written March 21, 2015
I am living a miracle, led by God’s Spirit. Granted, I’m human. I get grumpy when I don’t get my own way. I have jealous and ungrateful thoughts way too often. There are times I chafe under God’s silence, seeking His Will and not seeing it. I wish that a thunderbolt, writing on the clouds, angel from above, or at least a Bible verse would give me clear direction. Other times, I have my hopes, I want God to agree, and then He speaks.
Born to a Canadian couple who met, courted, and lived the first few years of their married life on the mission field of Guatemala, a part of me has always been drawn to go witness in China, Haiti, or Reading, P.A. even. I want to serve God. I like adventure, meeting new people, and experiencing a different culture. Foreign missions would seem like the perfect fit. So, armed with three weeks of intense study at Bible school, I was ready to take off and save the world after high school.
But God said “No” to foreign missions that first year. My little sister’s cancer returned. My family was fostering two little boys at the time ages three and two. With mom in London with my sister most days, I was clearly called to serve at home.
My sister improved, and I was hired to teach at a school in a very different Mennonite culture an hour west of home. I taught grades one to three that year by God alone. I was greener than ivy. I had never taught a day of school in my life or even seen three grades taught together. My life consisted of God, school, and church and family on the weekends. Life was good.
Then the phone call came the very first evening of my Christmas holidays. Would I consider teaching at the new school my church was starting? It was a heart-splitting decision. I had seen God work through me as I poured my life into these little people, living in the drama of church conflict. However, I was excited with the prospect of starting a school in town where we could reach out to community people. In the end, I chose to move on to our new school. God confirmed my choice with overwhelming joy.
Here I was, in September after a summer of intense discussion and decisions, teaching twelve Grade one students. God had done amazing things. My church had prayed for thirty students. School opened with over thirty families–eighty four students. Yet, even in the middle of this, in the back of my mind huddled “the dream.” I left it before God as I gave myself to teaching. Was there some place I should go this summer? I hoped so.
September twenty second. I was continuing my read through the whole Bible just like normal. Ezekiel chapter three was my evening’s study. Summer dreams were far from my mind until I read verse five. “But thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of a hard language, but to the house of Israel.”
Oh. Somehow, I knew what that meant. I wrote this in my journal, “Okay God, I get the message. I am disappointed, but I’ll do what it takes.” I thanked Him for revealing His will, but I cried, too. I would hear of friends going here to teach Bible school or there with this mission. I was sincerely happy that they were going and devastated that it wasn’t me.
God heard and cared and sent many missions to my door. The first two were pre-teen girls named K.C. and Mikayla. I gave them a tour of the school. They were intrigued as K.C. had gone to kindergarten in the building when it was still a public school. They wondered at the changes and the quaint wooden desks “like in the movies” and told me all about themselves. What do you say when someone tells you about their job in their family’s haunted house or about the dead bird they toyed with on the play ground? Mostly, I listened. I only had a few conversations with them, but they still say “hi” when I see them. I pray for them and wonder if missions may be friendship with lonely girls whose lives are very different from mine.
Next, God sent me a mission in the form of a classroom helper. She has cerebral palsy and finds it difficult to play sports, print neatly, and tie her shoelaces. She has lived through her mother’s battle with depression and attempts at suicide. In fact, when I got to know her and her mother, they had only been Christians for a couple of years. This young girl has many battles with insecurity and trying to decide where she belongs. Imagine growing up in jeans, then being thrust into a Mennonite school at age thirteen. Working with her gave me a chance to watch God speak into her life and give her the confidence to dream. She continues to bless me with many a sweet, “Good morning, Miss Yolanda.”
That summer God sent many other opportunities. In June, during monthly street meetings in Toronto, I spent an hour conversing with a Trinidad witch doctor, who was selling flags. Amongst the sky scrapers and bustle of people, he tried to convince me that he was guaranteed heaven. After all, he raised a respectable family and used his “powers” to release some prisoners in the Middle East when the prayers of the prisoners availed nothing. I simply told him that there is no salvation outside of a life cleansed by Jesus Christ.
In July, I spent my mornings for two weeks teaching Grade five Bible school at our church. I was stretched by the student’s honest questions and their fresh way of seeing familiar Bible stories. God used a wayward set of keys to remind me of His sovereignty, but that’s a story for a different time.
Later on that month, our family took a trip to Missouri. On the road down, my sisters and I were unexpectedly forced to drive two extra hours to a find a motel for a night. The one we found only had one room left. We were unloading our stuff in the muggy night air, when a stocky young man stopped to ask a couple of questions. Our dress made him curious. He wanted to know what we believed, and we told him we were Christians attending a Mennonite church. We explained the doctrine of the head covering among others. He seemed very familiar with some of our beliefs.
Sensing his openness, I said, “So, may I ask what you believe?”
He responded, “I don’t.” Raised in the Catholic church, he planned to become a priest. Then someone told him about hell. He just could not believe that a God of love could make a hell. He had another reason for doubting God. He suffers from schizophrenia. Over and over again, he pleaded prostrate before God to heal him. God said, “No.” This confused young man claimed that if Jesus would destroy hell and heal him, then he would become a Christian. Yet, later on after courteously helping us carry our bags to our door, he claimed to have committed the unpardonable sin. I don’t know if he truly has. God is the Judge. We left with him our testimony of joy despite cancer and other trials that darken our days. I still pray for him and others who wander confused.
God continues to send work close to home. Teaching is no small mission. I was reminded of the hope I have been given and now offer one morning in late fall. Grabbing some papers off the copier, I watched my co-teacher rush into the supply room at 8:56. He had fetched a wayward blackboard brush off the roof for me. (With energetic grade ones, don’t ask! Although, I will have you know that a few students were relieved of their duties that week.) “Someone’s lunch pail was on the roof.” I glance over at the dirty black bag as he continues, “Or maybe it’s not a lunch pail.” He opens the zipper. “Yup, drugs.” Oh, that my students would read The Answer in my life and escape the traps that Satan sets!
Just when I thought I might be getting bored in January, God sent me a new student. When we agreed to take him, we did not realize that he was just starting grade one or that his attention span is terribly short. We did know that his unwed mother and divorced father wanted something better for their son. In the chaos of his parents’ break up, his mom’s crazy work schedule, and his move from another province, we try to give him stability and point him to The Rock. Since I am weak, God is strong.
Looking back over these foreign experiences, perhaps I see a purpose in God’s saying “No” when I wanted to go. As I wrote in my journal on January 23, I realized, “Being a missionary is having a heart for the lost and the courage to reach out as far as God extends your hand.” Could it be, that all this time, I was a foreign missionary?
I’m still human. I still struggle to surrender to God’s Will some days; but I’m living a miracle, led by God’s Spirit and that’s what counts.