Selamat pagi. My name is Jodi Richards. Born as a MK in the Philippines and raised as a pastor’s kid, I have wanted to serve the Lord for as long as I can remember. In 1999 when Mission Aviation Fellowship asked my husband and I to come immediately to meet a teaching need, I couldn’t believe that God would allow me to serve overseas using my gifts so quickly after completing my season of formal training. Since then our family has been blessed to serve for over 15 years with MAF in Papua, Indonesia. My husband is a gifted bush pilot flying into some of the most extreme grass airstrips you have ever seen so that every tribe might hear of God’s saving love. My oldest is a freshman in high school and my youngest is finishing seventh grade. We enjoy God’s colorful aquarium in our backyard and call it “wet worship” (hence our family picture).
We have lived in several different cities in Papua and served in different seasons of life, starting before kids. My ministry roles have included teaching in various forms to both nationals and expats, relationship building, and hospitality, to name a few. This current season has us in larger city, Sentani, where our kids can attend an international school. I thought this was going to be a season for me to come full circle and use my teaching degree in the formal classroom again, but God had other plans.
Our two years in this current location has had many challenges for me. Four months back on the field after waiting for our visa to return, we lost all our earthly possessions in a house fire. Just as we were resetting up house, I came down with a disease. A year and half later I am considered chronic and my symptoms are similar to Lyme’s disease. Though I can still “function” my daughter would say I’m running at 30%-50%. It is hard as an energizer bunny personality to slow down, but God has been drawing me close to mold me more into His image.
At first I fought this disease, I tried various prescription drugs to take the edge off the pain and pushed myself to appear “healthy”. I aimed for one ministry activity a day. But at home it was a different story, I was utterly exhausted, felt like my brain was wasting away and my body kept telling me I was not well. When I finally stopped “pretending” God opened a door for me to go back to the US to get further testing. I finally had a name for my struggle, chikungunya, and God provided a natural treatment that allowed our family to stay on the field, but I had to rest. As I learned to rest God gave me peace. He reminded me how much He loves me just as me, not because of what I do. As I submitted to His tender spirit, both my husband and I could sense God was preparing us for change. After completing a 6 month treatment that was helpful but did not “cure” me, we were open to hear what God wanted to show us.
God has made it clear He is calling us to a new season of ministry, returning to the US. This is a hard decision to make, we love Papua and see God using us here, but God has faithfully been revealing to our whole family that this is His timing. It is not a yellow brick road with all the details landed rather a faith journey. One of my long time family friends, Harold Sala, said it best, “God’s will is like a flashlight in a dungeon-it doesn’t shine around corners or illuminate the next cavern-it only gives you light to take the next step, and when you take that step, He’ll show you the next step.” So we have stepped out in faith to return and we keep trusting Him for what is beyond the beam of light.
Coming to the field I was excited about the new experience but returning to my passport country after more than a decade away is rather intimidating. God is graciously giving us hope, one-step at a time, but we are far from final approach. Please for the transition for the whole family (we returned to Colorado in June) and for our future ministry. I’m looking forward to finally attending a Thrive retreat this summer!