to hearing Him speak on the plane to me, especially when tempted towards fear. And He did. One powerful word He spoke was, “Megan, I am not asking you to live on the edge of panic about an impending disaster.” I was able to rest in a different posture after hearing His voice speak that to me.
The trip did not disappoint. I don’t think I have received that much joy in over a decade, outside of giving birth. Teaching these Ethiopian pastors about how to take care of their own souls (thank you to Vineyard Mission’s Karen and Steve) filled some of my deepest places. It was so worth the work of pressing into my barriers.
Megan and Jim Pool planted the Renaissance Vineyard Church together in the city of Ferndale, Michigan. She’s on staff as an assistant pastor providing oversight of various ministries to children and spiritual formation. She’s a trained Spiritual Director and a lover of birds, poetry, and paying attention to the small things. With Jim, she shares a passion for the people of Africa. Together, they parent their four growing children.