1. How old were you when you felt “called” to the mission field?
I was 17 years old.
2. What did your particular “calling” look like?
I was on an airplane returning home from my second missions trip. We had done so many street outreaches, had played with so many kids in parks and city plazas, had engaged in so many late night talks, and had so many amazing experiences with God that I slumped into my seat on that plane completely exhausted. But both my heart and spirit spun my mind a million miles an hour the entire flight home. I struggled with a simple statement I heard from the Holy Spirit: “I want you to be a missionary.” I didn’t want to be a missionary. I wanted to go on mission trips. I wanted to serve God in America. But I didn’t want to be a missionary. That simple calling from the Holy Spirit never left me. When I opened my Bible the day after I arrived home, I knelt in my bedroom and wept as those words rang in my ears. I told God no. For months, I told Him no. I pushed the call away from my mind, but it never left. Then, one day I stopped saying no, and it became part of me. The next trip I went on, I talked with the missionary host until he started trying to get rid of me. “How do I become a missionary? How do I prepare? How do I know where to go? How do I know what to do when I get there?”
3. How was the country you serve “chosen”?
My wife and I applied to become missionaries; we didn’t know where God wanted us to go. There were opportunities offered to us in a few different countries, but I knew that I wanted to plant churches and that I also wanted to go somewhere where they couldn’t get a lot of people to go. We had no clear direction. I remember being in the hotel room after a full day of training and interviews, and I knew that we needed to make a choice, so I stood at the window over looking the highway and asked God to write the name of the country on one of the semi trucks passing by. Nothing! The next day, we were in the Eurasia regional director’s office, and he asked us where we felt called to go. We didn’t know! Then, he mentioned a country that we hadn’t truly considered, but he said that they really wanted to place missionaries there. Armenia. I looked at Olivia. She was stunned. My wife’s whole family was brought to Christ by her mother’s childhood best friend, an Armenian. She grew up hearing stories about Armenia from a fiery Armenian family that moved in just a few houses away when her mother was only 7 or 8. Olivia called her “Auntie Lulu.” She led Olivia’s mother to Christ in their mid-twenties, which then led to a restored marriage. Then, 9 months later, Olivia was born, her father accepted Christ. Olivia and I knew that God had ordained this. It was the writing on the truck I was looking for! In 2003, we arrived as the first – ever – Assemblies of God missionaries to Armenia.
4. How did you spiritually prepare for the field?
I don’t know if I did it right. I do know one thing: transitioning overseas is very difficult and often in ways that you can’t evaluate on a daily basis. It magnifies your weaknesses. If I were to do it over again, I would pray more – lots more – and I would get over a need to perform for people. I would really try to really believe that God wants me to be me with Jesus at the center of my life. God doesn’t want my performance, my excellence, my great ideas, talents, fill in the blank. He just wants to show Christ’s love through me. But I was a little younger then and I wouldn’t have listened to or seen the value of those truths without the experiences I’ve had until now. I am still learning these things. I am still working on being broken before God and just abiding in Him.
5. How did you physically prepare for the field?
There are things we need to do to take of our bodies that affect us emotionally and spiritually. For me, this means being serious about a consistent exercise routine. I love to lift weights and play basketball. I also love to go hiking. Then, there are other “physical” preparations that deal with our finances, mental preparedness, safety training, etc. For me, this looked like paying off $26,000.00 in 12 months after graduating from a university. I wanted to be debt free, so I could go overseas. It meant saying “no” to all the fun purchases that my buddies were making, but I am so glad I did.
6. What has been your biggest culture shock?
I am a really adaptable person, but . . . I do remember the most frustrating cultural experience I had. In Armenia, I was sitting in a room with 20 youth pastors for a training session. Then, all of the sudden, a very, very strong-willed young man completely took over the meeting. My Armenian language skills were barely at a survival level at the time, so I couldn’t really get a handle on the situation. I sat there telling myself, “This is very Armenian. I don’t know what to do. This wouldn’t happen in America.”
7. How would you describe your language learning experience?
I love language learning, but it is really, really hard. If you expect it to be hard, you will set your expectations realistically and you will enjoy the task a lot more. If you can just hang out with people and practice as much as possible, you will learn the language. I was able to learn Armenian well. I can now preach or teach in Armenian. However, now I am learning Estonian (my wife and I now live and serve in Tallinn, Estonia), but everyone around speaks English very well, so I find myself more embarrassed and less patient to practice. Needless to say, it is going more slowly this time around. Language learning never stops, and it is ministry. It shows people you love them enough to come to them in their culture.
8. What do you perceive to be the largest need in the country?
In Estonia, it’s men!!! Just kidding. Seriously, Estonia is a secular country that proclaims to have rejected religion (in any and every sense). But Estonians are hungry for something, so they fill themselves with the easiest and cheapest things they can find. It leaving them empty. There are few churches and many of the few are very small. There are so many tragedies here: high suicide rates, large numbers of drug abuse and alcohol consumption, etc., but there are also very, very cool things happening in Estonia. Estonia has the fastest growing economy in Europe, one of the most high tech capital cities (Skype was invented and is still based here), and is a very, very beuautiful country.
9. What has been the most difficult being away from home?
10. If you could inspire a group of students to serve in Eurasia, how would you do so?
Look for bigger enemies. You aren’t doing much if your enemies are small and insignificant. If desperate and endemic poverty, human traffickers, regional governors, secret police, entire philosophical systems, or demonic entities are your enemies, then you are doing something worthwhile. King David faced down lions and bears, then a giant, then a mad king, then armies and nations. If our enemies reveal the significance of our lives, let’s trade some petty, small-time enemies for some real ones!
Nick and Olivia now work in Tallinn, Estonia. To learn more about their ministry, watch this video:
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