During my sophomore year of college I went through an InterVarsity program called STIM (Student Training In Missions). I remember quite a few things from that training, but the phrase that I remember, quote, and apply in life most often is, “You don’t know you have expectations until they aren’t met.”

I was chomping at the bit after finding the “Guest House Manager” position with SIM in Lima, Peru. I filled out the PIF (Preliminary Information Form) online and waited eagerly for the long application. In the meantime I talked with a few wise people in my life to ask their thoughts on the matter. After describing that position the response I got most often was, “Oh, wow, that does sound like you.” I confidently began organizing the stuff that accumulated in my house in 6.5 years and preparing for the possibility of putting it on the market soon.

After a few long days, the full application for SIM arrived. The email began to describe the application process and over the next week I would talk with the Regional Director and the Long Term Coordinator for SIM. Each time my understanding of the process grew, the timeline got extended. While I’d had visions of being in Peru by early summer, suddenly I was hearing that it could take 1.5-2 years to complete the whole process and leave. That most definitely failed to meet my expectations.

Undaunted, though disappointed, I began to work my way through the laundry list of requirements:

  1. Full application, including 6 references: a pastoral reference, an employer, and 4 personal references. (This took me about 6-8 hours to collect all the information, talk to all my references, and answer all the questions. I believe it was harder than my applications to college).
  2. Doctrinal Assessment (This took me 5 hours of focused time to complete. Yay for being iced in one weekend!)
  3. Training and Education Form (This didn’t take my very long since I haven’t had formal training and education in most of the categories that were listed on the form!)
  4. Psychological Testing: MMPI-2, 16PF, and a Personal History Questionnaire. (This required a proctor and about 3 hours of time from each of us. The MMPI-2 was the most bizarre test I’ve ever taken.)
  5. Various Authorization forms (Thankfully these don’t take long to fill out or mail in, but suffice it to say they are going to be thoroughly checking me out and have access to all sorts of info on me these days).
  6. Transcripts from all post-college education (Once again, this didn’t take too long since there was just one institution to request a transcript from).
  7. Biblical Literacy test (This took me about 4 hours and kicked me in the tail quite solidly. A very humbling test.)
  8. Medical History Form and Physical (This is my one outstanding requirement right now. I had no idea that one needed to schedule physicals 2-3 months in advance. Thankfully they’ve worked me in sooner since my deadline was 8 weeks.)

I’m probably missing some items in the to-do list above, but I think it conveys my point. The number of hours already committed to the process and the number of emails traded between me and SIM staff is way above anything I expected in the 4 weeks since the moment I discovered the position in Peru. I’ve slowly adjusted to the idea that I won’t be leaving by summer and I’ve come to agree with the wisdom of taking adequate time in this process. I’m also mentally preparing myself for the number of classes that I imagine will soon be recommended to me. Slowly my expectations are aligning with reality… I think.

For those who wish to know what remains of the overall process, it will look something like this:

  1. Mid-March: Robbye completes all requirements for application by the deadline for invitation to May SIMStart. [SIMStart is the introductory weekend for applicants that takes place 3 times a year].
  2. End of March: Robbye receives invitation to SIMStart.
  3. May 13-16: Robbye attends the SIMStart weekend “where [she] will meet many of the staff, have questions answered, and participate in introductory class sessions with other applicants.  [She] will have the opportunity to meet with one of our psychologists, who will discuss with [her] the results of [her] testing and make recommendations for follow up, if need be.  [SIM] will also let [her] know if additional training is necessary and provide some suggestions as to how to obtain it.”
  4. May and following: Robbye will complete additional training that will undoubtedly be recommended by SIM staff.
  5. July 11-31: SIM Candidate Orientation (SIMCO) – Robbye will attend a 3-week training program for those applying for long term service. The last week she will be presented to the Board for approval. At this time an assignment can be confirmed.
  6. August and following: Robbye will continue any required training while also raising support (both prayer and financial support).
  7. ?? – Robbye will start a new chapter of her journey in another country. D.V.

I remind myself often that God may close this door at some point. There is certainly no guarantee that I will find myself managing a guest house in Peru. I am trying to avoid creating expectations that may not be met, but how can we be sure that we aren’t creating expectations? I am praying for wisdom and guidance and simply stepping through this process in the best way that I can. I still feel a confidence that this effort is not futile and that it’s not merely a test of obedience. Anything is possible, especially when God is involved, so I am simply setting my sights on that which He has for me.