Honestly I have had the desire to serve in general...I love helping and encouraging others anytime and in any way that I can. But God has really placed a passion in my heart for doing this internationally.
Let me rewind to my junior year of high school. I had been involved with Mission Friends, G.A.s and Acteens mission education programs since I was a toddler in church. But my junior year of high school, our church hosted a missions fair where missionaries from other states and countries had booths and we went around getting our "passports" stamped and hearing about their various ministries. That was when I first met a missionary couple from Scotland. I don't remember their names. I just remember them telling us all about the kids in schools there and how many of their parents spent the weekends getting drunk, leaving them to fend for themselves, and how the missionaries hosted a pancake breakfast each weekend for those kids. And how situations in their schools were so bad that they had certain areas of the schools "roped off" where students just did whatever they wanted, and teachers didn't bother to intervene. That day is the first that I ever remember feeling the urgent need to go somewhere and tell others about God's love and truth. I remember spending hours looking at the IMB websites and opportunities for teens, knowing that I would probably never have the opportunity to go as a teen, because of finances, and protective parents.
Fastforward to my junior year of college. I guess when I went to my small Christian college, I always just kind of had it in my mind that, at some point, I would probably get to go on a big mission trip, because that was what all students were supposed to do. I think part of that was because I knew I couldn't go in high school, but college would make it more likely. I wanted to go, but also had the idea that most people at Christian colleges just left having done that. (I also had it in "my plans" that I would meet a boy, date throughout college, and be married after I graduated, and ready to start a family. Another common misconception, especially when attending a small Christian college, but that's a whole separate blog post for another day...) Anyway, the summer after my sophomore year, I had the chance to stay for Mayterm and live with a wonderful family from my church. Our church had just started a wonderful new ministry for the community called "Arms Around Arkadelphia." After that local mission experience and much close time with church leaders and members, I began to have a desire for serving. That same summer I attended a one-week in-state mission trip with my church from home, working to build and develop a children's camp. Then, in the fall of my junior year, the information for summer mission trips came out. I'm not sure how or when God put Africa on my heart, but He did. And that summer, 2006, after my junior year was over...I had the amazing privilege of serving for three weeks in Senegal, West Africa. God gave me such a love and a passion for the people and the culture there. It was SO hard to leave, but I knew in my heart I wasn't saying goodbye. I knew that I would be back again one day. I also had the opportunity to serve unreached Indian people groups along the Amazon River Region in Brazil the summer after Africa, and spent part of Christmas break this past year serving in Mexico. I love, love, love serving and hope I will serve long-term one day.
And that is the hope I have hung on to for almost four years now. Wow, already four! I have looked at pictures, subscribed to e-mails, prayed for missionaries there, and longed to go back. I began the application process to go overseas for two years after college, but felt it was not God's timing, and I was to stay here and teach. And I love teaching. But...it sometimes feels temporary. Like I am here, but I am waiting for something. I want with all my heart to be the best servant and light for Christ that I can be where I'm at, but I want so badly to go and serve too. The practical side of me knows that I need to work and pay off debt, etc....But the other part of me knows that if it is God's timing, He will provide a way for me to go, a job when I get home, and another chance to pay off debt. So....all that to say -
I will be 25 in just two short months. And the cut-off for the Journeyman Missions program through the IMB used to be 21-29 years. There was also a program for 30 years and up or married couples with families who wanted to serve 2-3 years, but that program has been put on hold for now due to economic circumstances. And...the age limit for Journeyman has been lowered to 26. Yes, 26. As in one year from now for me, 26. And my heart still longs to go. And in my mind, I was prepared to stay here at this school for as long as I could - pay off debt, work, be practical, etc... I wanted to be sure it was God's timing and not mine when I went to serve.
I still know that He will provide a chance for me to go in the future because clearly it is Him who has given me this passion and urgency to serve. But...if Journeyman is the program I am supposed to serve through, I need to start applying soon. I need to be willing to set "practical" aside and have faith. I need to be willing to leave my job if that is what He has in store, and to go. I'm just having trouble discerning what is me, and what is Him. I am having trouble thinking about the fact that if I don't apply now and go by the time I am 26, I might not have another chance for a long time, because the 30+ program is on hold. Who knows? It could be back by the time I'm 30. And I could have another opportunity to go with some other organization. But the IMB provides for their workers as they go, and if I went with another group I would have to raise my support. So....these are the thoughts that are flooding my mind right now.
26? Really? That is SOON. And I want to go. I would probably go right now if I could. But...it's a scary thought too. And I am afraid I will rely on my own feelings. Please pray for me as I consider the possibilities and seek God's will and timing, not my own.
14How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?15And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" - Romans 10:14-15
1 Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Sing to the LORD, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples. - Psalm 96:1-3