I've been ruined for the ordinary.
No longer do I envision my life unfolding as I thought it might. I have no idea what that means, but I know things will never be the same.
They say that one a person has been to Africa, it will always hold a piece of their heart. I knew that before I left, but I had no possible way of understanding what that would really mean for me. Some days I miss it so much that I feel a physical ache in my chest.
It's been over a year since I returned home from Kenya. So much has happened in my life and in my heart in that time. I really have no idea how to catch up, so I'm not going to try. I'm sure the important bits will all come out here over time, but here's the gist.
Once home, I knew that I wanted to be more involved in missions and outreach in some way. Everybody asked me, "So... are you going to go back?" I really didn't have a response. Sure, I could go back to Africa, maybe. But teaching in an inner city school with a majority First Nations population had me staring a huge need and huge opportunity right square in the eyeballs every single day. Maybe this was where God was calling me to be.
Over the Christmas holidays, Africa Inland Mission asked me to be the Canadian rep at their booth at Urbana, a huge missions conference held every three years in St Louis. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity. God used that conference to do many things in me (mostly make me bust out in tears at every. single. speaker at each of the evening sessions), one of which was to open my heart even more to the opportunities in ministry to First Nations people. Still my heart was torn between staying and going.
In January, I began taking a course called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Perspectives looks at the biblical, historical, cultural, and strategic aspects of God's heart for the nations. It was in this course that I gained a sense of God's overarching plan to bless the nations and to bring glory to His name. Doing the reading each week, I would be moved to tears frequently. (Yep. I'm a regular ol' crybaby now. All. The. Time. I'm sure the people in Starbucks where I would study thought there was something seriously wrong with me!) Also through the course, I came to the following conviction.
I need to go.
It wasn't a dream or a vision. It wasn't an audible voice calling me to missions. Heaven knows I didn't morph into some kind of super-holy wonder Christian. HA! In fact, I think I've been the most broken I've ever been this past year. I lean heavily on God's promise that His grace is sufficient for me, and that His power is made perfect in weakness. It's just that my perspective has changed and that I'm willing to go.
For the first time, I came to see the biblical foundation for cross-cultural missions. I was shown the current state of the world and was taught what it truly means to be a part of the revelation of Jesus to the nations. I came to see that this kind of work was most needed among those people groups who are the furthest removed from the gospel. And, or course, my heart is in Africa.
I don't know what that will look like yet. I'm in the process of figuring out just how to get there. Right now I'm thinking of returning for two to four years to start. I have to do some course work before I go - mostly Bible courses and cross-cultural studies type courses. I have to figure out how to finance that education in a way that won't make it years before I am able to go to the field. I don't know how that all will work out, but, God willing, I know it somehow will.
It's exciting. It's thrilling. And it's scary. The least reached people groups live in difficult areas, whether that's because of climate, geography, politics, or wars. It's why they're among the last people groups to hear and accept the gospel. But over and over God keeps bringing the image of Revelation 7 to my mind:
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:There are people missing from the multitude. I want to be sure that I do my part to make sure they are there on that day, bringing glory to Jesus.
"Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb."
There's a phenomenal video that Africa Inland Mission's On Field Media team has published that has also helped me come to this decision, and has encouraged me, as it's title suggests, to move against the fear. I would encourage you to watch the whole video. It's just under ten minutes. If you really don't have time, skip to 7:05 and watch it to the end.
There's a lot that this decision implies, and it's by no means been a painless journey, nor will it be in the months and years to come. But it's the right decision. As I come back to blogging, will you follow me on this journey?
Maybe you, too, will be ruined for the ordinary!