In July 2016, I prayed a prayer that would forever impact my life today. I simply asked God to lead me to His path wherever that was. I prayed and said “God, I’ll follow where you take me.” Over the last nine months, I had a feeling on my heart that God would send me. I knew I wanted to go to Africa. More specifically, I knew I wanted to be in South Africa, working on building the relationships I fought so hard for in the communities I was in. I prayed some pretty bold prayers but over the course of these last nine months, God was doing something even I can’t explain.
I think God sometimes puts desires in our hearts for people and places to draw us closer to Him. Before leaving on my first mission trip to Africa, I had big dreams. I wanted to move to New York, become an Advertising Executive, and live the lifestyle of such. I thought that by doing that, I would have “made it.” I was striving for worldly success because that’s all I had really known; that’s how I gained love and acceptance.
Upon arriving in the desert of Africa, without cell phones, without basic amenities, I really had to come to terms with myself, my past and my future. Was I living for myself or was I really living for God? Now I know He doesn’t do this for everyone, and our stories all look different, but for me to have a wake-up call about my life, God put me right in the middle of a desert so all I could run to was Him. That first month, I spent hours reading the bible, just praying hoping that in some sense I’d find healing or a purpose. When you have nothing to run to, God is right there waiting with open arms.
Over the next 5 months in Africa in late 2016, I started to dig deeper into who I was. I started to realize my identity was not my past, nor my job, nor anything else in between. Christ is in me and that is who I live for. God brought me to Africa to realize His love for me and then sent me back after turning my life and heart upside down. Over these last six months, I’ve had somewhat of an identity crisis. I was so transformed while in Africa that I didn’t know who I was in America anymore. My desire had switched from wanting to gain worldly success to wanting to glorify God in all that I do. But what does that look like here?
Honestly, these last months have been trying. Past hurts, pain and life all happened and I was struggling without a plan or a purpose. I’ve begged and pleaded and asked God to send me but knew I had to be faithful where He put me. I had fallen so deeply in love with people and places but I knew I had to say “yes” to God and not people or places. Honestly, for a time, I wanted to go back because of my own selfish desires but over time, through God revealing my brokenness in many ways, I had to learn to say “yes” to Him and His plan. I decided to keep saying “yes.” I said yes to teach English to International students here in America. I said yes to new colleagues who have now turned into close relationships. I said yes to serving and loving right here, right now. I said yes to God. Wherever He put me, I was going to say yes to His plan. So God put opportunities in front of me for Uganda and I said yes to that too. I went as far as sending out support letters and I was all in for God because I realized I wanted to follow Him, even if it wasn’t what I wanted.
Read that last line again, “even if it wasn’t what I wanted.” I had to come to a place to honestly admit to my heart and self that I wasn’t going to do what I want but rather I was going to desire Him and have Him work on my heart. I have gone back and re-read some of my prayers and I realize how God was changing and working in my heart. He was filling me up to love and serve and all the while realizing that wherever I am, I can spread His hope and love. Wherever I go will be to serve Him and love people.
So, last week when I got a call that was exactly what I wanted, I was confused. I was so dumbfounded that God was literally placing in front of me what I had prayed about. My previous mission organization wanted me to come back to help and work in South Africa. This would mean I get to utilize my skills that I graduated with, all while leading other teams, serving in the communities I had once been and living in South Africa. I wrestled with this idea. I wanted so much to say “YES” and jump right in but I was hesitant only because it seemed too good to be true. I talked to trusted advisors and mentors in my life and I prayed for God to put a peace over which decision I would make. And through that process and prayer, I felt God giving me the choice of two places that He has led me to and would let me serve Him in. I was so amazed that this is exactly what I prayed about that all I could do was thank Him for His faithfulness and thank Him for knowing my heart.
Just like before, I will be leaving for Africa but to South Africa. This time however, God has captivated every inch of my being, He knows my desire is to love Him and serve others and in turn, He is allowing me to return to communities and use my gifts He’s given me to draw people towards Him. My heart is doing back flips with how overwhelmed I am by His power and presence. God hasn’t promised everything will be easy. He just promises faithfulness. Just like 2,000 years ago to today, He is faithful. He is faithful when things don’t go our way, He is faithful in wanting good for us, He is faithful in the trials and pain, He is faithful in knowing our hearts, and He will continue to be faithful with the seeds that are being planted.
I realized something through this process; God just wants our “yes.” I had to get to a place with God where I was all in for HIM. Not all in for what I wanted but all in where ever He led me. He could have sent me to a crowded urban city in China or a suburb in Australia or a small town in rural America. I had to take my prayer to heart and be willing to go where He wants. Something crazy happens when we make God our heart’s desire; we start to desire things that are of Him and for Him. God is such a good God. He wants to give us gifts and He wants to love us. He wants to fill our hearts so we can serve others like Jesus. He wants to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. God just wanted me to say “yes” to Him, “yes” to His heart, “yes” to serve Him and to love others like He does. And through that, He actually gave me immeasurably more than I could have asked or imagined.