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“I could never be a missionary” How God shaped my heart for missions and confirmed my call.

Looking back I see a string of times God got my heart excited about missions but I was too unsure whether I could trust my feelings, unknowing if it was just my heart or God’s will. God, being the loving, patient parent He is, walked me step by step along this journey, reassuring me at every fork.

I have a very specific memory of sitting down as a small child on the floor with my mom and an interactive globe learning about the continents. She pointed to a small little Island just North of Australia and said “This is Papua New Guinea, it’s where my friends live; they are missionaries.” I remember having a conversation about what missionaries are and about missionary kids. I remember wishing I could be a missionary kid…

A few years later, when I was around elementary age, our church hosted a missions banquet, featuring visiting missionaries and speakers from around the world. I got to attend as a kid because I was in the youth choir and we sang a song as a part of the programming. At one point someone gave a speech with somewhat of a charge I guess—I just remember him or her asking whoever felt God’s call to missions to come to the front to receive prayer. I didn’t go, or even know what it meant to “feel called” to anything, but I was really excited and curious about everything that was happening and being spoken about during the conference.

Ever since then I’ve always admired missionaries and felt intrigued by their lives and calling but I'd always thought “I could never do that” because I had no intention to be a preacher and I wasn’t a skilled evangelist, and I had a disdain for public speaking.

Me and my little brother, 2000

I’ve always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and had a passion for babies and young children since I was basically a baby myself. I decided I should probably have a plan for college so that I had a way to support myself in adulthood. In high school I developed a passion for Photography and decided that was what I wanted to pursue. I figured I would major in business and photography so I could start a free-lance photography business, and If things didn't work out, I would have the business degree to fall back on. This was my plan for quite some time, but around 2013 I began feeling discontent with photography, I still had a passion and a love for it, I just felt like it wasn't what I was supposed to be doing as a job. The discontentment, I believe, was God beginning to prepare my heart for what He was about to ask me to do.

One of my photos from when I practicing photography

Also in high school, during my photography phase, I started growing an interest in blogging and I started reading and following blogs in my spare time. I especially liked reading this one blogger named Katie, her faith was inspiring.

Ecuador, 2015

As the regular church mission trip to Ecuador came around, I felt a strong pull to sign up. I remember how great of an experience my mission trip to Montana had been and I wanted to be a part of that again. I still was unsure of why I had become so interested in missions, I would have never thought I would/could ever do something like that long term.

Around this same time my friend Tiffany would go Zambia sometimes to help run a girls self-esteem camp. One day I sent her an email asking if next time she made the trip I could go with her. I have no Idea why I asked, I'd never wanted to be a missionary, but something just compelled me to ask if I could go.

These random, out of the ordinary promptings I now believe were the means by which the Holy Spirit called me to missions. It wasn’t this booming voice from heaven, but rather consistent whispers in the direction of missions.

The next week at Youth Group Sara, a missionary from Africa, had come to speak with us about missions. When I heard the topic, I turned to my mom and told her about Tiffany agreeing to take me with her to Zambia. Mom gave me this mysterious smile and replied:

"That's so cool, I was praying today about missions, my heart has always been missions, but I'm not sure that will be a reality for me anytime soon, but God kept bringing you to mind and how great you would be at it. I think God has been preparing my heart for this.”

I still wasn't sure I wanted to "be a missionary" I didn’t feel brave, or bold or capable.

As I sat and listened to Sara speak about her job teaching kids in Tanzania, I became drawn in. She talked about how God told her Africa was where He wanted her and how He spoke to her. It took all of my courage to speak up, but I asked her how she knew it was God speaking to her and not just her feelings. She gave me what I’m sure was a great answer, but I couldn't quite wrap my mind around what she was describing.

At the end of the night, for the first time ever I thought to myself “I could do that…I’m supposed to do that” I still wasn't sure if missions was what God wanted for me, or if I was just excited by Sarah's speech and wanted it for myself. As I drove home that night, pondering all of this new information, I prayed asking God to help me understand what He wanted for me and to help me discern if this was a calling or just excitement at a new idea. At some point during the prayer I began to hear what was on the radio; a song about orphans in Africa. I was encouraged, but not convinced. (spoiler alert: On my first trip to Africa 4 years later I was heading to volunteer in an orphanage and the night before I flew out this same song played on the radio. There were most certainly tears, happy and thankful tears)

Jinja Uganda, 2017

Remember me mentioning following Katie's blog? As I read, it never really sank in what she was doing. After God began bringing all of these new hopes into my life, it finally made sense. This girl is doing and blogging about exactly what I wanted to be doing! I knew I had to read her book, Kisses From Katie, but I didn't have it yet, so I decided to watch all of her videos on YouTube. I wasn’t one easily moved to tears, but her ministry videos and interviews always brought me to tears because her heart is so beautiful and I just knew that was what God wanted me doing; loving and serving little children.

One week I was sharing with my Bible Study Leader about this new desire the Lord had placed on my heart. She was happy to hear, then she informed me that it was really neat because she planned on giving us all a book as we finished our study and she thought I would really enjoy it. I started thinking to myself..”I wonder If it is the book Katie Davis had written about her ministry, but it couldn't be". At that moment, Mrs. Colvin asked if I had heard of the book "Kisses from Katie", of course I had. It was the exact book I had been wanting to read. I remember reading through the book and crying, longing for when I could go and live this new calling.

(another note: I didn't know until I was about ready to go, but the orphanage I visited was the same one that Katie visited when she first got involved in orphan care)

I did end up going on the trip to Ecuador the next two years and doing an internship there the year following. The deep-rooted joy I found despite some of the “inconvenience” of some of the things living in the jungle brought was further confirmation that I was headed in the right direction. It was the kind of joy that accompanies doing just what you were created for, and the lessons I learned those summers were lifelong.

Around this time I was nearing graduation and thinking about the future. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to go and join this organization in Africa as a teacher, move to Ecuador, or attend college. I prayed hard about what God wanted me to do. During the week I set aside to pray for direction God provided a scholarship to the school I had been looking into. I took that as an answer to prayer (and he confirmed this at every crossroads).

Basics Jr.- an after school kids ministry, 2014

In school I studied Ministry, Biblical Literature, and Intercultural studies/missions (though I didn’t entirely complete my second minor). My goal in college was to graduate and get a better idea of where God wanted me. I felt pretty secure in my calling to missions and to kids—where and exactly what, I was waiting to find out. Through college I said yes to opportunities I felt God had opened up and went on several different types of trips (missions, overseas volunteer trips, stateside ministry internships, and even non-ministry related time abroad) doing various things with different ages groups and focuses. I learned so much; what things I felt a pull towards and a purpose in, what areas I knew I wasn’t called to, I learned about myself, about faith and doubt, God’s provision, rest, suffering, and the shadow side of missions). To be completely honest, college was hard for me and so often I felt out of place—but I was confident that missions was where God wanted me and that I was supposed to finish my degree. Throughout my time in school I learned so much about myself and the Lord that it was such a beneficial time despite the challenge of that season of my life.

Papua New Guinea, 2018

l reconnected with Sam, and God through him led me to Wycliffe and quite divinely to my dream position working in a daycare for the missionaries in the community where we now live. This job offer was a big deal to me because I didn’t want to join an organization or head a direction because of a relationship, but to have a job that fit my personal calling and passion was encouraging and confirming. There was lots of prayer and seeking God’s will before making the decision to Join Wycliffe and move to Papua New Guinea with Sam. Little by little and prayer by prayer the Lord encouraged me to take steps forward. The offer of this job, my dream job, was confirmation that I was headed in the direction of His will for me.

The Goroka Show, PNG 2019

Here we are a few years later, living overseas by the grace of God. As most of you may know, I’m not in fact working with kids currently, but am actually back to working in media and communications (would I have known, I maybe would have put in a bit more practice, but oh well—I’ve heard God likes to use the weak and equip the called).

It’s interesting to look back on the blog post I wrote 6 years ago about God calling me away from pursuing photography, but instilling it as a hope and a tool in what greater thing He would call me to. Sitting where I am now, seeing it playing out in my present is neat.

“As I began to accept the fact that photography may not be the career that God has for me, I began to realize there are ways that I could use it to strengthen my ministry. For instance, I could use it to raise funds for my trips, I could take pictures and use them to raise awareness, and even start blogging about the work God is doing.” (personal blog April 22, 2013)

I’ll save talk about my role for a little later, because we are still sort of in a limbo with it, but basically that’s what I should be doing: taking photos to raise organizational awareness and sharing what God is doing within the organization… (and potentially helping with the work blog (? I don’t really know). This time of occupational limbo has led to a lot of personal blogging as well.

It still doesn’t make sense to me why God would lead me away from pursuing one passion to instill and develop a new passion for kids and childcare in missions, only to pull me back to where I started only a month before we were set to arrive on the field. But God is God and I am not, so I’m doing my best to find contentment where I am and finding joy in where He has placed me.

That’s the long story…I know it’s lengthy, but it’s also my life, so it’s not going to fit in a paragraph sort of summary.

However, for the sake of those considering a short trip or a step into long term missions here are a few more practical answers to the question of how I knew that mission work was for me:

-God gently led me and showed me the joy I found in serving Him in this particular field of ministry.

-I specifically asked God if this was what He wanted for me and I LISTENED for his reply—disclaimer—-It didn’t come as an all at once answer from heaven—it took years of listening, waiting, preparing, and being willing to say yes even when it felt scary and confusing.

—I felt a deep joy (despite some really hard circumstances) and that feeling of “I was created to do just this”

—God continually allowed circumstances that prepared me for the challenges and differences of living on the field. And grew me as a person in ways that readied me for this life.

Some people feel called to a people and a place and go just there. That’s great but that’s not my story; I had several experiences in different countries doing different kinds of work and I just said yes when He asked me to go somewhere and He refined my call each time.

All I knew when I started out that I was supposed to do something in missions and something with kids—and look! He brought me a job running a daycare in another country. And hey, last minute that fell through and now I’m working in the communications department doing something I also love. Life doesn’t always make sense—and honestly I have no idea why God pulled me out of a path pursuing photography to pursue childcare and give me my dream job on the field only to change (my) plans at the last moment—but If I’ve learned anything about missions its how to be FAT; Flexible Adaptable and Teachable.

And while I feel I’m doing a pretty good job at remaining flexible and adapting to the changes (job elimination, new role in a new department, boss left suddenly before I got a job description, etc), It’s not always easy.

I’m finding joy in my new role and though there are still sometimes still pangs of disappointment I cannot wait to see what God teaches me here in this season and I’m praying I stay open to what He wants me to learn where I am now.

Maybe you’re sitting where I was—thinking “I’m intrigued, but I could never do that”. If so, I just want to encourage you in this:

missionaries are just people, they/we aren’t perfect

I know it’s cliche but it’s also true: God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called. And sometimes that equipping takes 7+ years before you get to start living the calling (it took Joshua around 38 years before he was able to enter the promised land and then ~7 more years of conquest before they could rest in the land)—and sometimes the calling doesn’t look like you thought it would.

I mean, honestly:

I thought I’d be single, working with and teaching orphans in Africa

Then I thought I’d be living in the jungles of Ecuador

and then I thought I’d be living out my heart’s biggest dream working with small children in Papua New Guinea.

And here I am, overseas yes, in missions, yes. But God has plans bigger than you and I can imagine—and all He requires is our obedience.

So, whether he asks you to move overseas,

to start and run a company in the US,

to rest,

to work at a fast food place,

to stay at home with your kids,

to work a corporate job,

to go {back} to school,

or simply to take the next step forward

He places you exactly where He can make you the most like Christ. It’s our job to be obedient and listen to what He’s trying to teach us wherever he has us.

Let’s all be Flexible, Adaptable, and Teachable as we strive to become more like Christ and bring Him glory right where He has us.


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