My guest blogger today is my 18 year old daughter…
When I chose to follow Christ, it meant that I began a life of surrender. Surrender of my own comfort, plans, dreams, and desires. As my parents were obedient to God’s calling to our family to move halfway across the world following the 2004 tsunami, I got my first example of what true surrender meant and looked like. My family began a life-changing journey that brought each one of us to our knees, and broke of us of our own self-reliance. My time overseas living in a strict Islamic culture without a doubt made me the person that I am today because every day as we lived in an area that was so incredibly spiritually dark, we were forced to rely on the power of God’s Word and His Gospel. But as I left many things in America that meant so much to me the day we boarded the plane, I never could have imagined all that God would show me, teach me, and break me of. Yes, it was surrender, but it was never a sacrifice.
Since living overseas and growing in my understanding of the Word of God, I have begun to realize what matters on this earth- what I want to devote my life to. I now long for my life to have eternal value and significance because otherwise, a life not lived in servitude to Christ is a life wasted. While living in Southeast Asia, God began to show me what it is in life that truly matters. I was taken away from American public school, church, and youth group, and was instead surrounded by men and women who were so burdened for the souls of these lost people that they would devote their lives to making His name known. As I saw my parents pour out their lives for the Muslims of Southeast Asia in the name of the Gospel, it compelled me to step out of what was previously convenient or comfortable for my first-world self. Every day was a leap outside of my comfort zone, whether it be not having power or running water for days, or even something as small as trying an unfamiliar food at a local’s house. My eyes were suddenly opened to a whole other world that existed outside of our fifty states- one where I was a social, ethnic, and religious minority for the first time in my life.
Yes, those three years were the best three years of my life, and yes, it was absolutely the most intensive learning experience of my life, but there were parts that were incredibly hard. Each day in times of great doubt I had to claim the promises of the Bible for my life- promises that He is faithful, He is good, and He provides. And on days when I was unable to do so for myself, my parents claimed them for me and reminded me of what is true. Our family’s favorite verse became Proverbs 3: 5-6 which says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and he will make your paths straight.” It was my three years overseas that I really learned to trust God with my whole life. He showed me how to lay all of my own desires for my life at His feet, and learn that without a doubt His plans are so incredibly better than mine. As John Piper says, “Every significant advance I have ever made in grasping the depths of God’s love and growing deep in Him has come through suffering.” While I would not say that I ‘suffered’ during my time overseas, I definitely relate to the idea of having to be broken before being molded. All that I have learned about God’s character during my walk with Christ has come through times of being broken and fighting through feelings of unbelief. God’s Word became so real to me, because I watched as He was so incredibly faithful, to both me and my future.
As the Dutch missionary Andrew van der Bijl said, “Jesus didn’t say, ‘Go if the doors are open, because they weren’t. He didn’t say ‘Go if you have an invitation or a red carpet treatment.’ He said, ‘Go’, because people need His word.” Because my parents were first obedient to God’s calling, I was then able to follow them and be shown how desperately our world needs Christ. I wasn’t reading about these people in books, and they weren’t just a number to me in the estimated 4,194,493,061 people who are living in countries with a population of less than 2% evangelical Christians- they were friends. Real people that my family and I grew to love. And while we laughed together around the dinner table, it became clear to me that no matter how many times a day they knelt on their prayer rugs, Jesus wasn’t Lord of their lives, and their souls destined for an eternity in hell.
People need Jesus, and now as I contemplate how I want my life to have significance, there seems no greater purpose than to devote your life to mission work. As a family, we often talk about how when we were serving overseas we felt that our lives mattered. We were a part of something that was so much greater than just ourselves- and everyday as we surrendered our lives to the will of God, He moved and worked in miraculous ways and did the inexplicable. What a pleasure and privilege it is to be used by God for the glorification of His name. One of my favorite quotes from John Piper’s Desiring God is “Jesus promises to work and be for us so much that we will not be able to speak of having sacrificed anything”, and that is exactly how I feel. God really was all for us- He was so incredibly all-sufficient to us during our time overseas, in the tangible and intangible.
In my Bible, I keep my original one-way plane ticket from Raleigh-Durham to Southeast Asia from 2006. As a reminder, it is bookmarked next to one of my favorite verses which reads, “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us”, (Eph 3:20). Yes, Christ calls us out of what’s comfortable, what’s convenient, and what’s safe, but I have continually learned that obedience to His calling and will is best. May I never forget to always see the immeasurable worth of knowing Jesus as my reward, and be willing to give of myself to gain even just a little bit more of the greatness of Christ, wherever in the world He leads.