Travis & Johanna – Our Story before we met | We love sharing our story because it’s not just about us. It’s really a story of God’s faithfulness and grace in our lives. Everyone’s life journey is unique, but we hope ours sparks a new hope in your heart for what God wants to do in your life, not only in regard to relationships or marriage but to any other situation that you are looking to Him for. He is a present Father, capable of the impossible, and he knows exactly what we need and when we need it. So here it is. We hope you enjoy the read!
Before we met
We’ll take you back. Way back… Travis was born and raised in a beautiful little town near the coast in central California. It’s surrounded by rolling hills, gorgeous wine country, and friendly people. Everyone seems to know each other and in the half an hour tour of the city, he can show you where he was born, went to school, played endless hours of soccer, and the house he called home for the first 18 years of his life. He grew up in a sports family where everyone played. And so, Travis’s love for the game of soccer developed.
I (Johanna) on the other hand, was born into a rather gypsy-like family. We moved as if it was our hobby! I was born in Germany, to missionary parents, and spent my first 2 years in Malawi, Africa. Then we moved to California, Germany, Moscow, and Bermuda.
Moving, adapting, and meeting new people was second nature to me, and although leaving my friends was hard, I always loved the feeling of a new adventure!
In 7th grade, a school friend invited Travis to church for the first time. The only reason he really went, was for all the cute girls. Who wouldn’t? One summer, they went to a Christian camp, and all week long he had felt God tugging at his heart. When the pastor made an altar call, he didn’t hesitate, but ran up and gave his life to God! Sadly, his friend was tragically killed in a car accident just a few months after that. This was the first time Travis was faced with the reality of death and it left a huge impact on his life. But as time went on, he slowly drifted back into his previous lifestyle, and God took backstage. At 19, he moved down to LA to grow his first business. In midst of his growing success, he realized that no matter how many celebrities he met or how much money he made, he still felt empty. It was then, that God reminded him of his encounters with Him and the fulfillment he experienced in His presence. While driving down the Pacific Coast Hwy one day, he drove past a church and decided to give it a try again. After attending, he felt an instant connection with the community of people there. This place would quickly turn into his spiritual home. A place where he grew in his understanding of God and in his relationship with Him, where he made life-long friendships and was introduced to missions.
I had grown up with a basic faith in God through my parents, but it wasn’t until I was 9 that I actually responded to Jesus’ offer to save me of my sins. My family and I were just traveling through Florida and visited a new church. The Sunday school teacher seemed to be speaking right to me, and I decided I wanted to give my life to Jesus. It was solid Christian friendships that were key during my high school years and kept me from a lot of wrong decisions. One of my friends always challenged us to not just be ‘nominal Christians’, but really strive to live actively for God (even after summer camp was over).
While Travis got involved in different ministries at his church, one of his newfound passions became overseas mission trips! First to Mexico, then Vietnam. That completely shook his world. Especially coming back to LA, after witnessing such poverty. Something shifted in him… he realized that material things don’t have as much value as we are made to believe. Africa was his next stop – Malawi, Uganda, and South Africa. His heart for the lost grew more and more, and after working full time for his church and finishing his degree in Leadership & Ministry, he wanted to know if God was calling him into full-time mission work.
I returned to California to study Psychology. Little did I know, that my future husband lived just half an hour away from me! During college, I had led a small mission trip to Malawi. This little country in the middle of Africa felt oddly comforting and completely strange at the same. Returning after 6 weeks, I definitely left a part of my heart behind. Moving back to Germany, I started working for a small missions organization. It was my job to motivate, prepare, and send young people out on short term missions! After a couple of years, I started praying about possibly going out to the mission field myself – and one day God asked me if I was ready. They were planning on starting an orphan care center in remembrance of two cousins that were martyred for their faith in Yemen. One of them was my friend, that I first met in Malawi on my college missions trip.
God started growing a strong desire and inner call to go – my heart was to go and love these little ones. Take them in, raise them, and tell them about the One who loves them the most, Jesus Christ.
During a trip to Australia, Travis spent time praying and seeking God’s will. A church in New Zealand reached out to him and asked him to come to help them train up some leaders. So he initially went there for a month and ended up staying for 4 years! In his first months there, he saw the real need for local ministry leadership and poured his heart, time, and energy into training them up. This is where he had to step out in faith. Trusting in God’s call, he gave up the comforts of friendships, family, and life in LA, believing that God will provide for his every need. This was a season of getting to know God on a whole new level, being able to use all that God had taught him in a practical way to build up the body of Christ! He loved pouring into the young people, encouraging them, and showing them that there is more to life than what the world tells you. He also infused a love for worship into their hearts. Road trips, evangelism, reaching out to the needy, sports – all a means to share the love of Jesus.
The day had finally come – I was packed and all ready for my year in Malawi! I was thankful to be part of a small team, and together it was our mission to start up an orphan care center. Full of anticipation and eager to be used by God, we set out, step by step. Learning a completely new culture, their rules and norms, and the basics of their language. Speaking to village chiefs, seeing absolute poverty and hopelessness, and being able to take children in, were very impressionable moments for me. Driving on the back of pick-up trucks, wearing long skirts, the smell of fire on each street corner. Hundreds of people walking, always going somewhere, and the smiles. So many smiles! Malawi is known as one of the poorest countries of the world, but more so as the ‘warm heart of Africa’.
One year had turned into two, two into three, and after four I said ‘I’ll stay until God tells me to go’.
I stayed for almost 8 years.
Looking back, we both love and deeply cherish those years of missions. Being single and doing missions really allowed us to invest ourselves completely into the things God was calling us to. And still, we both had a deep desire to get married. A longing to share life and ministry with a ‘partner-in-crime’.
Something we quickly learned on the mission field, was that it required a lifestyle of sacrifice. Going out to the field really meant fully surrendering your life, your safety, your provision, and relationships into God’s control. It’s interesting that we often have the perception of being in control in our comfort zones, and stepping out of that place makes us aware that we really aren’t in control. This also meant, that in the face of deep loneliness, we needed to draw closer to Christ and trust that no matter how impossible it seemed, He is able to bring along our future spouse. But to be honest, sometimes my trust was running on low, and I often wondered if God might have forgotten about me! I started asking God if He didn’t want me to get married? Maybe His plan was for me to stay single and continue to invest fully into the people around me? It’s hard when you’ve waited for years and years. But no matter what, we both knew we wanted to serve God with our lives.
Little did we know what surprises God had waited, just around the corner…