You hear these stories of people doing miraculous things to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. People moving to the countries in Africa, adopting orphans, or living and dying amongst cannibalistic tribes in Latin America. These people have given up everything to follow the call of Jesus, and for years I have longed to be one of them.
When I was in high school I felt called to the mission field while on a transformative trip to Mexico. I spent the next few years traveling back every summer, and in college did mission work in Spain, Portugal, and India. I was preparing for God to send me full-time onto the International mission field. I was, and continue to be, ready to give up everything for His mission. The comforts of middle class life, my possessions, my family- they were all negligible to me when I considered how God could use me in the jungles of Peru or with the indigenous tribes in Ecuador. I never wanted to live in the United States. I stood before the Lord and said, "Send me, I'll go."
Yet God did not send me. At first I thought it was a punishment. My many efforts to go overseas after college fell through and I was distraught. I wanted to give up everything for Him, why wasn't He letting me go?? I ended up at Fuller Seminary, still planning to use the tools I was learning there to further God's mission in Latin America. After all, I had a Spanish degree, an Economics major, and was now learning the ins and outs of effective missions.
But God still did not send me. Instead, He diverted my path towards Arizona, where I have worked with the youth of the White Mountain Apache tribe for the last 3.5 years. Though I was in the US it was still a worthy mission. The tribal land feels like a different country, and the needs are great. I never questioned God's call on my life to the Apache people, but I was still living in relative comfort. I was able to go home to see family often and I was in a warm bed in a nice apartment with all of the amenities of middle class living. Sure, there isn't shopping in my town (other than Walmart) but that isn't a true sacrifice. In a way I felt guilty for serving God, yet still living a life with online shopping and other comforts.
So the question still stood for me, "God, if I am willing to give up everything for you to live and work in another country, why do You not let me go?"
I got married and my husband and I began talking about our future. Over and over again I expressed my desire to serve God overseas. My husband talked of his desire to be a dentist, a path that requires much preparation and 4+ years of dental school. Plans didn't seem to match up, and yet they also could. I began to imagine us being able to live and work with impoverished communities as my husband provided much needed dental care. It is still a prayer and a dream, but I wonder if perhaps I must simply have patience before God takes us overseas.
Patience. Waiting for something that may or may not come. I found myself questioning again the other day why He has not sent me, when I realized that I was asking the wrong question altogether. The questions I should be asking should look like this:
- What does it look like to live radically for God while living in the middle class?
- How can I live a life of service now, when my life may include a regular 9-5 job?
- What does it mean to serve God intentionally, and with an attitude of giving up everything, when I am placed in the suburbs of America?
- How can I serve God in a crazy way here and now, not waiting impatiently for something else to come along?
I will admit to you that I don't have all of the answers yet. I do not know why, in God's sovereign plan, He has denied my request and placed me in the US. But I do know that His plan is bigger and that I absolutely trust Him. When my life is in His hands, He guides me and leads me, and I have the utmost confidence in His leadership in my life.
So I decide to serve Him radically in whatever community I am placed, and to let that be enough. Through mentoring teenagers, giving generously of our possessions, and inviting people to stay in our home I must live intentionally right where I am. I will daily tell my God, here I am, send me, and I will have that confidence that sometimes God sends us right next door, and that is as beautiful and worthy a cause as moving to the jungle.