A Sojourners Beginning
I remember thinking to myself, "I am so glad I am only here for 10 days." Ten days, you can do anything and go anywhere for 10 days...
The air was thick with humidity...suffocating and oppressive. The kind of air that makes it feel like an elephant is sitting on your chest. Just taking a simple breath caused perspiration and made me consumed with trying to escape. Where can I go to get away...just a little relief...anything. The realization of the inevitability that the heat would overcome and win became real, overwhelmingly real. I had to accept it. 10 days...it's only 10 days...
The smell, what was that smell? Was it me? No, that's not body odor, it's worse... I can handle body odor if for no other reason than knowing that I can fix that. No, this wasn't body odor...it was, worse. It smelled like someone was grilling steaks in an outhouse. The smell of savory food and human waste mingled and mixed into an aroma of confusion. I liked it and hated it at the same time. A smell that made me hungry and nauseous. How do I deal with this? 10 days...yes, 10 days.
The people were warm and welcoming. Distant, but welcoming...yearning to know what they could do for us and how or what we might give to them. It was a welcoming that I had come to know well going on several short term mission trips to Mexico. A proud country willing and wanting to share their culture with you expecting nothing in return. But this was different, they seemed...fearful, perhaps distrusting. Without hope.
The more people I met, the more my heart ached for their spiritual welfare. They live in fear, both physically and spiritually. Their lives are corrupted by paganism and spiritual oppression and a twisted view of life's purpose. 10 days...it's only 10 days...
That was my first visit to Cambodia, a beautiful country full of cultural wonders and extraordinary people writhed with fear and distrust. It happened 3 years ago. A short term mission that my wife and I lead our college group on. A trip, as I learned later, would be the beginning of a sojourners call to full time missionary work.
Fast forward to 2015...our home church in Maple Valley, WA was hosting a Missions Conference. It was a weekend full of festivities that culminated in a Q&A session Sunday night. We had several missionaries, whom we support as a church, speak over the weekend. At the end of the conference there was a Q&A session regarding their personal experiences and views of mission work.
This wasn't the first missions conference that my wife and I have attended. Our church hosts one every year in hopes to rally the prayer warriors and give a spot light onto those that have obeyed God's call to make disciples of all nations. This conference, however was unique for my wife and me in that the Holy Spirit was calling us to missions.
I remember during the Q&A session the overwhelming plea for help from each missionary. In fact there was a prayer that went out asking for God to draw out from our congregation someone that might be compelled to missions. There it was, a tug, an ache, a small voice saying, "You Trevor, I want you to go." Ugh, really? I have never wanted to be a missionary. Not once even considered that as an option. Ministry, yes, loved it. Missions work, nope!
I had been on numerous mission trips as a teenager and was never compelled to keep pursuing them. In fact the only reason we went to Cambodia was because our College Group had shown a desire to go on a mission trip. Why Cambodia you ask? We had just sent one of our own church members as a full time missionary to Cambodia. We thought it would be good to support them in their first year by visiting and seeing how we could help.
Now, through this missions conference I had a desire to seek mission work! Nah, I thought to myself after the conference. That was just an emotional response. So I dismissed the notion. Over the next few weeks I couldn't take my mind off of the conference. That small voice kept nudging. I spoke to my wife about what I believe was God's tug on my heart for mission work. Surprised and excited she confirmed that God had placed the same desire in her heart. There was no ignoring this now, I had to face the reality of what was happening.
My wife and I decided to pray for 1 month for clarity...is this truly from the Holy Spirit or just an emotional response to a real need on the battle fronts of global missions? My wife reached out to a dear missionary friend whom she got to know during our trip to Cambodia to ask for prayer and advice. Clarity soon followed.
In an email to Jen, my wife explained our hearts and the unfathomable tug of the Holy Spirit into missions. The response from Jen was an answer to prayer. She wrote how Todd, her husband, and she had been praying for us for over a year and half asking that God would direct us and lead us to do His will. After our trip to Cambodia, they both felt that we were called to missions, but felt it necessary to keep it to themselves and devote it to prayer. At one point she and Todd sought advice from their team leader in Cambodia on whether or not they should say something to us. The team leaders response was, in God's timing...let God do the work...devote them to prayer. Two weeks later, Hayley reached out asking for prayer and advice...Clarity, answered prayer, Confirmation.
The month of praying came to a close and we both concluded that it would be disobedient not to pursue the mission field, so we began by seeking council and researching organizations. Where do we go? Who do we talk too? How do we get started? What does this look like with 4 kids? Questions began to mount and overwhelm. However, with each question came answers and a calming peace, as if the Holy Spirit was saying, trust Me, be obedient and trust Me.
And so, a Sojourners beginning is unfolding...there is so much more to post, but will leave that for another day. Let me close with my favorite verse:
Titus 2:11-13 - "The Grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires, but to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in this present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus."
As I reflect on these verses, it is with joy and peace that I can embrace the idea of giving up my comforts and lifestyle to pursue an opportunity to preach Christ and Him crucified and resurrected to those who have no hope.
May We Always Look To Jesus and Him Crucified!