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N.C. family sacrifices for God’s call
Don Graham, Baptist Press
November 29, 2010
6 MIN READ TIME

N.C. family sacrifices for God’s call

N.C. family sacrifices for God’s call
Don Graham, Baptist Press
November 29, 2010

Her words hit Seth Whitman*

like a hammer.

The 37-year-old civil

engineer was riveted by the stories he was hearing from a missionary who’d come

to speak at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.

The more she shared about

the amazing ways God was working in North Africa and the Middle East, the

tighter God squeezed Seth’s heart. “I just started to feel very convicted that

… it was somewhere else He wanted us to plant our lives,” Seth said. What he

didn’t know was that God was gripping the heart of his wife, Amy,* too.

For the first time, Amy

heard stories about God appearing to Muslims in dreams and visions. And the

more the missionary shared, the more Amy wanted to go.

“I was very jealous that

people were seeing God move in miraculous ways, and I was like, ‘Lord, I want

to see that.’ … And I just told Him right then, ‘Lord, if you’ll call Seth,

I’ll go.’”

The rest of the church

service was a blur for Seth as he grappled with this seemingly out-of-nowhere

impulse to be a missionary. But when the altar call was given, inviting people

who felt God may be calling them to missions to come down front, Seth did.

It was a moment Amy had

spent the past 14 years praying for.

“I had been praying for Seth

to be called to something our whole marriage. … Not necessarily to missions or

to preach — I just prayed that God would call him to follow Him and that we

would have a ministry together as a family,” Amy said.

While Seth was at the altar,

Amy quietly sat in a pew, asking God if He was calling them overseas.

“When (Seth) finally came

back to the pew, I could tell that he was overwhelmed with emotion, and I

didn’t dare speak to him because I knew he was just about to lose it. … That

day was the beginning of a new Seth. He was broken and God began to change

him.”

Running away

But with that brokenness

came a lot of pain, and the next few days were rocky for Seth. When he told his

dad he thought God was calling him to ministry in the Middle East, his dad was

less than excited.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Al Gilbert, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, greets visitors to the International Mission Board commissioning service Nov. 10. Some 57 missionaries were commissioned at the service. See photo gallery and related story.

Seth had spent the past 16

years working for his father, helping run a manufacturing company. Now nearing

retirement, Seth’s father was ready to hand the company over to his son.

But if Seth answered God’s

call to the mission field, that would be impossible.

When Seth refused to drop

the idea of going overseas, his father at one point became so upset he fired

Seth — only to ask him back the following week.

“I think my dad feels like

I’m throwing my career away,” Seth said. “It’s hard. And it still is … (but)

this is what God has asked me and I’m going to be obedient to that. God just

made it where I could take my refuge in Him.”

Seth had his own internal

struggles as he came to grips with what God was asking.

He didn’t want to talk about

what was happening in his life. He wanted to run from it; to argue it away.

“I told God I am in a

wonderful position here — I love my job. … We have a great church, our family

is planted here, we have friends, I do stuff with the Little League, we have a

great house — we have everything.”

“We both were calm,” Amy

said. “We didn’t get excited, and we didn’t run out and do anything crazy, we

just got up every morning early and read our Bibles and we prayed.”

By January 2009 — eight

months after the Whitmans first heard God’s call — they knew without doubt that

God wanted them overseas.

“I can’t really tell you

(how it happened),” Seth said.

“All I can really say is

that the joy and contentment I had for where our life was — it just faded. … It

was like God scraped the desires that I had out of my heart and He put this

in.”

Sprinting headlong

The Whitmans were “sprinting

headlong” into the missionary application process with the International

Mission Board (IMB) when they hit a snag — selling their house.

Nobody was buying, and it

had to be sold before they could go. After missing an opportunity to be

appointed in September 2010, leadership at Calvary Baptist offered to manage

the sale of the Whitmans’ home so they wouldn’t be delayed any longer.

“Calvary stepped in and

said, ‘If this is what you’re feeling led to do … then we’re willing to hold

the rope for you and help you get there,’” Seth said.

“To experience that type of

commitment from leadership in your local body — there just really aren’t any

words for that.”

IMB trustees officially

approved the Whitmans as Southern Baptist missionaries Nov. 10 together with 55

other candidates, who were recognized at an appointment service at Calvary

Baptist.

The Whitmans will leave for

North Africa and the Middle East in spring 2011. They’ll work as church

planters, sharing the gospel among a people with very few believers.

“We’ve heard about God doing

amazing things in other parts of the world, and I just can’t believe He’s going

to let us have a front-row seat to that,” Seth said.

“I just don’t understand how

I could deserve that.”

*Names changed

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Graham is a

writer for the International Mission Board. Another story about the

commissioning service ran in the Nov. 20 issue of the Biblical Recorder. The

Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal is $175 million.)