when do you become a cross-cultural worker?

Does it happen when you actually set foot in your new town or country? Is it when you raise support or when a missions agency agrees to take you on? Perhaps it is when you agree to live sacrificially and people associate your love for the Lord with what you do? Or does it happen when you make up your mind and resolve in your heart, that no matter the cost, you’ll follow the Lord wherever He leads, regardless of where that is or what it may look like?

I’ve felt “called” (whatever that even means) to ministry since I was little. While there were little dreams interspersed between my childhood, including becoming a cruise dancer or an actress, my journals and memories are full of “all I want to do is love Jesus and His people forever!” kind of remarks. I didn’t realize that might mean overseas until years later.

I caught a love for the nations when my grandparents took us on multiple trips overseas, but it wasn’t until my senior year of highschool, when I went to Asia, that I realized there was a deep-seated desire in me to serve cross-culturally. I just could’t shake this burden for people who didn’t know Jesus. After spending time with a missionary who had significant impact on my life, I returned to the states convinced of this illusive “call to missions.” The call hasn’t been without it’s ups and downs, questions, and clarifications, but one thing is sure: when the Lord says He goes before you, He does. However that ends up looking.

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At the end of the day, I’m still not sure what this “call to missions” is going to end up looking like. As I’ve started practically pursuing and talking with missions agencies, financial aid, and other incredible connections the Lord has put around me, I’ve been simultaneously amazed and overwhelmed at how prevalent His hand has been and will need to be in this process. If I end up overseas in a few years, it will be nothing short of a miracle, considering the things that would need to fall into place. Besides Jesus, who even knows what His plans are for the next season of my life?

Writing this is interesting because I feel like it’s the sort of thing people talk about when they are sure – when they’ve secured an agency, when they’ve raised support, or when they’ve decided on a team, country, or people group. I’m basically sure about nothing, other than that I can’t ignore the Holy Spirit’s prompting in my heart and the ways people, opportunities, and wise counsel has almost seem to drop into my lap these past few months. It’s kind of crazy, but then again, what part of life with the Lord isn’t a little crazy?

Sometimes I think we do a great job of looking back and talking about the Lord’s faithfulness, but it’s often easy to forget reflection in the moment. I think it’s dangerous to think that I’m limited to sharing my life only when there are answers and conclusion paragraphs. This was some of my tension when I wrote 22 drafts; it might be easier to talk about becoming a missionary when things are more assured. What if I don’t end up overseas – do I look like a failure or an unfaithful follower? Like I can’t really hear or discern the Lord’s will for my life? I’m not even sure of what I’m learning or seeing in this season, so how am I supposed to write about that?

The thing is – people don’t just end up where they often pick their story up at. When I tell my story of coming to Wheaton, it’s a summary of how the Lord led me to that decision – the past-looking reflection doesn’t include all the nights of questions, tears, arguments with others, excitement about other schools, and pro/con sheets. There’s questions, tears, feelings, roadblocks, and diverted paths that pave the way to anywhere we end up. We aren’t always as excited to talk about these, often because they don’t feel helpful or important in the moment. But they are, because they remind us that the journey doesn’t always make sense or radiant a brilliant clarity. That doesn’t mean the Lord is any less present or that it’s any less significant.

All of that said, looking into becoming a missionary is an overwhelming process, with the reality of the fact that the door could shut at so many stages of the process. Recognizing that there’s a high chance that I’ll find myself wrestling with disappointment, unanswered prayers, and unmet expectations at multiple points in the journey. Yet there is also the reality that if this is what the Lord has, that going overseas won’t just be a dream anymore. It won’t just be “oh yeah I’ve always loved the nations; there’s some general regions that I have a heart for;” it will be a specific place, city, people, and team. It will be my real, tangible, day-to-day life. A life halfway across the world from everything and everyone I’ve ever known. Inevitably included in that life are nights of loneliness, missing family, seeing friend’s get married and have kids via Skype and pictures, and living a reality that many do not have a context for.

This season of praying, pursuing, and talking with lots of people about what my life could look like after I graduate with my masters, is full of wrestling, reflection, questions, and excitements. It’s meant meeting with lots of people, reading encouraging books, spending lots of time with my Bible, journal, and Jesus. Everyday feels like a new surrender – of my desires, my expectations, and my dreams – while simultaneously acknowledging more of how I was created, where my heart thrives, and places I feel the Holy Spirit moving. It’s exciting, it’s overwhelming, and ultimately, it’s just another stone of remembrance on this dusty path that I’m walking with my sweet Jesus.

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