It was my sophomore year of college, and I found myself stuck to the chair in a dark room while passionate worship music pumped through the speakers. My world had just been rocked and — unbeknownst to me radically altered.
“God does not bless you just to bless you,” the speaker said. “He blesses you to be a blessing to others. All throughout Scripture we see how God blesses people for the purpose of making HIS name great among the nations.”
As I left the conference and drove home through a snowstorm, I knew God was calling me to abandon my summer plans. Over the next few weeks I began the process of preparing for my very first short-term mission trip to Turkey. Of course, like any normal 20-year-old evangelical female, my heart was driving the entire application process. Passionate late night discussions with friends about “the lost” around the world were common. I cried when I watched missions videos. I just knew, I knew, I could make an impact. After all, God had called me to do this thing! He had shaken my world and my heart was being remolded for His purposes. As the time drew nearer for our five-week trip, I felt ready and prepared. Our church trained us well and our team even met weekly to pray and plan. It was time to go to Turkey to make a big difference for the kingdom.
As it turned out, I was actually a really terrible missionary. From the moment I landed in Turkey, I felt fairly comfortable and in awe of all the strange new sights and sounds. But I quickly learned that my heart could only take me so far. Of all the girls on the team, I was the only one who walked away from our five-week trip without a good, solid friendship with a Muslim girl. We spent most of our time at a university, helping English classes and building relationships outside of class. I truly loved the time connecting with the Muslim students at the university but found myself feeling drained from long conversations in broken English about everything from American culture to the Bible. “What is wrong with me?” I wondered. “Why are the other girls building these great relationships with the Turkish students, and I simply tag along?” “If my heart is so moved by the lost in Turkey, why doesn’t that translate into good missionary skills?”
So many of us wear our hearts on our sleeves. We make decisions and take action based on deep feelings that propel us. This is not bad! Rejoice in how God has made you! But I am here to offer both a warning and an encouragement for those of you who are like me and have paved your life’s course based on what your heart has told you to do.
You can have a deep love for the nations. You can desperately desire to see them saved. But that doesn’t mean you should be the person sent to the front line of church planting and evangelism. Maybe it does mean that, for some. I can’t help but wonder what God could do through us, though, if we realized what role God would have us play in reaching the lost we are so burdened for.
Since my “failed” missions trip to Turkey 13 years ago, I have learned that I am not truly a failure. If anything, my desire to see the nations saved has grown by leaps and bounds. However, I’ve learned that I am far more effective as a communicator and administrator. I’m deeply passionate about helping others catch God’s vision for what He is doing on a global scale. Talking with young people about their gifts and talents and how they can use those gifts and talents in another country energizes me. This is how I play a role in God’s mission to save the nations. It is important and it is valuable. It is not sexy — and you won’t read any autobiographies written about me — but I don’t care!
You have a role to play! Never in the history of mankind has God called someone to follow Him and then allowed him or her to sit on the sidelines of His mission. There is a reason God made you the way He did.
Are you good at explaining the Gospel in simple terms? Girl, get yourself into your community and start those spiritual conversations.
Are you gifted at hospitality? Invite international students into your home for an American meal. If you struggle with making good conversation, invite a friend from church who is good at it to come, too. Don’t feel bad that you aren’t a good conversationalist.
Are you administrative? Create a system for people at your church to help pick up international students from the airport when they arrive in the country to study at your local university.
How has God gifted you and how can you use it to share the gospel with people who need to hear it? We’d love to hear from you. May you be encouraged today by the unique ways God has created women all over the world to be a part of His mission!
Julie is ta Digital Marketing and Social Media Strategist for the ERLC. She is married to Jesse and they have 3 children, one of whom was born in Madrid, Spain during their time with the International Mission Board.