You may not know this about me, but when I was in college and my early twenties, I wrestled with a call to full-time mission work. After serving on several short-term mission teams in a few different countries, I had fallen in love with the people and cultures of Jamaica and Venezuela. I loved the food, the slower pace of life, the smiles and laughter of the children, and the true joy and sincerity of faith that comes from truly depending on Jesus because there is little else to depend on. I did not wrestle with whether or not I could leave my family and the comforts of home; no, I already felt at home there and would have gladly “left my nets” to follow Jesus.
Instead, I wrestled with whether or not my heart’s desire was actually His desire for me or simply my own. So, just as Abraham placed Isaac on the altar, I laid my dreams of mission work at my Father’s feet, trusting Him to do whatever was best with them. After much prayer (and honestly, to my great surprise- I mean, how could mission work NOT be His will??) I had my answer. The Lord clearly closed those doors and soon led me in a different direction… a wonderful life as a “pastor’s wife” while I continued in youth ministry, then helping Jeff plant a church, and eventually being a stay at home mom, homeschooling our four children. Still mission work, really, just an entirely different kind than I expected.
I am grateful for every step of the path my Father has chosen for me. No, it is not the sort of Elisabeth Elliot life that inspires future generations, and it doesn’t exactly look impressive or life-changing on social media, like the stories of so many others who are changing lives in Africa and around the world. Instead, my faith has been walked out in mundane, everyday, ordinary ways. I will be honest and tell you that sometimes that has been a challenge for my prideful heart. My heart’s desire has always been to offer all that I am and all that I have to Jesus, and for Him to use me in BIG ways for His glory.
Apparently, His desire is to use me in small ways for His glory.
Wiping noses and cooking dinner and helping with schoolwork and praying Scripture over my children does not always seem like very much to offer Him. In fact, it seems rather small and useless most of the time! But as I look at our children now, who are growing up to be kind, thoughtful, Jesus-loving people, the so-called “small ways” have become big in their own way. My prayer has changed- not that I would DO big things, but that my faithfulness in the small things would enable BIG things for His Kingdom, and I am grateful they have.
And that is why this week was such a gift to me…
This week our family had the privilege of joining some friends on a Family mission trip to North Carolina. We served a small Hispanic mission church by putting on a Vacation Bible School for the children of their community. The pastor borrowed buses from larger churches in Ashville and then drove down the poorer streets in nearby towns, knocking on doors and inviting the children to get on the bus and come to VBS for the day. Children (as young as 4 years old) through teenagers climbed aboard, most of them for the first time, not really even knowing where they were going or what to expect. The buses arrived at the church by 8:30 each morning and departed around 2:00 each afternoon. During the hours in between, the children were fed breakfast, participated in a worship time with music, skits, Bible stories, and prayer time, and then went down by the river for snacks, games, crafts, lunch, and free play with our team. The meals were important, since many of them would not have eaten because school is not in session. For five and a half hours, we were able to love on these children and shower them with the joy that comes from knowing Jesus. We were able to serve side by side with several Hispanic families from the church (most who did not speak any English), and plant seeds in the hearts of children who had never even heard of Jesus. It was powerful and precious and exhausting and inspiring.
Above all, it was holy ground.
I watched my husband step out of his comfort zone and, after decades of leading adults, joyfully lead worship and share Bible Stories with a room full of children from a completely different culture. I watched as our Eli overcame his shyness and made friends with the Hispanic children by playing soccer. There wasn’t a single moment that our Abby didn’t have a child hanging on her back or climbing in her lap, laughing with glee at the smile on her face and the love in her heart. Our oldest daughter, Sarah, gladly used her gifts in helping lead worship, and then chose to serve behind the scenes by entertaining the babies and toddlers for the Hispanic mamas as they prepared lunch for the group. And our little Noah, at 8 years old, was quite possibly the greatest evangelist we had, praying for the entire group whenever a volunteer was asked for, helping the other kids catch fish in the river and talking to them about Jesus calling us to be Fishers of Men (among the many other “lessons” he taught as he played). The rest of our teammates, mostly teenagers we have grown to love as our own, were just as involved and inspiring. It was beautiful!
And in the midst of watching God use my family for His glory, a little 4 year-old boy named Joel decided he liked me. With all those fun, spunky teenagers to choose from, for some reason, Joel chose me. He wanted ME to throw the ball with him and play soccer with him and find treasure with him. He wanted ME to take him in the river and help him catch fish and tell him stories. He wanted ME to eat lunch with him and hold him in my lap and pray over him (well, I’m not sure he wanted that last part but I did it anyway!!). It was like I was twenty again, in a far away land, loving this child in the name of Jesus. Jeff commented that it was beautiful watching me be totally in my element, which I was. It was an unexpected gift; manna for this momma’s heart. I am grateful.
Next week, we will be back at home.
I will continue to pray for little Joel and all our other new friends as I sort through curriculum and school supplies and get us ready for school to start back. I will be cooking dinner and folding laundry and lots of other “ordinary” things for the people I love most; all to the glory of God in the place He has called me. I will encourage my husband and love my children and lead my small group girls, joyfully watching as He uses my small acts of faithfulness for a greater impact. And I will be grateful, for I know beyond a doubt that God’s plan is the best plan, and I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. Yes, next week I will jump back into my everyday, “ordinary” life.
But this week, I was a missionary. <3