By Laura McKillip Wood
Jeff and Michele Royce know a little about patience. They began their life together as missionaries to Botswana with an organization called Flying Mission. In those early years, they dreamed of having children to add to their family. When fulfillment of that dream took longer than they hoped it would, they began to wonder if they would ever become parents.
“Christians always say thing like, ‘Well, in God’s timing,’ and then everyone chuckles; but it’s another thing when his timing takes a long time,” explained Michele. She said God asked her during that time of waiting if he was enough for her. “I can still remember driving down the highway in Botswana and saying, ‘Yes, Lord, you are enough.’” Michele added, “Little did I know that I was pregnant at that time.”
A Big Move
Jeff and Michele and their two daughters hope to move to Zambia by the time this article is published. The lessons about patience they learned early on come in handy as they plan their move and their new ministry. Support-raising has happened slowly this time, and because of that they’ve asked themselves if this dream was really what God was leading them to do. Their return from Botswana partially resulted from health issues that Michele experienced. She sometimes asks herself how this move will affect her health. Jeff wonders about finances, whether they’ll manage on less than they had hoped. Through it all, though, they remember that God’s timing is good; and during the time it’s taken to raise their support, they’ve learned lessons that no doubt will prove valuable on the field.
Zambia, a country about the size of the state of Texas, has a very young population: 46 percent of its people are under the age of 15; the life expectancy is 49 years, due in part to the high rate of HIV/AIDS. The major religions of the country are Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, but some people practice folk religions. The country’s main industry is mining, especially copper mining. As the demand for copper fell in the last few decades, the economy struggled. It has seen some improvement in recent years, as the demand for copper has risen again.
The Royce’s ministry in Zambia will differ somewhat from a traditional missionary’s role. Jeff is an airplane pilot and engineer. They plan to rejoin the ministry of Flying Mission, whose goal is to “multiply the effectiveness of church, mission and development workers by enabling them to spend more time serving people and less time travelling long distances on very bad roads.” Flying Mission also offers support to cross-cultural workers in Zambia by providing services to help with paperwork and the logistical issues they face in the country. In addition, the organization runs a guesthouse for use by foreign workers and visitors who need a place to stay temporarily.
While serving with Flying Mission, Jeff will use his expertise to help missionaries get around areas with rough terrain that would otherwise require days of walking. He also will work in the hangar, repairing and maintaining aircraft. Michele’s outgoing personality helps her form relationships easily; she will focus on homeschooling their daughters and cultivating relationships with the other missionaries with whom they serve, as well as with the people of Zambia.
One of Michele’s favorite parts of mission work in Botswana involved bringing people together, and she looks forward to doing so again. Flying Mission is a nondenominational organization. They work with people from different backgrounds, supporting them in advancing the gospel. Michele said, “Flying Mission is there to connect people; sometimes that happens with planes.” The Royces see themselves as bridge-builders. They will work with missionaries, cross-cultural workers, medical teams, and even government workers, as well as Zambians in the areas where they fly.
Jeff and Michele’s girls have lived their whole lives in America, so their parents prepare them for the move by describing life in Africa to them. They remind them of the things they may get to do there, like owning a pet and growing a garden. They also introduce them to other missionaries they’ll be working with, giving them relationships to look forward to before they go.
This family’s patience in support-raising and preparation is paying off as they are settling in to their new mission in Zambia. Go online to learn more about Jeff and Michele (jeffnmichele.com) or Flying Mission (flyingmission.org).
Laura McKillip Wood formerly taught missionary children in Ukraine and now works in the academic office of Nebraska Christian College. She and her husband, Andrew, have three children (lauramckillipwood.com).