Sent: How One Ordinary Family Traded the American Dream for God's Greater Purpose

Sent: How One Ordinary Family Traded the American Dream for God's Greater Purpose

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by Hilary Alan

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Two words from Jesus change everything 
If anyone had the ability to succeed as a committed Christian as well as a high-achieving American, it was Hilary Alan. She and her husband, Curt, had a beautiful home, a fast-track career, and talented, successful children. But in the midst of their comfortable life and active church involvement,


Two words from Jesus change everything 
If anyone had the ability to succeed as a committed Christian as well as a high-achieving American, it was Hilary Alan. She and her husband, Curt, had a beautiful home, a fast-track career, and talented, successful children. But in the midst of their comfortable life and active church involvement, they realized they rarely heard from God.
Sent tells the story of ordinary Christians who accepted two words from Jesus at face value and found that doing so changed everything. In Jesus’s call to “follow me,” the Alans discovered answers to the most pressing human needs: meaning, purpose, vocation, significance, and God’s plan for the future. For the Alans, it led to selling nearly all their belongings and moving with their children halfway around the world. For you, the particulars will be completely different, but no less significant. Jesus’s call can change everything in your life.
As you follow Hilary Alan’s journey in response to Jesus’s call to discipleship, you will gain a clear understanding of the things that can keep you from obeying God. You will no longer wonder if you’re investing your life in the best way possible, because two words from Jesus change everything.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Sent

“There are people who talk a lot about going on adventures with God, and then there are people who actually go. The Alans are part of the latter group. In the years I’ve known them it has been an honor to watch their story unfold. I’m thrilled that now you will get the chance to hear their story as well!”
— Jon Acuff, Wall Street Journal best-selling author of Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job & Your Dream Job and Stuff Christians Like

“What kids really need is not the best of everything—clothes, education, opportunities. Our kids need parents who become heroes to them by following Christ into difficult situations where ‘success’ is not the goal. They also need relationships with young adults who are completely in love with Jesus. That is so much more important than having them in a youth group with kids who are at least as clueless as your own. I wish every American parent could read Sent.”
— Kathy Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York, NY

Sent chronicles one family’s journey from the comforts of America to the challenges of going to the nations. You will be blessed and convicted by what you read. The Alan family’s story can help change you for the glory of King Jesus!”
— Daniel L. Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Having spent years leading the largest missionary-sending agency in the world, I never ceased to be amazed at the parade of young families that turned their backs on the comfort, security, and affluence of the American Dream to take the gospel to unreached nations. Sent is the inspiring testimony of one of those families. Be prepared to face the challenge of making the same radical choice.”
— Jerry Rankin, president emeritus, International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention

“What do you do if you discover that the American Dream is not God’s dream for you? Sent is the gritty story of an ordinary American family—a family just like yours—that gave up comforts and careers in exchange for God’s call. Compelling, transparent, and convicting, this book will open your heart to the possibility that God has a different dream for your life.”
— Brian Fikkert, coauthor of When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself

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Read an Excerpt


How One Ordinary Family Traded the American Dream for God's Greater Purpose
By Hilary Alan

WaterBrook Press

Copyright © 2013 Hilary Alan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780307731579

Answer Just One Question

Everyone is living for something. Having goals in life is a good thing, and working hard to make a name for yourself and achieve something big are good things too. That’s what the American Dream is all about. Many of us spend our lives trying to have it all, or at least to be seen as having it all.

We crave success. We need significance. Ultimately, we want our lives to count for something, something that matters. But in addition to all that, we would love to gain respect, power, position, and prestige—because those are things that help us feel valued.

And then there is money. Whether we admit it or not, we enjoy the things money brings. We love comfort, and we want to feel secure. These are things we build our American lives on.

But what if you were making steady progress in most of the areas of life that bring comfort, security, earthly significance, and maybe even wealth, and then you found out that you were doing life all wrong? What if that realization led you to radically change the trajectory of your life? And what if changing your life meant that you would also reroute the lives of your spouse and your teenage children?

That is what happened to my family.

My husband, Curt, and I had a life that most American couples aspire to. We had career achievements, work that fit our talents and interests, two great kids, and a comfortable home in an area we loved. We considered ourselves “serious” Christians who were involved in our church and ready to serve when needs arose. It was easy to share what we had, because even after sharing we had more than enough left over.
There was no earthly reason why we should start questioning the legitimacy of our lives.

But we did question it, and in seeking answers we changed just about everything that we had looked to for our security, our identities, and our places in the community.

Meaning, identity, goals, success. These things drive us, and living in America gives us readymade ways to seek to fulfill these basic needs. What’s wrong with driving a reliable car, living in a comfortable home, and sending our children to good schools where they can excel academically and shine in the areas where they have been gifted?
Aren’t these the standards we all reach for?

Curt and I reached for that standard and exceeded it. And having achieved the goals we set for ourselves, we were still asking, “Who and what am I living for? Myself? My children? My career? My income? My reputation? A promotion? A bigger house? A more expensive car? Retirement?”

Maybe you have asked some of these same questions. Perhaps you have achieved far more than we had by age forty. Maybe you achieved these things long before you hit forty. It’s possible you are still working hard to lay hold of your goals. Or maybe you have reached a place in life where comfort and security and status and success have lost their luster.

If you have started asking, “What is it that I’m living for?” I hope reading the story of the Alan family from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, will help point you to some answers. I hope our experience will lead to a shared pursuit of how God is leading His people to
fulfill the basic human needs of meaning, significance, identity, and success.

Make no mistake. I am not a woman who turned her life around as a desperate response to having suffered deep tragedy. My story is just the opposite. I was living a life that I absolutely loved. I was happy, and I had it all.

Curt and I had surpassed our dreams. I felt blessed. I certainly wasn’t looking for a change. Why would I? I couldn’t think of any change that would improve on the life we already had. Yet God had a life waiting for me that I couldn’t see because I was so intoxicated by my myopic definition of a great life. I was impressed by how well Curt
and I had done.

I didn’t realize that I had traded life for a lie. I had no idea that my heart had grown hard and unaware of the things that matter to God. I had learned to be content with what I later came to realize was the least important aspect of life.

Here is part of the lie that is easiest for us to buy into. We are convinced that when we go into overdrive to assure the safety and comfort of our family—positioning everyone for success—that God is pleased with us. Good parents make sure their kids have everything they need to ensure a successful outcome. It stands to reason that a responsible parent does not want his or her children to suffer or fail. It’s all about
providing them with security and stability.

Here is the truth we often are blinded to: when we live for safety and comfort and success, we train our children to do the same. The most convincing lies are the ones that do the best job of mimicking what is good.

The American Dream includes providing the best home you can for your children, which in our culture is thought to be the biggest, most comfortable house you can afford. Often, living in a part of town where big houses predominate makes it possible for you to help your kids form friendships among a “good” group of kids. And it makes it easier to enroll your kids in a “good” school, where they will benefit from outside activities, get into the right classes, and earn good grades—which will set them on the path to the best college. Add it all up and boom! You have the best chance of coming out with the best kid. Our family had all of these going strong, plus we had what we saw as the added bonus of having our kids in church and youth group. It’s hard to argue that God would want to interrupt any of this by pulling your family out of such a forward-looking way of life. Would God really want you to pursue a different kind of life?

What does it mean to change the trajectory of your life when doing so will completely change the lives of your high-school and middle-school-age children? I have yet to come across a parenting book or parenting “expert” who would encourage radical lifestyle changes, especially during those sensitive years. If anything, from the moment our children are born, we work hard to build the most secure foundation possible. We want them to be well grounded, especially in preparation for the dreaded teenage years. We lie awake at night figuring out how to combat the destructive influences that are sure to attack our children.

Most parents and even the experts would agree that the absolute worst time to uproot a child is during either middle school or high school. I know parents who turned down significant job promotions during those years because they thought moving would be too traumatic, and risky, for their teenagers. Good parents don’t do that to their kids, or so the conventional wisdom goes.

Not that I worried about such things. Curt and I enjoyed thriving careers in North Carolina, with no thought about moving in order to further our success. Everything was proceeding as planned for our family. Until 2002, that is. That’s when God started to confront us with troubling questions about how we were living our lives. At the time it seemed to come out of nowhere. Looking back on it now, though, I can see how things were working together to get our attention.

When you are satisfied with your life and living up to the expectations that are set for being a good parent, it’s easy not to examine your life very closely. But God got our attention, and He didn’t give up. So in 2006 we let go of everything that was familiar to us. Before long, Curt and I and our teenagers were living a life that was so different
from what any of us had experienced before, we knew nothing would ever be the same.

It was years in the making, starting with a troubling statement made by a speaker at a conference Curt attended. From that point on, Curt and I began to consider other  options, and the changes we started making were step by step, with no indication of all that was in front of us.

We shifted from being a comfortable, upper-middle-class American family to American Christian immigrants in Muslim Southeast Asia. And it began with just twenty-two words: “The two greatest moments of your life are the day you are born and the day you  discover why you were born.”

That is what Curt heard Kirbyjon Caldwell, a megachurch pastor from Houston, say at Willow Creek Association’s 2002 Global Leadership Summit. It was a “wow” moment. And when Curt came home and told me about it, I had the same reaction. If those words were true, then we knew something was not quite right with our carefully planned, “perfect” life.

Sure, we knew the days we were born, but we didn’t have a clue about the reason why we were born. We didn’t even know that we needed to know why we had been born.

Finding the answer was the critical missing piece. If we could discover the reason we had been born, it would make everything else make sense. So we began a quest. We became obsessed with the word purpose. This was around the time that Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life was published. “Problem solved! We’ll read that book and
find our purpose, which must be the reason why we were born, and all will be well!”

Or so we thought.


Excerpted from Sent by Hilary Alan Copyright © 2013 by Hilary Alan. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

HILARY ALAN, a former public relations professional, is a wife and mother of two children. Hilary and her family moved to Southeast Asia in the aftermath of a tsunami that destroyed villages, homes, businesses, and hundreds of thousands of lives. Today, the Alans continue to advance the work of Christ internationally in their involvement with a church in North Carolina as they prepare for another overseas assignment.

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Sent: How One Ordinary Family Traded the American Dream for God's Greater Purpose 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
r belongings and moving your family halfway around the world is a huge testimony to this family's faith in God and it was very inspiring to me.  What was most meaningful is the reminder that God doesn't say to us "Come follow Me and be comfortable."  He calls us to obedience and that call is simple but not always easy.  I highly recommend this book for anyone who is pursuing expanding their comfort zone for a higher cause.
HMeier More than 1 year ago
The Alan's are a Suburban All-American Family living the "American Dream". They sell everything to move to Thailand to assist in Tsunami relief efforts. Before embarking on this journey they put their yes on the table to God by saying, "Yes, Lord, I will do what You ask me to do and go where You send me. No conditions." The Alan family packs up and heeds God's calling to a strict Muslim area. They embrace the culture by dressing culturally appropriate, working alongside their Muslim friends in the rice fields and learning the language. Because of the family's respect of the Southeast Asian culture, the family is able to share the gospel and pray with their Muslim friends. The story also chronicles how living as a minority in a land far away from what you have always known strengthens your family bond. Siblings become best friends. Your relationships with your friends become more familial. You gain more understanding from going to Church, because church is in your home and everyone must participate. In addition, you become more intentional and passionate about your activities. Daughter, Molly, exhibited. when there are no dance classes or instructors you really have to work extremely hard to hone and continue with your passion. I'm wondering how many of us are willing to do the same? To trust so deeply in God's design for our lives and wait ever so patiently for him to answer our questions, present company included. I am trying. I'm really, really trying.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JMRaby More than 1 year ago
Tears flowed down my cheeks on this book. I found myself in this story as we left similar things when we departed for Spain as "missionaries" (careful with that word!). Everyone likes a good story, and the author tells the story in small bite sized chunks that are easy to chew on. If I had to be critical about the book the only thing I would say is that instead of stating all the things they left, I would try to focus on the WHO they went for: JESUS. Remember I said "IF" I had to be critical about this book that is what I would say. She does speak of Jesus, and his graciousness and that is what I glory in. That He is given the credit! It is a good quick read that will challenge you even if you don't decide to move your family 4000 miles away, but then again
J_Alfred_Prufrock More than 1 year ago
     Sent is an excellent book that shows what it is really like to answer God's call on your life. While the market is flooded with "professionals" telling us how to follow God, this book shows us what that looks like. Alan does an excellent job in conveying her fears without dressing her and her family's story in the pretense of their own goodness. Want to know what it looks like for an ordinary person, with a real family and real attachment to wealth, to give up their present course and follow their calling? This is definitely the book for you.