I recently spoke at a church, and this is what I shared...
I was about seven years old when I first felt God calling me to be a missionary. I don’t remember a booming voice or some amazing epiphany, but I do remember knowing that God wanted me to be a missionary, and contentment in that knowing.
I went on my first mission trip when I was 14 to the Dominican Republic, and through that experience, God confirmed my call to missions. Since then, I have been to Mexico twice and Guatemala twice. As I look back, I know that God used each of those experiences to prepare me a little more.
Now, though, I am a student at Southern Nazarene University studying missions. And in February, I will be going to Peru for two years as a volunteer missionary. If you know me, you know that I am a planner. I like to have things planned and organized. I like to know by Wednesday what I am going to be doing for the weekend. But the thing about this amazing God that we serve is that He likes to change the plans. People say that if you want to make God laugh, you should tell Him your plans. That has definitely been true in my life. The fact that I go to school in Oklahoma is surprising, since I planned my whole life on going to Mount Vernon. The fact that I took Spanish in high school was a surprise, since I loved speaking German. The fact that I am going to Peru before I finish my degree is definitely surprising, because I am pretty much the last person you would picture as a college drop out. But each time God has called, I first asked Him if He knew what He was doing, and then I responded by doing what He asked.
Let me tell you about my call to Peru. I started at SNU last year, and I got exposed to all kinds of missionaries and missions organizations. I loved hearing the stories that each of them would tell. And I got excited about the stories that I would have to tell someday. One of those organizations was Extreme Nazarene Ministries. A representative came to my class and told us about Extreme, and the amazing dreams they have for Peru. I was really impressed, and so I added Extreme to my plan, as something I would do after I graduated. But they came back in the Spring semester, and I watched a few videos about their ministry, and I knew that I was supposed to go, even if it meant I would have to change my plans. I talked to the Extreme staff that whole day, asking them questions and finding out all that I could. I prayed and fasted about it, because I knew if I were going to go to Peru, it would be in 2009 or 2010, and that would mean changing my plan.
I went to a Christian concert with my youth group the following night. It was held at this arena in Oklahoma City, and the place was packed—at least 12,000 people there. One of the bands was on stage, and they were presenting the Gospel message. And these words started to echo in my mind: “No one has the right to hear the Gospel twice until everyone has heard it once.” Here I was with 12,000 people at a Christian concert in the Bible belt, and I knew that everyone in there had heard the Gospel many times. But in the world, there are 2 billion people who have never heard the message of Jesus Christ. That’s 30% of the world’s population. In Peru, though, 70% of the population has never heard about Jesus. It was at that moment that I knew I had to go. I knew that I had to be a part of Extreme’s mission to expand the kingdom of God by planting 120 churches.
Here’s the thing about this call on my life though: even though I know that I am called to go, I feel vastly unworthy. I wonder, “What are you thinking God? I am twenty years old. I have preached a dozen or so times. I am not even done with school. And you want me to plant three churches in Peru? What are you thinking God? Shouldn’t you wait to use me until after I have it all together and have it all figured out? God, I am unworthy of this call.” But here’s the thing I have learned. I am unworthy. I don’t have it all together. But God uses the weak to lead the strong. God uses the outcasts of society to share His love. God doesn’t always call the equipped, but He always equips the called. So God can use little me to show people His love. God can use me to build relationships with people and share the Gospel with them. God will equip me for this ministry.
If you asked me why I feel God calls people to go into the world and preach His Good News, I would tell you that it is because of transformed lives. We have to go, because God is still a God who changes lives. Listen to this story about how God used Extreme Nazarene…
The green bulb gave off an eerie glow. Vivian’s face seemed hollow, yet aggressive as she leaned forward over the small table. With her hair pulled back, she was ready for a fight. There was nothing these two guys could dish out that she couldn’t handle. Pastor Freddy and Brian Tibbs sat opposite her and the interview began. Pastor Freddy opened. Every question received a brutal response. “Do you like this?” She was defensive. “Do you think I enjoy this? People constantly telling me where to go and what to do? But here is the deal, I make $2,000 a month; that is good money.”
She was right, it is good money. The average income in Puerto Maldonado, Peru, is $100 a month. Freddy continued, “Vivian, I am a pastor and I want to know if you believe in God?”
“Yes, I believe in God, but He is not going to come down and pay my debt or feed my son. No, I have to take care of me and my own.”
Brain said, “Vivian you have amazing leadership skills, gifts and talents that God wants to use to spread light instead of darkness.”
She took a deep breath, pulled the tie out of her hair letting if fall on her shoulders and she leaned back in her chair. Pastor Freddy, being an amazing man of discipleship, knew … and he asked, “Vivian can I pray for you?”
Pastor Freddy prayed that God would plant a seed in Vivian’s heart and when he was finished she said, “I have accepted Jesus Christ. I no longer want to live this way, but live as light for God.”
Vivian turned away from her life, and has joined Extreme Nazarene in planting churches and spreading light. And we have to go out into the world for the Vivian’s that are all around us, who desperately need the hope that Jesus Christ has to offer them. I am going to Peru because of the stories of transformed lives, like this one.