I’ve only been on this earth for eighteen years. But I can say with confidence that I have spent most of that time asking questions about why, precisely, I was made. Why was I put on this earth, at this time, in this city, with these skills, to this family? I’ve been restless since I can remember, challenging God to communicate what he intended for me. I’ve spent just as many years pursuing the wrong things for me as I have spent paralyzed by fear of the unknown, waiting for “my calling” to meet me on my front porch step. Living well when you don’t entirely know why you’re living at all is hard, but does life get easier once you find what you were intended for?
I spent some of this summer working as a camp leader at a Christian counseling program that works with children, and I spent the other half attending an international studies program at a Christian university outside of Indianapolis. But if I were honest, I think it’d be more accurate to say that I spent most of the summer in the middle of a war between faith and fear. I had finished high school, as well as a “buffer” period, collecting cheap core classes at a local community college where thriving emotionally and spiritually were not necessarily encouraged.
This was the year that my high school class was set to go off to school: one friend to Pepperdine, another on scholarship to the University of Alabama, others to Mississippi State, Duke, Georgetown, and many to high quality in-state institutions as well. But regardless of which school they committed to, they all had hard-and-fast plans, goals complete with roommates, class schedules, move-in dates, and future home addresses to anticipate. But I? I had no schedule, no plans. I had no idea what I wanted to do, or where God needed me to be.
Thus, I spent all spring in a frenzy, figuring and applying, racing the clock to find my “plan” since I wouldn’t have any free time (physically or emotionally) to think about it all once summer hit. But it seemed as though all of my planning efforts were in vain. Left and right, things fell through, and far more doors closed in my face than opened. I was bruised, I was tired, and when my busy summer began I was just as clueless as I was the summer before. So began my wild summer of learning to combat anxiety with joy, and discovering what it looks like to find peace in the Planner, instead of my plan. Apparently, God doesn’t ask me to know His whole entire plan all the time. In fact, I’m not supposed to. If I had certainty in the facts of the future, I’d never have a need to put my confidence in the Lord. No, He doesn’t ask me to have the itinerary. He only asks me to stay alert to His call, and to boldly and passionately take the next right step as it’s given to me. I don’t need to have it all figured out, I just need to be able to say “Yes, Lord”—End of story.
After experiencing a tragic death within my friend group, and then spending time at the camp, I encountered the ways that my heart is wired to work with people in pain in a whole new way. I always knew I had a passion for the brokenhearted, but it turns out, I have a skill for handling their fragile spirits well, also. Taking that newfound discovery with me to the affairs program, I realized that I’ve spent my entire life with school as my priority, with people being ranked as a close second. Through the course of the program, I found out how badly I craved a year to put people first. I needed time to rest, and to volunteer. I needed time to pursue what I’m passionate about, to create, admire, and chase beauty, to grow in wonder of the Lord, and to invest in planting roots in places and people. I needed a gap year.
And just like that, I found my “next right step.” I resolved to use my fall semester to take a light course load, pick up a new “job” (the money-making kind), and begin actively pursuing a life-job (the “calling” kind of “ultimate vocation” type of job), with a specific bent towards serving people in pain. Soon, I was enrolled in a few classes, had found work at a local coffee shop, and was recruited for a leadership position at the college group where I had found my own community. But the more I thought about it, the more I felt this tug on my heart to leave my spring semester open. So I did, and I began pursuing why I felt the Lord asking me to clear the decks. My prayer was “Spirit, lead me, and prepare my heart with what it takes to say ‘Yes, Lord.’” But man, I never would have guess where He would lead me to, exactly. Nor could I have known that when I prayed for the courage to make it happen, I was asking a mighty ask.
Sweet friends, this is my letter to inform you all of my recent pursuit of chasing the Lord—all the way to the Middle East. But more than anything, this is a plea in the name of courage, calling, and monumental leaps of faith. From the deepest parts of me, I’m calling on you all to rally with me in prayer as I pursue the biggest manifestation of “walking by faith, not by sight” that I have ever experienced. The Lord told me where I’m needed, and in boldness and courage, I’m declaring that there is no more wrestling with Him over it. All that there’s left to do is to jump, and trust that the Lord has me (and my best interest and safety) in His hands.
This summer, I applied for a program through a Christian teaching organization that sends Christian teachers to offer the practical need of education all over the world, called 5.6 through ELIC. Over the course of six months in the spring of 2017, this organization would launch me, with a few other team members, to five different Middle Eastern and Northern Asian (M. E. N. A., for short) countries to work specifically with vulnerable people groups, including orphans, victims of the sex slave trafficking, and refugees. I heard about it while I was at the summer program at Taylor University, and it sounded like the sweetest, far-off dream to me, tailor-made for the passion rooted in my heart, and for the skill-sets coursing through my hands. A gorgeous wish, but a viable one? Unlikely. To raise the staggering $15,000 of required funds, to leave my friends and family for six months, to enter into places of such unrest, there were so many reasons why God may not want me for this. And it’s for that reason that I never dreamt that now, months later, I would have ever made it this far through the application process.
After pages and pages of applications, hours of interviews, and countless emails being sent, I am only a few days away from everything being processed. At that point, the staff at ELIC will pour over all the material gathered over the summer one final time, and after careful thought and prayer, will choose to accept or deny me into the program.
Months ago, I was praying, “God, let me get in.” But I have long-since changed my tune. Because what good would getting in do if it wasn’t what was best for me and my heart? Therefore, I ask that you all would join me in my “big ask,” not so much that I get in, but that as the decision process nears its end, His will would be crystal clear: for both the ELIC team and me.
Considering sending an 18-year-old to serve broken hearts in Middle Eastern regions may be a little crazy. And $15,000 by January is huge. But you know, the love that Christ demands of us, as well as offers us in return IS pretty crazy. And if there’s one thing I know about my God, it’s that He is huge. Whenever my foolish humanity starts whispering that maybe this is too big for Him, I realize that I have forgotten the magnitude of the Lord. For He is great in power, magnitude, and grace, and His plan for me is always good. It’s because of these promises when I say “Spirit, lead me” I mean it—no matter where they might take me.
“Lord, call me, and give me what it takes to follow. And above all: Your will be done.”
Thank you in advance for joining me as I dwell in this prayer this week, and keep an eye out for future updates!
With fearless faith, abundant expectation, and great thanksgiving,
// A. Rose H.