How I Got to The Gambia

This was written soon after arriving in The Gambia and starting my website there. It is still as I wrote it then with the exception that I went through and changed the present tense to past tense and the section now titled “From Here to There” was then titled “From There to Here.” This testimony is in four parts:

My World Collapsing
God Answered a Prayer
The Path From Here to There
Watching God Work

My World Collapsing

See My Life Story(under construction) for what led up to 1988-99. A story, like Israel’s, of following God and slipping away, coming back, and slipping again. But during these 10 years everything that was important to me was being lost:

1988: My mother died of painful cancer.
1989: My wife filed for divorce, creating a year of horror for all four of us and ending in her leaving me and the children for her beloved Texas.
1990: Divorce finalized and child custody mine. I began treatment for clinical depression.
1990-97: Single parenting a rebellious teenage boy, Jason, and a special needs daughter, Juli, who had a type of Autism and physical developmental problems.
1992: Life-threatening surgery for Juli.
1994-95: Care for my aging, deteriorating father whom I moved to Nashville for his last year of life.
1995: Death of my father.
1997: Death of my daughter Juli by congestive heart failure caused by kidney failure and 7 weeks of painful dialysis.
1998: Bought a new town house in downtown Nashville which I thought would be my last home!
1999: Loss of my job of 22 years to “downsizing” & “early retirement” at age 59. And loss of my first ever brand new house.

O’ Lord my God! What is happening? What do you want me to do? Please let me serve You, even though I don’t deserve the privilege!

In all of this I kept coming back to a promise claimed in high school, Proverbs 3:5-6:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

This is my life verse, yet, like Israel. I keep “leaning unto my own understanding.” I went to an employment agency, made multiple contacts, and at night begged God to give me some kind of job, at least for three years when Social Security would be available at age 62. I also told God that I couldn’t serve in ministry because I am divorced. Then begged God, “if any way possible, allow me to find some kind of ministry in whatever work I do.” But still I despaired.

God Answers Prayer

Then one morning (June 8, 1999) I awoke, looking at the ceiling as if some new revelation was coming. I said, ” God…. I’m sorry! I have been praying, begging you without trusting. Forgive me! I’m sorry! Father. I trust you! Father, I know that you are going to take care of me and will have something for me to do and food and a roof. I trust you! I’m receiving severance pay through the end of the year! If you don’t show me something until next year, I’m cared for, and I will sell this new house regardless. Oh God, I know you have plans for me that I cannot even imagine. So I will worry no more! I will wait patiently! I will live in faith! THANK YOU FATHER! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I’m resting in you through Jesus! Thank you, thank you!”

Getting out of bed was like stepping out of a mountain-top experience with God. Experiencing total awe in Him and disgust of myself. (The way He wants me!) I showered, ate a bowl of cereal and went to work at LifeWay in my third from last week there. It was 7:30. I turned on the computer and changed the message on the phone answering machine. Then began working on a project on the computer. Rrrrinnnnnnng went the phone. ” Business Support, Charlie Doggett” I answered.

On the other end a new voice to me said, “Charlie, this is Ron Hunt at the International Mission Board. I’m associate director of the West Africa Region.” And I say, uhhhh, yes.” He continues, “I hear that your are retiring this summer and might be interested in mission work. Is that correct?” (Pause) “Uhhhh, yes, that is true… but how did you know?” He continues, ” Sonny Sweatman and I spoke this morning and he told me about meeting you last Friday evening, and of your interest in missions. (He was in Nashville for a preparation for those of us going on the ’99 Kenya Mission Trip from LifeWay. We talked maybe 1 minute!) He also said that you come highly recommended by one of the vice presidents of LifeWay (Jim Carter who was leading the Kenya trip). And that you are retiring from a business support role. So, I am calling to offer you a position in West Africa as Business Facilitator for our missionaries in the small country of The Gambia. Would you be interested?”

“Well Ron, let me tell you about my prayer experience this morning and how in awe of God I still am.” I repeated the above prayer experience upon my awakening. Then said, “What do you think? Could I be anything else but interested?” Ron replied, “Charlie, this is a God thing! I believe many prayers are being answered today! (pause)
This is a short-term position through the two-year ISC program or until we can find a career person for the position. But we need continuity in the position for as long as possible. Are you over 50?” “Oh yes! 59 next month!” I replied. “Well, you then qualify for the new Masters Program for those over 50. Are you familiar with it?” “No.” “Well, the main difference is that you may stay for up to three years, instead of the two for ISC. And that would really help with the continuity in the position! Would you be interested in that?” (pause) “Ron, let me tell you one more thing that I believe is more than coincidence! I retire next month with the LifeWay pension, but find it difficult to live on half of what I have been earning. But believe I can do fine when social security kicks in at age 62. That is exactly three years away! So what do you think? Yes, I am interested!” “Praise the Lord!” says Ron.

“Now wait a minute Ron! There is one more important thing you need to know about. . .uhh… I am divorced. (pause) And it is my understandng that IMB doesn’t appoint divorcees.” “That is true with career missionaries Charlie, but ISC/Masters is different. And I already knew that you were divorced before I called. As a divorcee you will have one more step in the application process. You will be required to see a Christian counselor to evaluate, for us, you being over the divorce and emotionally capable of serving in a different culture without problems.” “No problem.” I reply.

Then he said, We normally send a small application form used for screening out people, before we send the big packet of application paperwork. I am going to just send all of it to you at once so we can get this process going as fast as the system will allow us. Okay?” “Yes! I am excited and will have everything back to you by or before July 1! Thank you for calling Ron!” and he concluded with some closing remarks before we hung up. I was so excited! I prayed and decided it was okay to tell some friends about the possibility – and I did!

Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
Mark 11:24

The Path From Here to There

Then the roller-coaster ride began! A ton of forms and papers to write arrived that consumed much of the rest of June, but I got them back by July 1! The counseling session went well, and then the wait for Board approval. I was tentatively  scheduled for the September Matching Conference and October 29–December 11 Missionary Learning Center training.

-Then there was the two-week Kenya mission trip the middle two weeks of October. Wow! A lot to do in a short time! My retirement reception suddenly got an African theme, I put the house up for sale and began working on disposing of most of my 59 year accumulation of “junk.” So much happened so fast, it is difficult to remember how it all came about. But everything was sold and remaining family furniture and books, etc. stored in a friend’s house, who also picked up my car payments, since his car was on it’s last leg. So that and a huge garage sale bringing more than $2,000 meant I was suddenly homeless and without many worldly goods before going to Kenya for 2 weeks.

Four days after returning from another wonderful Kenya experience, I was at the Internaional Mission Board “Missionary Learning Center” in the country outside of Richmond, Virginia. And I did not return to Nashville until after my three-years of service in The Gambia. I left from MLC to Dakar, Senegal for a week of orientation there and was in The Gambia by December 19. The house I had emptied and turned over to a realtor sold the day after Christmas! It was such a great feeling of freedom to not have all those material things to make monthly payments on and be burdened with! It was a better freedom than I had when graduating from Seminary because I had no debt–except to God!

If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
John 8:36

Watching God Work

I “hit the ground running” as the old expression goes, and worked as hard as I have ever worked! This job will always be more than full-time (on duty 7-24), -but the real joy there was not in all of my hard work, which can easily be too much for me! “He who trusts in himself is a fool…” (Prov 28:26) But it is in standing back from it all and watching God work!

His Spirit is moving among so many different people, as I reported in my monthly Newsletter. The harvest hasn’t come yet among the Gambian Muslims, but I believe it will soon be plenteous! It amazes me to see God touch people’s lives without any help from missionaries! God is not depending on us! It is simply our job to join Him where He is working in the hearts of people! It is my greatest joy to watch God work! Realizing He doesn’t need me, but rather He in His Grace has allowed me to be here and watch Him work among false religions and humble people!

You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.
Psalm 16:2