A former fighter pilot with the Indian Air Force and a former school principal respectively, Don and Anita Lazarus share their story of how two ordinary people can embark on an incredible journey of faith, testing, and growth when they commit their lives to an extraordinary God.
“When you’re available to the Lord, the way He can use you never runs out,” Anita said. “It changes, but never ends. We learned to let go of our understanding and thinking and abandon ourselves unto Him for all our needs and serve Him. He opens a very small gate, but it leads to something big. If He tells you before hand, you cannot grasp it.”
Don and Anita’s story is not one that points back to an isolated miraculous incident that changed their lives instantly, but one that shows God’s faithfulness through every season of their lives, causing them to slowly but most assuredly learn to rely completely on Him.
Having grown up in Christian homes, both Don and Anita knew about God and the Bible from a young age. They got married in a church and started a family, but it was not until their lives hit a rough patch that they truly began to surrender their lives fully to God, who proved to be ever so loving and caring.
“I was a really independent person,” Anita said. “I was capable, and whatever I did, I did it well, so I didn’t need God at all.” With only one son at that point, a good and stable job as a principal at a school on base, and an easy going social life within the close-knit Air Force community, Anita had everything going for her.
Things took a turn when both Don and Anita’s parents, stricken with illness, moved in with them into their close quarters. Don’s father suffered from a botched sciatica operation, while Anita’s mother had become paralyzed from her neck down. While Don’s mother and Anita’s father were both there to help with their respective spouses, the stress of shuffling both parents back and forth to and from the hospital took its toll on Don and Anita, and they were finally driven to their knees.
“We had reached a situation in our lives where it was impossible for us to find a way out,” Don said, “and one by one, the Lord started showing us how to overcome the situations and move on in life.” “I remember telling God that if He is there, He better show Himself. Otherwise, I will never believe that there is a God out there,” Anita said. And show Himself, He did.
God revealed Himself in ways that Don and Anita could not deny. Don’s father desperately needed to get to a hospital in Lucknow, a city over 100 km away. The only available mode of transportation was the train, as they did not own a car, but considering how much pain Don’s father was in, the train ride would have been torture.
Coincidently, an old friend, who happened to be the Chief Minister’s chief pilot at that point in time, dropped by for lunch and told them that he was on his way back to Lucknow the next day with an empty helicopter. “Know anyone who needs a lift?” He asked.
With each challenge Don and Anita faced with family and relationship crises, God proved Himself faithful. “That was the time the realization came and there was a desire to learn more and more about the Bible.” Don said. “We started having Bible studies in our house within the Indian Air Force, and we started loving the Bible and putting into practice what the Word of God taught us.”
After about four or five years, Don and Anita felt strongly motivated to go into full time ministry. But when they prayed about it, they received a negative answer from God. He wanted them to remain in the Air Force. And so they continued on, and were given a prophecy over their lives, that they will minister to the international community.
Considering Don’s career, they naturally assumed that they would probably be going on some kind of diplomatic assignment. However, they were reposted to the “Siberia of the Indian Air Force.” In the middle of the desert, this absolutely God-forsaken place was not what they had in mind and Don was quite disappointed, but Anita reminded Don that God might have something for them to learn there.
“Within a year, God taught us to relate to people who are not of our status, but below us.” Don was the big boss on that base, but at church, they would have to sit on the floor and the man sitting next to Don was his sweeper. Don asked the Lord, “Is this our ministry to the international community?” And the Lord answered, “No. These are my people. Will you feed them? I have trained you and exposed you to My Word. Will you minister to them?”
Don struggled for a time, then relented and allowed God to use him there. It was not long after Don said, “I will minister to them,” that God clearly indicated to them, “I want you to leave.” So they left the Air Force, and joined the mission field with Christian Mission Service, a German/Swiss organization that cares for children in Indonesia, India, Philippines, and Bangladesh.
“That was the time we learned to serve,” Anita said. “In the Air Force, it was very hierarchical. Here, we served children who had been deprived and traumatized. Socially, nobody would even look at them.” It was during this time that Anita learned to care for people unconditionally, and found her calling to go into counseling. She wanted to sit down with people nobody else would listen to, and help them.
For 14 years, Don and Anita served in full time ministry. They built a counseling network and trained up staff. They became associated with an international school for missionary children called Hebron, and eventually served on their board. “I did not want to go there at first, because the salary was not attractive. There was no social security after we left the Air Force, and Don was receiving a minimal pension, but I learned to trust God and to serve.” Anita said.
Even though they had two young boys of their own, they were not scared because they knew that they were where God wanted them to be. “Now that we think back, we must have been pretty brave to step out like that without any backing,” Anita laughed, “but God taught us that riches are not in what you possess, but in what you give away. And He keeps replenishing us. That is abundance.”
Don and Anita then came to a point where they felt they should take a break from the mission field, and so they did. During this time, Don got a doctorate in ministry while Anita did a post-graduate course in psychology. She continued to train people in counseling, while Don ministered at different churches and conducted Bible studies. “We were sort of resource people for various seminars—of different faiths. Then one day we realized that we are ministering to the international community. It happened in a very different way from what we expected.”
“Our calling was to step out of the boat and walk on water, so we stopped working with this organization.” While they were waiting on the Lord, Don got a call from Malaysia. He had not made any job applications or looked on the Internet for job prospects, but an old friend from the Malaysian Flying Academy (MFA) in Melaka called him out of the blue and told him that they needed flying instructors.
“I prayed that if they call me three times, we will move forward,” Don said. So they waited, and a couple of weeks later, they called again and asked, “Don, are you coming?” He said no. They were praying about it. They waited, and MFA called again, so he said yes. “I landed here on February 4th, 2008. Anita joined me two weeks later.”
“I really struggled about coming to Malaysia,” Anita was not ashamed to admit. “Don has a job, but what will I do?” Back in India, she was a known and trusted person. At this time, the passage in Genesis 32 when Jacob wrestled with God became very real to her. God raised some questions from that passage: “What is your old identity? And now, what do you have to let go off to hold on to this new identity that I am giving you? Will you be brave enough to trust Me?”
It was very scary for her, but the church they found accepted her as a counselor and started putting her in touch with people who needed help. It wasn’t long before she was conducting training workshops and getting to know many people in Melaka. It was also during this time that Anita wrote her book, Chopped, Sprinkled, and Ready to Serve. Using the analogy of coriander seeds that need to be bruised before planting in order for it to take root and sprout, Anita writes about her personal bruising that had to take place before she could become the woman God intended her to be.
“It was a time when I didn’t know what to do with myself. I just felt that, “Lord, You have given me this free time. If I look back over my life, and if I were to say to somebody, ‘What is it that’s really made a difference in my life?’ I would say it is You. And so, I have to salute you and write it all down. It’s not a commercial venture; it is my tribute to you. It is my five loaves and two fish offering. If you want to you use it, use it. If you don’t, I still have to do this for you.”
“The safest place to be is in commitment to God.” Anita said. “In the world, banks crash and people let you down. We don’t own a house, but all we need, He has supplied abundantly. It’s a living reality. We’ve never lacked for anything, so why worry? He is a God of flowing abundance and He wants us to be that. He wants us to share whatever He gives us with others, and so we try to do just that.”
“Learning is a continuous process,” Don said. Even at their age, God is still teaching them about reconciliation and humility. “The aspect of humility is very important in the Christian life. Sometimes we get a little proud, so that’s where the Lord breaks us, and that breaking is what is difficult. It’s always a journey down to go up.”
“The stories are endless,” Don said. God has been faithful to them in so many ways over the years because they have fully involved Him with their lives. He has provided them with material, financial, emotional, spiritual, and social resources. Time and time again, whenever they step out in faith, God honors them and shows them that He can be trusted.
Don and Anita have been in Melaka for seven and a half years now, and are still unsure of where God wants to use them next. “Expect the unexpected. There is no predictability to our lives.” They are currently leading a simple life dedicated to allowing God to use them right where they are— Don as a flying instructor, Anita as a counselor, and together as mentors to those who look to them for guidance.
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