Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Testimony...

Sometimes I get caught up in the idea that a "testimony" has to be exciting or come with a story about living in major sin and being rescued, saved, and set on fire for God. Yes, I am a sinner, and yes, I have been rescued and saved by God and His son Jesus who died for me. But...that's just it. A testimony is about how God has changed your life, worked in your life, or allowed you to grow in Him. Sometimes it is an account of recent ways God has been at work, sometimes a life story, and sometimes a story about the past. As part of the Journeyman application I had to share my testimony, directed at some specific questions, including how/when I felt called toward international missions. There is so much more I could have said about my life, my amazing God, and the past few years. But "in 6,000 words or less..." I wrote this, and I want to share it with you too...

My personal walk with Christ began when I was a child. I was blessed to grow up in a family where I was a part of church from the time I was born. As a child, my parents and siblings provided examples to me of what living a Godly life looked like. They taught me Bible stories, helped me memorize Scripture, and instilled in me the importance of being deeply involved in a church body. 
It was through these examples and those of leaders in my church that I eventually realized my need to accept Jesus as my personal Savior. At the age of six, during Vacation Bible School, I prayed publicly, making a commitment to give my life to Christ. I was then baptized by immersion at First Baptist Church of St. James, Missouri, and my journey as a Christian began. 
Since making my decision to follow Christ, nineteen years have passed. Time has provided opportunity for both growth and challenges in my walk. Throughout my childhood, youth, and college life, I was actively involved in church discipleship programs like Vacation Bible School, Sunday School and small group Bible studies, as well as mission groups like Mission Friends, GAs, and Acteens. I was challenged to grow in my knowledge of the Bible and in faith while seeing the importance for missions locally and around the world. 
Though I was a Christian, it wasn’t always easy for me to share my faith growing up. Often I lacked the boldness and courage to openly witness to others. I tried my best to live a Christian life and show a difference to those around me, but when it came to approaching them in conversation, I never quite felt ready. I prayed often for God to use me, but always felt one step away from crossing the line and stepping outside my comfort zone.
College truly provided a time for me to grow independently as a Christian. For the first time I was on my own, making the decision to attend church myself. I grew deeply involved in the fellowship of First Baptist Church of Arkadelphia, and God provided many opportunities for me to actively practice sharing the love and truth of Christ. I became passionate about reading the Bible and sharing the truth with others, even when it meant feeling uncomfortable. I developed a passion for serving others and experienced joy unlike I had ever experienced before. Slowly, God began to lead me out of of my comfort zone, and this time, I followed. 
My first opportunity to really share my faith came when I began working with an ESL ministry on my college campus my junior year. It was during this time that I had the chance to take the NAMB church-based ESL training. After attending this training, I began teaching ESL each week, and God brought international friends from all over the world to the classes. I began to pray for boldness once again, and He provided opportunities for me to share Scripture as I taught, and eventually answer questions about my personal walk with Christ. It was through this experience that my heart for international ministry grew even stronger. 
But God didn’t stop at my campus. He had bigger plans. The following year, my heart began to develop a passion for Africa. To my surprise, I found out a team from my college would be traveling to Senegal the following summer. I knew God had put Africa on my heart, and I knew I was supposed to be a part of the team. Though at times I struggled with feeling inadequate and unsure of how God would use me, I continued to pray. When the time finally arrived to travel to Senegal, I was amazed and humbled at the ways God worked in me and through me. It was as if He put pieces together like a puzzle, taking my previous experiences with ESL, study of French, and love for people and children, and connecting them all in His perfect way. While in Africa, I truly felt God’s calling in my heart to pursue international missions long-term in the future. 
The next summer, I traveled with a group from my church to the Amazon River Region in Brazil and had the wonderful opportunity to serve and share the Gospel with many people, some who had never been visited by a group of outsiders before. My heart was burdened, and I saw those we met as God’s people, hungry for the truth and for His living word. I experienced the same heart as I traveled to Mexico recently on another mission trip. There, I had the privilege of meeting people of all ages - children, teenagers, men and women, a majority of whom were missing out on the joy of Christ. Once again, God gave me His eyes, overlooking the material needs and seeing the spiritual needs of those we met. 
The biggest lesson God has revealed to me in my calling to mission work is the importance of availability. If I had simply listened to myself and continued to feel unqualified or inadequate, or if I had remained unwilling to step outside of my comfort zone, I would not have been used in the ways I have been over the past four years. I have learned that a calling is not always what I expect it to be, or an immediate opportunity to travel overseas. Most often, God is calling me, right where I am, to be a light to a hurting world that lives around me here. I pray daily that I will be a ray of light and an example of His joy and strength to those I meet here and now. I get to share his mercy and love with children and co-workers every day as I teach school and know He has placed me here for a reason. But I also pray that the desire He has given me to serve overseas will one day be fulfilled in His timing. I trust that God will give me the skills and the means necessary to carry out the call, and that one day I will share the testimony He has given me with those around the world who have never had the opportunity to hear His Good News. 

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