Two Unmistakable Calls.
“I’ve found my calling.” I believe we have grown calloused to the word, calling. We have accepted it meaning simply the thing we believe we are meant to do with our life, but the concept is much deeper. By definition a calling has to have both a caller and receiver. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I understand that the Lord is the One who does the calling. This is the God who “knows the plans He has for you.” (Jeremiah 29:11) When He reveals His plan to me, my responsibility is to answer with obedience. My husband, Josh, and I both received very specific calls from God regarding His purpose for our lives. We were both in high school, and not yet dating when we answered these calls. Our callings changed the entire course of our lives and we would like to share our stories with you.
Josh was finishing his senior year in high school when the Lord called him to international missions. Our church hosts an annual missions conference with various missionaries speaking at the week’s highlight, a Friday evening banquet. That year the speaker was an inspiring Haitian woman, fondly known as “Ms. Phyllis.” Ms. Phyllis has dedicated her life to developing an orphanage to serve the least of these in her home country. Inspired by Ms. Phyllis’ faith and life of service, Josh knew the Lord was calling him to advance Christ’s kingdom through international missions. That night Josh wholly surrendered to God’s call. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Steve Gaines, our pastor, closed a worship service with a special invitation, asking those who felt God leading them toward full-time ministry to come forward and receive prayer. In walking forward, Josh made his decision public. Shortly thereafter, in late March of 2012, Josh got to go to Haiti and serve the people Ms. Phyllis has served all her life. Later that summer Josh took mission trips to Nicaragua and Malawi. These three trips were life changing for him, because God continued to confirm the call Josh received earlier that year. There was no doubt that the Lord’s plan for Josh was for him to use his life to take the gospel to all the nations.
My story is a little different. I admit that I like my comfort zone, so I was pretty reluctant to surrender to what I was convinced would be a life of mud huts and large insects. Let me start from the beginning. My first mission trip was to Malawi in the summer of 2010. I immediately fell in love with the people, the culture, and the kids that I served. I could see myself coming back every few years on short-term trips, but never imagined I would live there. Fast forward one year to the summer of 2011. That summer, through talking with the Lord in prayer and reading His word, I knew that the Lord wanted me to give my life to serving him. I assumed that that meant local ministry such as a full-time church position, but God had a different plan.
It wasn’t until March of 2012, on the same trip to Haiti Josh took, that He began to reveal His plan to me. From the moment I stepped off the plane in Haiti I knew God was trying to show me something. I also knew Satan was working to make sure I didn’t listen. For example, when we got to the mission where we were staying my bunk was the only bunk that housed a gigantic cockroach. Here is the thing. I knew God was trying to tell me He wanted me in full-time international missions, but I’m not a fan of bugs, or dirt, or leaving my family, friends and everything familiar to me. In fact, the idea of combining those three things terrified me. So instead of answering the call with obedience I fought the Lord hard. Needless to say, I was miserable the entire trip. I definitely learned that the Lord doesn’t make it easy for His children to run away from Him. The internal war I was fighting in my spirit took its toll on me spiritually, mentally, and physically, but I continued to fight it the entire trip and several weeks after returning home. During those few weeks, the Lord continued to prompt me. One morning He couldn’t have made His call any clearer. I was reading the Word and came to Luke 4:16-27. Jesus was in Nazareth, His hometown. This is the account of what happened after Jesus read the scriptures in his hometown’s synagogue.
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’” “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
After reading that passage, I knew the Lord was telling me that my idea of doing local church ministry was not what He had for me. He was calling me to leave the comfort of my hometown and go to a country that is not my own. Even though I was certain of what the Lord was calling me to do, I still refused to obey. My fear was controlling me. Finally, several weeks after first hearing the call in Haiti, I decided I couldn’t fight the Lord any longer. I asked the Lord to forgive me for not immediately surrendering. I told Him that my life is His, not my own, and that I would do what He called me to. It took me a while to get comfortable with the idea of leaving all that I know, and honestly, the idea still scares me. When this fear comes up I reflect on a quote by Corrie Ten Boom. She said, “The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.” I long to be in the center of God’s will for my life, and I am so excited to see where He takes me. I am thankful the Lord has a greater plan for my life than I could dream up on my own.
At the end of the summer following our calls, Josh and I were able to take a trip to Malawi. We were dating at this point and we knew that we were going to get married. Before we left on the trip, we knew this would be a life changing experience for us as individuals and as a couple. We had been asking God which part of the world He wanted us to serve in. Since I had already been to Malawi I knew God had placed a special love in my heart for the people of Africa. I was praying that God would give Josh that same love. My prayers were answered on the trip when Josh sat down with me and said he knew that God was calling us to serve in Africa. The love God gave us for the people we served in Malawi was the exact confirmation we needed. Africa is where we were supposed to be. Africa was our calling.
So what is a call? A call is a purpose and instruction that comes from the Lord, which should be received with surrender. Josh and I are so excited to see where our calls, which began over five years ago, lead us. Trusting God every step of the way is our greatest life-long adventure.