Even before I was a Christian, I thought missionaries were the coolest people ever. As a kid, my family would attend the church a block away from our house fairly frequently, and one of the times in sunday school we had a day where missionaries came in to talk to us. I remember it was this guy who had taken his whole family to South America and they lived there now. He had really cool pictures of the Amazon and the Jungle. Being a missionary sounded like a permanent vacation to me, so I knew then and there this was the career for me.
When I was in the 8th grade, just a few weekends after I gave my life completely to Jesus, we had a guest speaker at youth group who was a missionary, oddly enough. I was reminded of that time sitting completely enraptured listening to the missionary from South America and thought, “oh yeah! Now that I really love Jesus, I REALLY want to do this!” I spoke fluent spanish and knew that God was calling me to a life of serving Him in missions. I went on a few mission trips down to Mexico for Spring break with my youth group, and was a translator on the trips. One time I even got a minor concussion from falling off my bunk in the middle of the night onto concrete, and stuck it out for the rest of the week. So I knew I was in it to win it with this missionary stuff.
After I graduated from high school, God opened the doors for me to go live in Ecuador with a missionary family and teach at a christian school in the Amazon region. To say I was ecstatic would be an understatement. This was what I dreamed about, knowing that real life missions was not exactly like what we experienced in our week long treks to Tijuana. However, my time in Ecuador was more than I bargained for. I absolutely fell in love with the region and the people, but I experienced some setbacks that ended up bringing me back to the states just three short months after I had arrived. I was supposed to stay for a full year, and I was absolutely crushed. I was a failure, and I was convinced that not only was I not supposed to be a missionary, but that I never really knew how to listen to God in the first place.
During the months after I returned from Ecuador, I experienced a great deal of depression and bitterness. All I wanted to do was serve God and use my gift of spanish for Him, and I couldn’t even make it through a year. I felt so worthless, and that God couldn’t possibly love me or use me anymore. One of our pastors wrote me an incredibly encouraging note after I wrote on my blog about how I didn’t understand any of this. He wrote to me something that has forever been engrained in my brain:
“Ali, you’ve got to read some missionary bios, it will give you some great perspective…it’s what I often do. The road you\’re on, most never make it. Those who do, have been broken and rebuilt to withstand the innumerable bumps and challenges along the way. I believe God’s in the process now of making you into someone he can use in big ways around the world. We’re not born that way and it doesn’t only happen when we’re 0-18. God is making someone he can use and he often uses many of the ingredients that are currently present in your life. If something like this knocks you off the path, you weren’t going to make it very far anyways. If it doesn’t…THEN…you’re much closer to experiencing God’s best for you than you were 2 short months ago, and you just might have what it takes. We’re still figuring out if I have what it takes…this isn’t coming from one who has it figured out…no…one who is figurING it out.
you rock ali, don’t give up.”
That was exactly the truth God knew I needed to hear: Don\’t give up.
Since I’ve been at EBC, God has continued to show me this, and remind me that the Christian life is not about comfort and predicatbility (contrary to my five-year-old perception of being a missionary, it is the exact opposite of a permanent vacation). In fact, we just went through the book of Philippians in my Prison Epistles class, which is all about suffering for the sake of the Gospel.
My fiancé and I are still praying for God to open doors for us to go as missionaries to a latin country. We have dreams of starting a half-way house, or an orphanage. Something that involves our shared love of working with kids. God has really opened up my eyes to see what it means to follow Him, and I am still on board, after some pretty devastating blows, because I know that nothing compares. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)
Blessings on your Journey. He is faithful
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