They had established careers—he in the commercial tire business and she as a church treasurer. They owned a home and most of the things Americans would consider to be “normal” possessions. They had finished raising their children and were faithful servants in their local church.
The Hammits were, by most definitions, comfortable.
That comfort soon was disrupted, though, and the couple could not be happier about it.
Just one year ago, as Karla Hammit ran through a sound check with a Lottie Moon Christmas Offering video to be played in a Sunday morning church service, God pricked her heart with a stinging burden for the lost around the world and her duty to share the saving knowledge of Christ with them.
“That clip and the message portrayed broke my heart, and I could not get away from the conviction of the Holy Spirit and God’s call to get busy about his work,” she said.
That burden continued to grow, though Karla had not yet shared it with her husband Denis. When Karla joined the rest of the church staff on a retreat, the burden turned into a clear call from the Lord—one so distinct that she could not deny its presence. As she shared aloud about the burden on her heart for the first time, she asked the staff to join her in prayer for what God would have her do and for how she should broach the subject with Denis, not wanting to interfere with the Holy Spirit’s work or timing in his heart.
A few months later, Karla attended the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s SENT Conference in Euless in order to gather travel safety information for their church’s short-term missions teams. Denis came along to see what the conference was all about and to spend a few days with his wife. God, though, had bigger plans.
Karla said that Brad Womble, International Mission Board missionary and mobilization strategist, captivated them with his story and message that all Christians are called to go and to tell of Christ’s redemptive work.
“Again we heard, ‘True followers of Christ don’t sit in the safety of the church building. They go,’” Karla recalled.
For the Hammits, “going” began with a walk to the altar to pray and surrender to a call from the Lord that was now clear to both husband and wife, though the details remained completely obscured.
“At the end of the last sermon, the altar was open for people to come and pray or make commitments,” Karla said. “Denis took me by the hand and we knelt there before the Lord and surrendered our lives to his service, wherever that might be.”
They took seriously the surrender they offered that day at the conference and did not let it become an emotionally charged or passing moment. Instead, they got busy, selling their home, paring down their possessions and preparing to “go” by preparing a will.
“We sold everything,” Karla said. “We were homeless and happy about being homeless.”
In keeping with God’s continually clear direction for them, preparing their will led them to what the Lord would have as their next step. As they met with Johnathan Gray, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation, to begin the process of preparing the will, they shared what the Lord was doing in their lives and the call to missions they believed he laid on their hearts. Gray encouraged Denis to look into attending seminary, which Karla said was in line with other godly counsel they had received. Within the next few weeks, Denis enrolled in classes at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, the foundation hired Karla and then Denis to work at its Grapevine office and the seminary approved the couple’s application to move into campus housing.
The student housing situation could have sent the two into a frenzy, the rental being unfurnished and the couple having just sold all their furniture, but the Hammits by then had come to expect God’s faithfulness and provision. They soon found a solution to their predicament, literally, on the side of the road.
“As we drove through a neighborhood to visit family, we saw a round, wooden kitchen table sitting on the curb with a sign taped to the front: ‘FREE,’” Karla recalled. “Our hearts were beating fast when we walked to the door of the house to be sure this was for real. The man said the table had been there for two days and was ours for the taking.”
And those are the sorts of things the Lord has just continued to do over and over for the couple who has now returned from the first of several vision trips to France—a place to which they feel the Lord drawing them.
“Day after day after day, we’ve seen God do these things and provide.”
The simpler life they now live in their campus tri-plex with no TV, preparing to go share the gospel with the lost people of France—a population which providentially includes some of Denis’ family whom he had never met—has given them more time for the things that matter.
“We now have more of a dependent focus on what God’s going to do next,” Karla said. “I’m a planner. This has totally taken the planning out of things. There’s such a sense of freedom. We own very little. It’s our culture to be like, ‘Everybody has this, and I want one just like it.’ We’re not having that and not really even missing it.
“That’s part of what God’s done in our life—shown us that all of the excess and waste we have in our country is not going to be needed on the mission field.”
During their first vision trip to France, Karla and Denis, whose French name was given to him by his mother—a native French woman who married an American during World War II—had the opportunity to connect with Denis’ French family members, who, like many in France, do not know the Lord.
“There were seeds planted there,” Karla said. “They were curious about what we were doing and why we’re doing it. If we don’t ever touch another life, we can start there.”