Happy Friday, it’s Audra here! Today on Friend Friday one of my sweet SIL’s will be sharing about God‘s calling on her life to be a missionary in China. This is just one of the thousands of By Faith stories she could have written. It has been truly inspiring to watch her live out her faith with each new step that God had called her to. Whatever God is calling you to today, I hope her story inspires you to say YES Lord!
One of my favorite things is to hear a testimony from someone who said “Yes!” to God’s calling on their life. In elementary school, I was in a group called GA’s (Girls in Action), a church program for girls to learn about, pray for, give to, and get involved in missions. It was exciting for me anytime a missionary would come and speak to us about what their life was like on their mission field. Little did I know that one day God would call me to a foreign mission field.
I distinctly remember the day I knew that my husband and I would be moving overseas. My husband was a high school pastor and had recently returned from leading his second mission trip to China. I came home from work one Monday and it was clear he had been deeply burdened about China and sensed God leading us there. Through much prayer and fasting, we felt certain God was calling us to China. And to the shock of my husband, without hesitation, I said yes! I had traveled abroad to seven different countries, but had never been to China. The Lord had been preparing my heart and mind for this well before this day. God has a way of confirming His will through other people, through His Word, and through the alignment of circumstances that cannot be coincidence. I couldn’t see what the whole picture looked like, but He showed me what step to take at that time. That was my role in all of this - to take that step. It required faith and trust in a God who knows what He’s doing and who has it all figured out even when I don’t. This is how I can partner with Him in making an impact for His kingdom! He leads and I follow with complete trust in the God who sees the end from the beginning. Beautiful submission!
As excited as I was to get to China, it was quite a daunting task to prepare to move our entire lives to a foreign country. There were less than five months from the time we were sure of God’s calling to China until we actually landed there. God had opened a door for us to teach English, but we didn’t know what ministry would look like. Even though God didn’t show us a blueprint of His plans before we got there, He went before us each step of the way. Moving to China was a big step of obedience, but it was only the first step. Being submersed into a new culture drove us to complete dependence and obedience for every part of our journey. We’ve been back in America for a few years now, and I love reflecting on our four years in China. I could never have imagined all God had planned for us there. When we arrived, we felt unqualified and unprepared in many ways. However, looking back, I can see how God had prepared us for ministry in China well before we moved there. And while in China, God was preparing us for church planting in the Chinese populated city of Bellevue, Washington, where we currently serve.
M. David Sills, in his book The Missionary Call, shares one of the best quotes I’ve heard about God’s calling. He writes, “His call is for life, but the ways and places where we fulfill it and live it out will change throughout our lives as He guides.” It is vital that we understand that as believers and followers of Jesus, we are all called to live our lives on mission. Sharing Jesus with the world is not reserved only for those with seminary degrees or years of ministry training. The Great Commission Matthew 28:19-20 is for all believers. While God did call us specifically to a foreign mission field for a season, we are called to live our lives on mission wherever we are. Every believer is called to leverage their life for the spread of the Gospel. This means that your home, school, work, social media, with your friends, at a coffee shop, are your mission field. God may never call you to a foreign land, but know that He has called you, as follower of Christ, to join Him in His mission every day of your life.
Obeying God’s call on your life is the best and wisest decision you can make. It brings blessing because God honors those who honor Him. Obedience to God’s calling also involves submission to His authority and plans over your own. Remember that when you submit to God, you are submitting to One who is good, loving, and never changing. He is all-powerful. He makes possible the impossible. Obeying God demonstrates trust in His goodness and control over all things.
Is there something you have sensed the Lord calling you to do? Whatever that looks like for you, be courageous! You don’t have to see the entire picture to be obedient. Be obedient in taking the first step. It can happen right now. He who called you is faithful.
Backyard Bible Club - Audra's pick
My first mission trip was 20 plus years ago so many details are a bit fuzzy, but I will never forget sitting with the little children and telling them about Jesus. I was in our church youth group and we traveled from Texas to Missouri. First our choir performed at a local trailer park and then we set up a type of Vacation Bible School for the children who lived there. There were games and fun, but my job was to share the gospel with a small group of children. I honestly don't remember if any decisions were made by the children, but I do know this trip made such an impact on me as a youth and helped point my heart toward sharing Jesus with others.
China - Laura's pick
My husband and I went with a team to China almost a year ago to the day. We have been on many mission trips over the years, but this one was different than any we had ever been on. As we traveled to a remote village in southern China, we worked with an unreached people group that had never heard the Gospel before. My greatest memory there involved music. Music is my heartbeat, my passion, so how kind of God to use exactly that to reach those we could not communicate clearly with. As I began to sing with some others of our teammates, the music began to draw ladies to us. They asked through our translator what we were singing and we taught those ladies the chorus to "How Great Is Our God". What a beautiful sound to hear our voices joined together singing to our Creator! When then were able to share the love of God with them and it opened such sweet conversation.
Backpacks for African Boys - Rebecca's pick
Oddly enough, my favorite missions memory is not one where I actually went anywhere. Instead, I helped my son realize his dream of going on a foreign mission trip when he and his dad went to Kenya, Africa this past summer. Because of the great cost of the trip, we had to do a fundraiser. As I prayed about ways to raise the money, the Lord gave me a vision in which I could help by using my gift of creativity. For nearly six weeks, we spread the word and watched as the Lord wowed us. With each $25 donation, my boy and I worked together to create a backpack, a brightly colored nylon drawstring bag with John 3:16 impressed on the front in their native Swahili language, for the school boys that he would be visiting. Altogether, we made 240 bags and our anticipation grew with each bag. I'll never forget the text I received while they were in Africa. It said, "The boys absolutely LOVE the bags. They finally have something to call their own. I wish we would have brought 500 more." It was a simple gift produced with such great love. I felt as though a big part of me went along with them.
United in Christ Ministry Worldwide - Tammy's pick
When our children were 5, 9, and 10, we felt the Lord impress upon us the importance of a family mission trip outside of our comfort zone. A dear friend shared about a ministry in TX which traveled into Mexico to work with the poorest of the poor. The pictures they showed us of the children and families touched our hearts, and we prayed for the Lord's confirmation. You see, drug cartels and the local government were fighting for control of the city at the time, so we wanted to be sure this was truly the adventure we wanted to step into with our children. We finally had peace and started planning and anticipating. From the moment we arrived that summer, we sensed a change happening inside of us. Despite the atmosphere in the city, we never felt afraid or concerned for our children's safety. Our hosts were wise and cautious knowing which routes to take and when to leave. We served meals to those who didn't know where their next meal was coming from, handed out bags of necessities to mommas who didn't have a toothbrush or toothpaste or soap for their children, we laughed and played with the children, we wept and prayed with broken-hearted mommas and papas, and built an awning for a church in the middle of a garbage dump. Most of all, we shared about the hope found only in Jesus. It truly was a life-changing experience for each of us and has turned into a highly anticipated annual summer trip.
NIcaragua - Kathy's pick
Since I shared so much from my trip with Operation Christmas Child yesterday, I thought today I would share a mission memory where my family was able to serve together. In September of 1998 I traveled to Nicaragua on a Medical/Dental mission team with a group from our local church. In that group was my Father, Mother and 12 year old son. My mother was in a wheel chair having just been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in July. She could not serve in the dental clinic as she had in the years past. Instead, the Lord placed her under a large shade tree where she sat each day and shared the gospel with those beautiful people. There were many that gave their heart to Jesus that week because of her obedience in obeying the call to serve. My sweet Mom went to be with Jesus five short months later.
Today's guest blogger is someone I could have never imagined that the Lord would send to me. I have known Kathy Butler my entire life. Her first love is Jesus, she is a faithful wife, an amazing mother and even better grandmother. She loves strong, she loves well, and everyone that knows her loves her so deep. She is a mentor and sounding board for many. To me, she is a best friend and goes against what the world says about mother-in-laws. Her passion is missions and she is currently a year-round volunteer as an Area Coordinator for Operation Christmas Child. Welcome Kathy to the blog today!
I am so honored to be invited as a guest blogger. I have enjoyed so much reading each of these ladies words of encouragement each day. I will say right up front, writing is not one of my strong points. I will talk your leg off all day long, but this is a major stretch for me.
I feel so honored that the Lord is allowing me to serve Him in the ministry of Operation Christmas Child. My family and I have been packing shoeboxes for this ministry since 1995. Each year we send a couple of boxes and feel like we had done our part. About ten years into packing, the Lord impressed upon my heart that we could do more. As I looked at the number of shoes I had in my closet, I thought I should fill a shoebox for every pair of shoes I would buy for myself this year. The excitement continued to increase from that year on. In 2009, I got my church involved. I really wanted to do more for this ministry. Searching the Internet, I found that Operation Christmas Child was building teams in local communities of volunteers. These volunteers would serve by praying, calling upon churches and community groups to become involved or by placing a drop off location in the community. I signed up immediately. So here I am, seven years later, more passionate than ever before about this ministry.
In May of this year, I was given the opportunity to travel to Rwanda, Africa with several other volunteers for Samaritan’s Purse. We were there seven days and were privileged to be a part of several shoebox distributions. We also were able to see “The Greatest Journey” discipleship program in process. I knew that I was not only going into another culture to talk about Christ, but I was going to be Christ to the people there. I knew the Rwandan people would associate my behavior, attitude, and character with that of Jesus. It is not enough simply to talk about Christ, I had to imitate Him. John 15:5 says, “He who abides in me, and I in Him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." Not only was that true while I was serving in Rwanda, but I must imitate Christ every day of my life regardless of where I am or whom I am with.
Operation Christmas Child first distributed shoebox gifts in Rwanda in 1994. That was the year of the Rwandan Genocide. There were over one million people killed within a period of four months. When arriving in Rwanda, I thought these people may still be angry and full of bitterness, but I found that to be totally the opposite. These people were so full of kindness and thankfulness. I went to be a blessing to these people, but I received such from these precious people. I learned that 42% of the Rwandan population is fourteen years of age or younger.
At each distribution, the gospel is clearly presented in a way each child can understand before they even know there will be a tangible gift given to them. Each event proved to be different in the culture and the way the children reacted. Upon arriving at our second distribution event, the smallest children began to cry and run away from us. They had never seen white people before. It didn’t take them long to warm up to us and see we were there to bring smiles and laughter. My job during this distribution was to put the shoebox gift into the hands of the child. What an overwhelming feeling! For over twenty years, I had been filling these shoeboxes with gifts and prayers and now I was putting them into the hands of these precious children. With each shoebox, I was able to look in the big, brown eyes of these children and tell them that Jesus loved them in their language,“Yesu ara-gu-kunda”. There were eighteen adults that gave their hearts to Jesus on that beautiful morning in May.
I can still see one little girl who pulled a bar of soap out of her box and was so thrilled. She began to smell and kiss the soap over and over again. Another young boy pulled out a wad of pencils wrapped together with a rubber band and ran around holding them in the air showing them off to everyone. These children were so thankful for every item that was packed. If I had to say one item that I will always try to include in my shoeboxes, it would have to be sunglasses. Every child that pulled a pair out of their box put them on and danced around as if they were in Hollywood.
My heart is still tender from the experiences I had that week in May. I pray that the children and adults I came in contact with that week saw the love of Christ in action. If you have ever wondered if those shoeboxes you have been packing are actually making a difference, let me assure you, not only is it bringing joy into their hearts, but it is making an eternal difference for the Kingdom of Christ.