I will never forget the day the Lord first spoke to me about becoming a missionary. I was six years old, taking a nap between school and dinner. Mom was making meatloaf. In my dream I saw an angel and he told me very clearly that the Lord was calling me to be a missionary. At six years old I had some idea what that meant, but no clue where the Lord would lead me from there. It wasn’t until thirteen years later that my journey would truly begin.
As I got older, and went through some extremely difficult times I lost my way. Eventually I turned away from God all together. But where the enemy had a plan for my life, God’s plan was greater. Much greater. At nineteen years old I heard the voice of God, calling me out from the darkness, bringing me into the light. He reminded me of His call on my life, He reminded me that He can make all things new. He showed me the greatness of His love for me. A few months later I took my first mission trip, to Haiti.
In May of 2010, just a few months after the devastating earthquake that killed so many, and destroyed so much, our church sent a team to help an orphanage in Port au Prince. I felt so blessed that the Lord had given me such a wonderful opportunity to do two things I love: share about His great love, and work with children. Our team split into two halves, one half repaired the orphanage, the other half worked with the children. I felt so blessed to be in the half that worked with the children. I was only there for a week, but it was long enough to solidify in my heart that this was my calling. This was the life I wanted to lead. I loved being able to spend time with the children, talking with them, as best as I could since I only spoke English and they mostly spoke Creole, and sharing with them about the love of God, while also being able to be an example of His love.
Shortly after returning from this trip I knew my life was changed. I began to seek the Lord’s will for my life, and to pray about becoming a full time missionary. I knew He had told me that was my calling when I was six, but was it still? One night I was spending time with Jesus, asking for His guidance, and He gave me the chapter of Isaiah 61. Now of course, this chapter is a prophecy about Christ, and what He would do on this earth, but the Lord used it to speak to me, about what He had called me to do.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has appointed me to bring good news to the poor he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3 ESV)
These verses have become very close to my heart, reminding me each day what the Lord has called me to do. This was when I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that this would be my life. This was the purpose; the destiny God had given me: to tell the world the gospel, the truth of the magnitude of His love for them.
The next summer I had the privilege of going to Tanzania for two weeks to work with a local church doing door-to-door evangelism. The country was in such a unique situation, at the time the population identified as ninety-eight percent Muslim. However, it was the only country with such a high Muslim population that allowed open Christian evangelism. It was also such a beautiful opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone. I’m more of a one on one, friendship evangelism type of person, but this experience was one that God used to show me He could use me in any kind of situation.
It was one of our last days there, in the village of Mikumi. I had really enjoyed my time there so far, even though it had its difficulties. I had seen God move in mighty ways, but I was beginning to feel as though I hadn’t contributed much. I mean I prayed and interceded while others in my group had spoken, but I wanted to be able to share as well. I knew that maybe this was what the Lord had me there for, as an intercessor more than an evangelist, but there was still a part of me that desired to do more.
We came upon this small house with a young woman and her son. Our translators asked if we could sit and talk with her a while, she agreed, still holding her child close to her chest, rocking him as he slept. He looked about two or three. Our translators began to speak, and I began to pray silently, that the Lord would use them, and speak through them. I noticed as the conversation got deeper, it also got a bit more heated, so I began to ask what was being said. The woman had told them that, unlike the majority of the population of Tanzania, she subscribed more to juju magic, and followed a witchdoctor instead of following Islam.
I knew this was an opportunity for me. See, my ancestors had a history of being involved in witchcraft and magic, which, during my rebellious years, I had practiced and explored, and had been delivered from. I asked if I could share, and my translators asked the young woman. She looked at me and nodded, so I smiled and told her my story. She asked me questions, and I answered them. Was my God greater than the gods she served, I told her absolutely. I told her that the God I served now was stronger, greater than any other god. That He loved her and her son more than she could know. I told her how He had saved me by laying down His life for me. He had died for me, but He had died for her and her son too. My translators finished sharing the gospel with her, and praise God, through the power of His Spirit she decided accept Christ. Her son had been wearing a band around is arm, given to him by the witchdoctor to ward of evil spirits, and heal him of illnesses, she removed it from his wrist and burned it in the fire burning beside the house. This was the moment I knew how powerful the testimony of God’s power in my life could be.
The fall of 2011, just one month after my trip to Tanzania, I arrived in Bloomington, Minnesota. I had never been to Minnesota before. Never wanted to go either. But at this point, there was nowhere on
earth I would’ve rather been. There I was, in the middle of a frozen tundra, that in the end of August didn’t feel so frozen, taking the next step on my journey to becoming a full time missionary. I had heard about Bethany College of Missions (Now Bethany Global University) through the internet. I had never visited, and I was going on blind faith this was where God wanted me. I would pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Intercultural Studies. Going to Bethany was one of the best decisions I have made. There is nowhere else in the world like it. I was taught by retired missionaries, I took classes like Acts, Romans, Synoptic Gospels, as well as Anthropology, Social Justice, and Culture Study, as well as many, many others that helped prepare me to be a missionary.
The other unique, and special opportunity that Bethany offered was a sixteen-month (although mine was thirteen due to finances) internship overseas. They have sites all over the world, Africa, Asia, Europe. I was so excited that I would be able to serve for an extended period, as a missionary. I would support raise, like a real missionary, and serve in a ministry overseas, like a real missionary, all while taking classes towards my degree. When I first arrived at Bethany, I scoffed at the idea of having a site in France. What did France need missionaries for? Wasn’t that a waste of time? Then the Lord introduced me to Grayling.
Grayling and his wife Sandra had spent nearly twenty-five years in France, doing ministry, learning the language and the culture. Grayling and I had always gotten along, he always teased me, and I always enjoyed his Elvis impressions. Then, the summer after my freshman year an opportunity arose to go on a short-term trip to Marseille, a city in southern France. It was in preparation for, and going on this trip that I truly began tounderstand the need for missionaries in Europe.
France is known as the “missionary graveyard”, this was my first clue that things were worse there than I had previously thought. During my mission trip there I learned about how spiritually oppressed the people there were. They either worship themselves, or feel distant and unloved by God. I heard that depression and suicide was running rampant on this continent. Then I was able to be there, and see it for myself. There was such darkness in Marseille, in such a beautiful place. The churches were empty, and beautiful as they were, the presence of God was lacking. I could feel the burden of His heart for these people, all the lost and searching. I felt so deeply, so strongly for them, and I knew then that missionaries were needed in Europe. I knew that God wanted me in Europe. As the plane took off from Marseille, to take me back to Minnesota I had tears in my eyes, as if I was leaving home, not going back to it. The Lord whispered to my heart “You are not done here yet. You will return, I will bring you back, because my people need me, and you need to tell them about me.”
So I returned to Marseille in November of 2013, but this time I would stay for thirteen months, on my internship. It was during this time I learned the true depth of the need there, the trip I had taken before had just barely scratched the surface.
Originally I had been hoping to work with trafficking victims, or gypsy children, but unfortunately, due to safety concerns (the mafia and other extremely dangerous groups are deeply entangled with the trafficking in the area. Gypsys are also a highly dangerous group to get involved with, so as interns we were told it was just too risky.) in those areas of ministry I was unable to. However I began to realize a new form of evangelism that I took to quite well: friendship evangelism. I had never really heard of this type of ministrybefore, but it was right up my ally.
The important thing to understand about the French, and most Europeans for that matter, is that community is everything to them. A true friend, is a friend for life. This is why friendship evangelism has proven very effective as a way to reach Europeans. Once you are part of the community, once you have been accepted as a friend, you are like family, very much in the same way once you are part of the body of Christ you are part of the family of believers. This opens doors that otherwise would be shut to you. I felt especially blessed to be able to have one friend in particular that I had the privilege of discipling.
This is the importance of building a good, solid community in Europe. While America has very much become a “me” society, Europe has generally stuck to its roots of deep community, and caring for each other. This is why friendship evangelism is a great tool to have, because when you reach one person, it can often have a domino effect on those around them.
During my year in Marseille I saw many come through our ministry that were lost, hurting, that had turned to idols of self, drugs, alcohol, knowledge, sex, and even paganism. While I would love to say all of them gave their lives to the Lord, that is not the case. However, many did, and we had baptisms in the Mediterranean for them that were beautiful, and so special. I loved my time there, and my heart for Europe began to grow, and grow, and I knew that I would continue on in Europe after internship, but it wasn’t until the month before I came back from the field that I would know where.
I also had such opportunity to grow and learn about church planting, ministry, and being a missionary. I started a prayer group during my time there, as well as serving on the worship team. I helped to organize, and put together the children’s ministry, writing all the lesson plans in French. That was an especially stretching experience, but I’m beyond grateful I got to do it. We did treasure hunting, handing out bottles of water on hot days, just to start conversations with strangers. One of my teammates and I did English conversation groups with university students that wanted to practice their English. I also had a unique opportunity to work at a kids camp in Switzerland. I did culture studies, learning as much about Marseillaise culture as I could, and took language classes, so that I could communicate with people in their heart language. I also was privileged to spend time in this city that is fifty percent Muslim. While we as interns did not have an opportunity to be part of a ministry reaching out to the Muslim community in Marseille, I was able to see, and know that many of these people, are kind, and peaceful people. While I do not agree with their religion, living in such close contact with them helped to humanize them, and my respect for them as people has grown since living in Marseille.
In November of 2014 I went to visit Every Nation Belfast, a sister church to our church plant in Marseille. One of our internship classes was a requirement to either check out a ministry, or place we thought we might want to do ministry in that interested us. At this point I was thinking I wanted to continue doing church planting, so I figured I’d head up to Belfast, to check out the newest Every Nation church plant. I had no intention of ever actually working with them, but God had a different plan. From the moment I arrived there I felt something different… something special, very similar to the feeling I had gotten the first time I had been to Marseille. By my third day there I knew I seriously needed to be praying about working with this group of incredible people. The team there was very warm, loving, and so incredibly encouraging. They called out my spiritual gifts, and prayed over me. They asked my opinion on different things for the first time I felt not like an intern, but like a real, true missionary.
But more than that, I saw the need there. I saw the peace walls. Tall brick walls topped with barbed wire sectioning off Catholic communities from Protestant ones. I saw the graffiti, tainting these walls that had inspirational words carved into them, mocking the peaceful words with threats of violence. I saw the drunkenness, the drugs, the utter hopelessness of college students that had given up on God and only trusted in themselves. I saw the empty churches, and the anger and predilection towards violence just simmering below the surface. But I also saw the hope that this team was trying to show. I saw how they were bringing light into dark places. They were more than willing to work with already established churches, Catholic and Protestant, to bring peace and unity among the people, not more strife and violence. I saw how they absolutely loved the Irish people with the powerful love of Christ. And I felt that same love seeping into my very soul.
So I prayed, I prayed for a sign. I asked the Lord, if He wanted me to return, that Pastor Johann, the pastor of Every Nation Belfast, would offer for me to return. On my last night there, eating at a local pub, after opening all of my gifts that they had gotten me, because they are seriously the sweetest team of people I have ever met, and praying for me, Pastor Johann turned to me and told me “It has been so wonderful having you here. If you ever find that you would like to come and work with us, I know we would all love to have you.” At that exact moment, God had answered my prayer, He was saying yes.
I went back to Marseille, renewed, refreshed, and knowing what my next step was. One month later I was back on US soil. Shortly after that I was finishing up my last semester of school. In May of 2015 I graduated with a double major of Bible and Theology and Intercultural Studies. I went through the process of joining Bethany Gateways (formerly Bethany International Ministries), my missions sending agency, and began support raising earlier this year. My commitment at this time is for three years, and I’m looking forward to being able to join the team in Belfast very soon!
For more information about me, and my journey up till now, check out my blog!