Thursday, June 19, 2008 the ends of the earth

I have always admired missionaries. Leaving the familiar behind and taking on unknown challenges had to require amazing faith and courage. I contented myself with prayer and financial support and hosting and making meals for missionaries. It was safe--and necessary.

Then God started moving my life around. Having a child with unique needs, moving across the country, watching God unfold His plan so obviously--there was no doubt that I depended on Him for my sustenance day by day. Life at home really wasn't "safe" but required as much faith and courage as the unknown. Tomorrow IS the great unknown.

My perspective began to change, ever so slightly. The church we attend in our new home is VERY mission-minded--more so than most. Mission trips are not limited to once a year with the high school or a few select long term missionaries who come through every three or four years renewing their support. Those faithful servants are STILL the backbone of spreading the Gospel around the world to every culture, but I began seeing different ideas in action.

This same church puts out an annual call for service. (That's one of the things I appreciate about this church--they aren't satisfied with giving the congregants information and hoping something happen: they expect things to happen. And funny thing, their expectations are usually met.) On the form that everyone received was a list of ministries: music, hospitality, teaching, recreation, and a host of other opportunities. Among them was "short-term missions." I checked that box, along with music, drama, and teaching (all things I am passionate about) and handed it to the usher. And promptly forgot all about it. It wasn't like I suddenly had a "burning bush" moment and a desire to go to the jungles of the Amazon. I just checked it.

Months later I was practically ambushed by an acquaintance in the choir as I searched for a table at Wednesday night supper. She was planning a short trip to Romania to lead Christian Womens' conferences and she just knew that I would fill a necessary place on the team. Romania? Me? That was just too random to be an accident, so I told her I would watch and pray. God worked out all the details in timing and funding, so off I went for nearly two weeks. I left a bit of my heart there in Romania, and found myself looking forward to returning.

As I was getting excited about returning to Romania, God was mapping out a different trip. A member of our Sunday School class returned from her trip to the orphanages of Bulgaria and told me that I needed to go on the next trip to Bulgaria as there were some teenage girls who needed love and attention from an adult (but cool) woman who was passionate about teens. I was already thinking about Romania, so I didn't commit to anything. Having learned to watch God in action, I kept my mind, heart, and eyes open. .

Then I got the dates for the Romania trip---the same as Carrie's graduation. Well, that took care of that. Romania was not part of the plan for 2008. And then Bulgaria came to the front again. Watch and pray--and God worked all the details again--and I was on a team headed to Bulgaria.

This trip was VERY different. In Romania I was working with Christian adults. In Bulgaria we were presenting the love of God to young people from ages 8-20. Instead of preparing talks on how to live a fruitful Christian life, I prepared crafts for kids and teens. The language was harder to understand. (Romania uses the Roman alphabet, while Bulgaria uses a Cyrillic.) The needs were different, the focus was different, the stories were very different. Even though the countries border one another (from one hotel we looked across the Danube into Romania) they share very little since the fall of communism. Bulgaria is far behind in every imaginable way.

God always surprises me with His plan. I gave up trying to predict my future a LONG time ago. I have learned to be content with every day. Even though I still desire to return to the women of Romania, God had a purpose for me in Bulgaria. It was another new experience. He is sovereign over all things; I am along for the ride wherever it takes me--even to the ends of the earth.


morningDove said...

great story, thanks for sharing your life with us. God is amazing!

Moonwillow said...

What a beautiful recounting, I am so glad knowing that you have this place in your heart and soul. Thank you for sharing, it has renewed my faith in humans at least for today.

rebecca woodward said...

Such a touching post Stephanie, I can feel God's love that you shared with His children and the gift of faith He has given you. Your light so shines my friend.
Thank you for sharing.