Have you ever been asked to help someone out at some future point in time and responded with an “I’ll pray about it” answer, hoping that the person would be appeased with the fact that God could work it out if He willed but really wishing they would forget to ask you again? Did you ever go home and just kinda “forget” about doing said nice deed? But have you ever said that and then God really did work it out despite your lack of inclination? How did you feel then? Did you cheerfully do the duties that you promised you would pray about? Well, obviously I am asking these questions because it happened to me. And I want to tell you how good God is despite my big mouth!
At the end of my blog in August (wow, that was a long time ago!) I was recovering from a bloody nose I got (figuratively speaking) when God seemed to slam the door shut in my face. I was unsure of the exact reasons why He had closed all the doors, but I had to trust that it was in His perfect plan for my life. That is way easier to say now than it was at the time. Anyways, I ended up staying in Houston at Reach the World Next Door missionary training school for two months. The irony of this all was that originally I had not been able to be there because of prior commitments, but with the recent change of plans/broken nose on the slammed door I just happened to be free as a bird! The timing could not have been any more perfect. Sound familiar? Well, I was there to help just as the classes were getting ready to start. This allowed me time to share what I have experienced and give advice on where I have seen failure and success. Also, this was a good time to weed eat!!!! Not that I enjoyed it more than all the class planning sessions, but… At the end of September I was really feeling a pulling at my heart to return to my North Dakota family and work at the church school (which I had been offered a job earlier in the summer but was going to Asia, but since that changed I had more open plans). While I was working at the church school, I got a call from a local public high school asking if I could help translate for a student who had just arrived from Mexico. He spoke very limited English and the teachers spoke little or no Spanish. I was called on a Tuesday, went to interview with the school on Wednesday, and went to my first day of school on Friday! For the first time being hired to a “real job” I think it was rather quick. So on a cool October day, at the age of 26, I attended public school for the first time in my life. Talk about culture shock! I was surprised to find out that just about a week after I started the translating job two students arrived from Indonesia. They did not speak English, and unfortunately I did not speak Indonesian. But Google Translate does! So I started learning the “type frantically fast in simple English” language so I could communicate with them. I would not recommend learning and depending on this language, but it works in a pinch. Then I got the email asking to go on a mission trip to Asia. I wanted to go so bad but replied that I did not feel it was the right time, but that I would pray about it. I had just started a new job and did not have money to buy a flight or hotels so I kinda just wrote it off as a “NO”. Life continued as normal (remember that normal for me is probably crazy for most people). A few weeks later another email was sent asking again if I wanted to go to Asia on the mission trip because there was funding for my whole trip. A little embarrassed that I had not really committed it to prayer, I responded that I would ask my boss at the public school if I could leave. I figured the worst he could do is reject my request. Much to my surprise, he right away told me to go. There was no hesitation, but only reassurances that if I was ever back in the area they would be happy to hire me again if possible. That left me about two weeks to get my visa, flights, and travel plans ironed out. Oh! And all the Christmas gifts for the nieces and nephew finished and sent off. No biggie! This time I really had to pray that God would get stuff done for me. So two weeks later I had a visa, plane ticket, and a cleaner sewing area.
The trip to Asia was a rekindling of my missionary spirit. God knew that I needed to go there at that particular time. I was in charge of organizing the interviews and photos of all the workers for our ministry in the country. I got to hear their struggles, trials, and victories in their work for the Lord as medical missionaries and church planters. I got to hear plans for future areas of training for missionaries as well as industries to keep these training centers open. I can say that I am truly blessed to be able to look forward to having a bigger family reunion in heaven one day soon. As the time came to a close in Asia, we all said our sad goodbyes and headed home.
Unfortunately, just a day after my arrival in America, my roomie from Asia and I both got sick. Even though we were hundreds of miles apart now, we were both experiencing the same problems. The worst part was thinking about the upcoming trip to GYC. I was this close (imagine my thumb and pointer finger about 1mm apart) to staying home and skipping out on GYC. But God had other plans for me. He let me feel somewhat better the night before I was supposed to leave for Phoenix just so I would get into the car and start the 32 hour trip without the possibility of turning back. I would like to report a smooth road trip, but I was miserable. I was either freezing or burning up and felt nauseous almost the whole way. Praise God none of my Christmas dinner was reviewed in the car. Finally, we arrived in Phoenix with but few hours of sleep.
One of the best things about these big conferences, besides the spiritual revival it brings, is seeing all your friends that you didn’t know were going to be in attendance. When I got asked to work the booth I wanted to say “no” but somehow the words that came out of my mouth sounded a lot more like “sure, I can”. Throughout the weekend I was working at various times in the booth and that is when I could see that God was using me despite not wanting to be standing at only one booth and not visiting with friends. All throughout the weekend I was surprised by what God continued to do through my unwillingness:
1. I had just finished talking to a person about missions when Antoine told me that I needed to meet his friend, Florence, and pray with her. I shook her hand and started small talking with her. I found out that her niece, early 30s, had recently passed away. Since the passing of her niece, Florence had come to really know God. She had been pushing Him away despite her niece’s efforts to bring her back to God. Not until the youth was gone did Florence find her passion for God. She decided at the death that she was going to take the Bible and make it her life. Florence is especially passionate about spreading tracts and literature to all those around her. She asked if I knew of any place where she could buy more tracts to hand out. Fortunately, God had assigned my roomie (from the mission trip to Asia) to work in a booth handing out tracts for free. I took Florence to the other booth and explained how she had become so fervent in her work. She was beyond thankful to be able to receive the free literature. She then asked if I would pray for her. As she poured out her heart to share the struggles she was facing with her family life, I knew that it was only something that God could change. As I started praying for her, I could feel that she was also lifting her thoughts and prayers upwards. At the end of the prayer, she was crying, thanking the Lord for bringing us together at just that time. And to think I didn’t even want to be in the booth that night!
2. This time I wasn’t working in the booth, but my friend got pulled in even though it wasn’t her turn. As I waited for her to finished talking with someone, a girl approached me to ask if I knew anything about where artists could get involved in missions. I knew very little, but offered my assistance in taking her to a few other booths to ask. She accepted and we headed off to some of the other booths. I approached the Little Light Studios (LLS) booth in hopes that they could give her guidance while I went to look for charcoal ice cream and BBQ tofu! Immediately the LLS director took her in and started talking with her. I merrily went my way to appease my growling stomach. When I returned to our booth to get my money a few minutes later, the same girl greeted me again. She wanted to thank me so much for helping her find the LLS ministry. She told me that she was an introvert and preferred to be in her home away from people, but at the same time she wanted to be able to serve God. Preaching and teaching was not her style, but art was. She was then able to find her niche in the missionary work. We prayed together and she thanked me again. And to think, I wasn’t even supposed to be in the booth that night.
3. Friday is the day that GYC gets to be involved in outreach. I was going to go out, but then decided that I would stay with my friend who felt very nervous about doing door-to-door work. We made the decision to be intentionally praying for those who went on outreach. After we prayed specifically for people in the various groups, we decided to go get food for lunch. We passed by a hotdog stand that was selling veggie dogs. We stopped and chatted with the vendor then shared a My Language, My Life card with him. After getting our dog, we said our goodbyes. Then we went to the Mediterranean restaurant that we had planned on. The young boy working the register was so friendly and helpful. We ended up talking with him for at least 15 minutes while our food was being prepared. In that time we could see how passionate he was to study how to better help those who were less fortunate than he was and those who were not as blessed to have good families. We also found out that many of his family members in the Middle East could not speak English. It was the perfect opportunity to share another My Language, My Life card with him. He and the rest of his family (who also worked in the restaurant) were very pleased to receive that tiny card. And to think, we weren’t going to be a part of outreach!
4. The trip back home was long, but somehow it was a little more pleasant than the ride to Phoenix. We stopped at a gas station about midnight looking for a place to fill up (and empty). As I started chatting with the girl working there, I noticed that she was about to finish the book she was reading. When I got out to the car again, I told the others that I wanted to give her something better to read. After we found a book to share with her, I suddenly got nervous. I didn’t want to share it with her anymore. What if she thought I was weird and crazy (both might be true despite what she believed)? I said a short prayer with my friends and headed right back into the station. I talked with her for another moment and then presented her with the gift. She gratefully accepted the gift being offered. Then came the next hard part of asking if I could pray for her. I was expecting that this girl who had just been swearing moments earlier would be quick to reject my offer, but much to my surprise, she accepted. Then she opened up to me about her uncle who recently found out he has cancer. We prayed together and with smiles on our faces parted ways. I don’t know if she has read the book, but I can be sure that she had the opportunity to read something more uplifting. And to think, I didn’t even have courage enough to offer her salvation that I am given freely.
So as I reflect on the last few months of my life, and at the whole year of 2017, I have two specific prayers that I want to offer up to God:
1. Lord, please help me to be more willing.
2. And when I am not willing, please still push me and guide me along Your path that You have already planned out for me so that I can learn to trust more in Your perfect plans for my life.