When I completed 360° in 180 in March 2019, settling down in Canada was the last thing on my mind. Absolutely, I planned to keep writing, speaking, and pursuing apologetics ministry, but only as a “part time Canadian.” I figured I’d live in Ontario or BC (preferably in a camper van) only long enough to maintain my provincial residency so I could travel the rest of the year, teaching English on the side to support my personal apologetics work.
But sometimes, our dreams don’t line up exactly with God’s dreams. This is the story behind how I found that out.
SPOILER ALERT: At the end of the story, God leads me to become a speaker, writer and Youth Outreach Coordinator for Answers in Genesis Canada.
Wait—what? How did THAT happen?
Just sit back, relax, pop some popcorn, and I’ll tell you.
In the beginning:
Well over ten years ago, an 11-year-old version of me sat strapped into the family mini van, awaiting a grand adventure—a family road trip (not to mention epic homeschool field trip) to volunteer short-term at a mission in Mexico.
“I was born for this,” I wrote in my journal before we even left the driveway, “born to be on the road—and on the mission field.”
Whatever that meant.
Fast forward three years, when I deposited my 14-year-old self in a homeschool conference seminar, unaware that what I was about to hear regarding Genesis, creation and evolution would literally shape the course of my life. I hadn’t cared much about the creation-evolution controversy up till then; I’d also never heard of apologetics, the field which examines why the Bible—including the first chapters of Genesis—is true from an intellectual perspective. Consequently, I didn’t know the seminar’s presenter either, Ken Ham, founder of the apologetics ministry Answers in Genesis. But since he had a cool Australian accent, I figured I’d listen.
In that seminar, I realized that the causes I cared about most—including missions—depended on the truth of God’s word. After all, doing missions only matters if the Scriptures we preach are true. As Ken Ham explained however, every major doctrine in Scripture is directly or indirectly founded in Genesis. So, anything that undermines Genesis—like the story of human evolution taught in mainstream education—undermines everything I knew to be important. Obviously, I decided, I need to study science at secular university someday, become an apologetics speaker and counter the attack on Genesis!
But how did this calling to apologetics ministry fit with the call to missions I’d experienced at age 11? I didn’t exactly know. One day, however, I jotted down a thought on a piece of scrap paper:
Apologetics, international missions—in fact, most of the causes I’m most passionate about—have something in common: they strategically intersect in the area of youth ministry.
I gazed at the paper for a moment, then walked away and forgot about it. I didn’t especially yearn to become a youth pastor.
After I completed my B.Sc., however, another way to combine my callings to missions and apologetics became clear in the form of 360° in 180, my DIY missions trip to backpack around the world investigating how other Christian students keep their biblical worldviews intact during secular university. So, I booked a one-way ticket to Australia, strapped on my massive green backpack (MGB) and walked out of the Alberta home where my family had lived for 20 years, having no idea I would never be back.
But more on that later.
Glimpses from the road:
About halfway through my travels, I went to stay with youth ministry leaders in the United Arab Emirates. There, I had the privilege of joining a weekend-long youth ministry leadership event my friends were organizing to equip local youth workers. I’m not a youth worker, I thought, but hey—I want to speak and write about apologetics to high schoolers, so I’d better take notes! The scrap paper I’d scribbled on years before may have flickered to mind, but I still neither planned to jump into full-time youth ministry, nor understood completely how the other callings I felt would unfold together in the future.
On that note, however, I remembered an interesting exchange I’d recently experienced at a church in a restricted access nation. The pastor’s wife had walked up to me after the service and, when I’d explained a bit about what I was up to, offered to pray with me.
“Your life is like a construction zone right now,” she said during the prayer, “and it’s not quite clear how everything you want to do will work together. But God is preparing a highway for you. Do not despise small beginnings.” (Zechariah 4:10.)
“Small beginnings” is right, I recognized. How long had I been studying science, writing blog posts, submitting articles to different sites and striving to get closer to the goal of creating solid apologetics resources for Christian students in secular education? But still, my blog had what—just a handful of followers? How would I become an apologetics speaker at this rate?
Return to Canada:
As my trip approached its close, however, I soon had other things on my mind—like the fact that during my absence, my parents had sold our house and moved to a town I’d never heard of over 3,300 km (about 2,000 miles) east of my starting point. So, I completed the 360° in 180 loop to find no home, no parents and no possessions where I’d left them.
Looks like I’ll be living out of my MGB for a little while longer.
Two days after this ‘homeless homecoming,’ I went with my brother to visit a family friend who prayed regularly for us. She sat us down in her kitchen, unveiled a pan of fresh baking, and said something I wouldn’t remember again until weeks later:
“You know, I’ve been praying for you kids! And Patricia, I’ve been praying that God would have the right organization for you to work for, almost like an umbrella over you.”
Whoa, whoa, whoa. No, no. No, no, no.
“Actually,” I voiced, “I’m really not planning to settle down in Canada and work for an organization at this time. I want to stay flexible and independent to be able to keep traveling, speaking, writing and doing apologetics ministry, all while living in a camper van and not being in Canada for half the year. Preferably the snowy half.”
“Well,” our prayer warrior friend responded, never missing a beat, “then what can I pray for you?”
“Maybe just that I’d find the right publisher for the writing projects on my mind—like a survival guide for Christian students in secular university, and a book outlining my 360° in 180 endeavor.”
“Sure, I can pray for that!”
Whew, I thought. Good thing I caught that one! When this friend starts praying, there’s no telling what might happen.
Over the following weeks, I kept knocking on doors, inquiring about further writing opportunities and following every ministry lead I could – including speaking at small groups, private homes, and (excitingly!) the homeschooling convention where I’d first heard Ken Ham all those years ago. Still, these opportunities weren’t all that easy to find. In fact, I soon had only one last event lined up—a presentation in my friend’s grandparents’ living room.
On the eve of this final speaking engagement, I was staying up late editing my blog post to publish the following morning—a post which just happened to be about evolution. Normally, I would wait to publish each article until sometime Saturday morning. But as I stayed awake that Friday night finalizing the post, I wondered, why wait?
I hit publish.
The next morning, I woke up to see a text from my mom outlining some rather convoluted circumstances which resulted in her attending a convention in Ottawa that morning. There, the director of Answers in Genesis Canada, Calvin Smith, would be speaking.
“Say hi to Calvin Smith for me,” a friend of my mom’s had joked before she left for the convention. Not realizing her friend didn’t personally know him, my mom not only took the joke seriously and said hi, but in the course of chatting about Answers in Genesis’ ministries and the importance of mentorship, mentioned my blog to him. He took a look— including at the just-published evolution post—and asked how he could get in touch with me.
Back in Alberta, I stared at the text from my mom, stunned. All the work from the last half of my life—every high school assignment, university exam, 360° in 180 interview and blog post—had counted as one more step towards answering the call I felt to apologetics ministry. And now, after nearly ten years, had God simply dropped the answer in my lap while I was asleep?
God is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think,” Ephesians 3:20 (NKJV) flooded my mind. And this plot twist, far beyond anything I could have dreamed up for myself, proved it. I thought back to all the little clues that I hadn’t noticed at the time, but which I could now see clearly pointed in this direction.
Welcome to the highway:
Within a couple of weeks, I’d accepted a position as a speaker, writer and Youth Ministry Coordinator for Answers in Genesis Canada beginning in Autumn 2018. The job would require my moving to yet another town I’d never heard of, but at this point, I was getting pretty good at that. So, after a few months of wrapping things up in Alberta, enjoying some time with my parents and scooping gelato for the summer, I made the move to southwestern Ontario to officially come on board with Answers in Genesis Canada. I soon had the privilege of personally sharing parts of this story (and the writing project ideas our friend said she’d pray for!) with Ken Ham, whose long-ago seminar had sparked my calling to apologetics in the first place.
All the while, I couldn’t help but suspect this was the highway God had been preparing when I felt stuck in construction, as the lady in the restricted access nation had said. I had no idea how beautiful that highway would be—or how fast! As I accelerate down it, leaving a few dreams behind (like that camper van) in favour of the Ephesians 3:20 kind of plans God has ahead, I still don’t know entirely where I’m going. But I know Who’s driving. And I’m loving the view!
Update: I won’t be posting to this blog as often with full-time ministry underway, but you can follow my weekly blog at Answers in Genesis, where I’ll be releasing an article and video every Wednesday morning. Please consider yourself invited to my newsletter as well for occasional updates and links to my latest content for this blog, Answers in Genesis and Crosswalk.com. You can also follow my stories on Instagram, AiG CA’s YouTube channel and Facebook. I hope to see you there!