How did Jen, our Minister of Global Engagement, actually get involved with cross-cultural ministry? Was she simply born in a missionary family—overseas in some remote country? Is she just that “type” of person— bold and an adventure-seeker? We wanted to know, and so we asked her. Here is her answer of how God has worked in her life.
One Sunday many years ago, a member of a family that I had been spending time with asked me if I would be interested in assisting a teacher in a Sunday school classroom (Kids’ Ministry class). At that time, I didn’t feel as though I was particularly talented or well equipped to work with children, but I said that I would think about it. I decided that it was worth stepping out of my comfort zone to see how the Lord might use this small gift of my time. To my surprise, it was more rewarding than I had expected, and I was able to get to know others around me in a way that I hadn’t before.
In this time, I also saw the Lord increase my confidence as I stepped into a teaching role in that same classroom. Others around me encouraged me as they allowed me to invest in their little ones, and what I saw as a small offering of my time began to open my eyes to what the Lord was doing all around me. This helped me evaluate other areas of my life—no longer discounting God’s desire or ability to work in or through me in areas that I once dismissed because of a perceived void of aptitude or ability.
So when a family shared stories from their experiences overseas at church one Sunday—how the Lord moved on their behalf to make His word known to people who had no prior access to it—my heart was stirred by what the Lord was doing and the opportunity to be involved. Ultimately, this led me to give my life to serve overseas in East Asia.
Although I thought this was for the long haul, the Lord had other plans. My year and a half there was often filled with sickness and loneliness. Although rich with great experiences which created a heart and love for this part of the world, it was more difficult that I could have anticipated. Coming back I felt like I was on unstable ground seeking the next steps in life and unsure of what that looked like both in terms of a timeline and how the Lord might use me to minister to others in a disillusioned state.
There were unforeseen disappointments and adjustments to the culture around me both going overseas and coming home. I was skeptical about jumping into new endeavors and distrusted others’ ability to minister to me in a way that I needed. I was also skeptical that I had something of myself to give to others in return. Yet, I realized that it was God’s design for the church to put the focus off ourselves, minister to one another, and recognize that we are all people in need of God’s redeeming work. It is in these vulnerable places that we will find healing—that is where I’ve found healing.
Once again, I began to feel the need to step forward for God to grow me and use my talents rather than bury them in the ground. At that time, I joined an apprenticeship program that allowed me to explore these topics and to participate in a missions trip to one of the poorest places in this world yet rich in God’s love and mercy—Sierra Leone.
During my time in Sierra Leone the Lord showed me how He can take care of me both near and far from home. He began a work of restoration, and today I can tell this story because of what He did during that time of seeking Him and serving others. I have seen firsthand how God truly redeems all thing, uses all things to shape and mold us, and is calling each of us on mission to point people to Christ’s redeeming work. He wants to use these same serving opportunities (near and far) to bring redemption in and through each of us to those we are engaging with the gifts that He has entrusted to us.
I started small in an area that I didn’t feel best suited for, but God used that small offering of my time to move in areas of my life that have had great significance to me. God has used these stepping stones in my life to make me more aware of others around me and the struggles that they face. I see the foreigner and immigrant with different eyes since I have been one myself. I can relate to their need for invitation and a place to belong since I too have longed for that. I understand what it is like to place yourself in a new environment and try to understand all that is going on around you. Some have said that I am brave for following Christ’s call to endeavors outside my comfort zone both at home and in foreign lands, but I am just a girl that has seen what the Lord can do when I give him what I have. I would dare to say that is each of us… just giving the little that we have to the Lord so that he can multiply it to those around us.