Back Matrimony & Missions: One couple meets on mission journey to Haiti
October 28th, 2011
A mission journey can change your life in more ways than one.
Ask Amy Pennington. She’s in the final preparations for her December wedding, but never thought God’s calling on her life to go to Haiti would've led her down the aisle to the altar.
Amy has always felt called to do medical missions as a pharmacist. She said, “I'd always thought [a mission journey] would be an amazing place to meet my future husband, but it never happened.”
The journey started when Amy attended Kairos one night, then later received an e-mail about a medical mission trip to Haiti with Brentwood Baptist. She decided to go, but realized two days before leaving that her passport had expired.
She soon learned that she must appear in person at her local passport office in New Orleans to get it renewed. Oddly enough, the guy she was dating at the time encouraged her to take a drastic step, buy a plane ticket the next morning, and fly to New Orleans for the day to renew it.
At the same time, Eric Myers was also on his own unique journey.
His residency director knew he was interested in medical missions and asked him to join her church, St. Stephens in Old Hickory, Tennessee, on a trip during January of 2010. However, a tragic earthquake devastated Haiti and all airports were closed. The mission trip was rescheduled for June 26, 2010.
Neither of them was supposed to be there, but God had other plans.
With no previous connections in Nashville, Amy introduced herself to some of Eric's group in the Nashville airport, but didn't meet him until they were standing in the customs line at the airport in Haiti. Oddly enough, they discovered both groups were traveling three hours inland and staying at Hotel Royale, which Amy said was “in no way royal."
They both were checking e-mail one night on the same hotel porch where their groups gathered and started casually talking. It quickly developed into a soul-baring conversation, bringing about a unique closeness.
It isn't surprising. This kind of thing tends to happen in third world countries, causing one to form a common bond with people who are total strangers—all because they both come from the same homeland and background.
But, one of the first things that impressed Amy about Eric was his boldness. She said, “I really enjoyed talking to him.” In that conversation, Amy mentioned that she was "sort of dating someone." Unbeknownst to her, it became the goal of Eric's team to create opportunities for them to talk while they were there.
Both acknowledge that God had been preparing them for that exact moment. They’d both endured tough situations that made them wonder if God had a hand in what was happening.
Amy said, “So many times I questioned God’s timing. I learned I shouldn’t force relationships and always be looking for ‘it’ to happen. Instead, I focused my time and energy being about God’s business.”
Eric echoed Amy’s thoughts: “A lot of things that have happened in my life brought me here. [God] puts you in certain situations in order to make you better in the long run. Meeting Amy unexpectedly and going on the trip that was rescheduled—God’s plan and His timing are perfect.”
Both Amy and Eric felt the mission journey held tremendous significance for both of them—even outside their relationship. Eric’s group saw about 1,000 people a day.
“Our groups were affiliated with two local churches: Baptist and Catholic,” he said. “I grew up in the Baptist Church, but went on the trip with a Catholic [Church]—[and I was] the only Baptist amongst Catholics. It was amazing to see the camaraderie… One morning, we were doing our devotional and a guy brought over the Scripture they were studying. There could have been an element of competition, but instead it was the body of Christ working together. God just wants us to…spread the gospel. I’m very fortunate to have had that experience. The Haiti trip exemplifies a family united by God.”
Amy said, “So much of that trip turned me to God. That week was so good to love on people and talk about my relationship with Christ. There was a girl, Jenny, that became a Christian during one of those talks.”
Before the end of the trip, Eric had asked if he could call Amy when they got back to Nashville. She said, “Yes.” When they returned, she asked the guy she was dating if Eric could call. He was OK with it, which was her sign that she and Eric would move forward.
“We couldn’t coordinate our schedules, so we spent hours on the phone talking for several weeks,” Amy said. “I’m so thankful for that time that we had because it allowed us to grow closer in a quick time.”
Amy was impressed with Eric’s commitment to God and missions. He took one of his two weeks of vacation—at the end of a very stressful residency training—to serve other people. And Eric was equally impressed with Amy’s heart for missions and her friendly, caring personality.
Within the month, they were dating exclusively.
Today, weeks away from being married, Amy feels like God has given them even more of a responsibility toward their future together because of the unique way God brought them together. Eric agrees that theirs is a story of things happening the right way, God's way, even though they couldn't always see it.
“I just don’t question as many things that I don’t understand anymore,” he said. “I know there has to be a plan or purpose for the things that happen.”
What’s next for Amy and Eric? Eric has now started his career as a doctor at Nashville Medical Group, and Amy is continuing hers as a pharmacist at Vanderbilt Medical Center. After their December wedding, perhaps another mission trip? Yes. Amy and Eric share the God-given desire to go on medical missions and are already planning one after the ceremony.
The father-in-law of Amy’s boss, Dr. Dewey Dunn, who’s 85 years old, stills go on medical mission trips and has been an inspiration to Amy and Eric. He says, “Matrimony and missions go hand in hand.” For Amy and Eric, that couldn’t be more true.
Story written by Susan Easterday