June 14, 2014, I was five months pregnant sitting in a coffee shop in East Asia.
At the time, we were here on a short six-week trip leading a group of college students on a cultural exchange program.
The summer had been rough for me. I spent way more time alone in a hotel room dealing with continual dehydration and stomach issues than I ever wanted to.
Honestly, I was counting down the days to our return to America, but in the back of my mind I had a terrifying thought that we would be back here at some point for much longer than six weeks.
That day in the coffee shop that thought was confirmed when I read this:
“There is no better fuel for service that burns longer and provides more energy than love…I read of a missionary in Africa who was asked if he really liked what he was doing. His response was shocking. ‘Do I like this work?’ He said, ‘No. My wife and I do not like dirt. We have reasonably refined sensibilities. We do not like crawling into vile huts through goat refuse… But is a man to do nothing for Christ he does not like? God pity him, liking or disliking has nothing to do with it. We have orders to ‘Go,’ and we go. Love constrains us.’ When Christ’s love controls or constrains people, the result is that they ‘no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again'” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
—Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Faith, Donald Whitney
I was stopped in my tracks and the tears began to flow.
I actually kept the napkin I cried into and it still sits in my Bible to this day.
In that moment what I realized is if you think you will only serve in places and countries of comfort, then your faith is much more shallow than you thought.
I had been under the impression that you serve in areas of gifting and then only places you enjoy. That you serve overseas when you have a burning passion for a certain country or people group. You go to a place that you love and that you feel you are gifted to serve in.
Those feelings were opposite to what I had experienced that summer.
But after reading that passage, I knew it was only a matter of time until “The Call” would come and we would go, picking up our life, and transplanting it halfway around the world in a culture we didn’t understand, with a language we didn’t understand, away from all that was comfortable.
The literal call came that following February and we said, “Yes.”
Fast forward two and a half years later and I have been living in the same city for a year and a half now.
The time has come to decide if we will be staying for yet another year or if the Father is calling us back to the States.
This year has been hard—really hard. The honeymoon has long gone. The adventure, the glamour of living overseas for Him is just a memory. This is real life.
Honestly most days I haven’t liked it. I longed to be in my home country where doctors speak my language and friends and family are near. Where I can walk outside my home and talk with anyone. Where I have the simple conveniences of a clothes dryer and a garbage disposal. And where the pollution does not contribute to chronic bronchial issues for my two-year-old.
But this is what I know to be true (even if it’s an all-out war to believe most days):
“I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 13:47
“Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all peoples.” -1 Chronicles 16:24
“Thanks be to God who always gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” -1 Corinthians 15:57-58
“Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” -2 Corinthians 2:14
So…we have decided to stay for another year, returning next fall to East Asia. Trusting we are exactly where He wants us to be and praying to serve Him out of a happy heart even if it is not something we love or enjoy all the time.
We are not mature enough to base our decisions off of our emotions.
Our emotions will choose comfort. They will choose temporal happiness. They are fleeting and look attractive only to keep us wanting.
My hope is that somebody reading this will be challenged to think of how they are or how they have been serving the Father and the community they are in.
Please don’t live under the same assumption as I did that you have to like something or enjoy doing it to serve Him in it.
For some of you, He is calling you overseas and you are terrified and are digging your heels in.
Some of you are being led to serve your local fellowship in some way but are unwilling to give of your time or feel you are not qualified.
And for some of you college students, He is asking you to give Him your summer to serve Him in some capacity near or far, yet the thought of vegging out and staying with friends and family for your break is more attractive.
It’s something different for everyone.
Our experiences are never exactly alike, but the call is always the same.
I pray that in whatever He is calling you to that you will choose obedience. Let your answer always be yes to Him.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, his good, pleasing and perfect will.” -Romans 12:2
“He replied, Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” -Luke 11:28