“So many people, myself included, limit God in the direction we choose to go based on what makes sense or what seems safe and comfortable.
You are putting others first and allowing God to use you, despite what that means for your own personal comfort or convenience.”
–A Dear Friend
TJ and I received a long message of encouragement from a very dear friend the other day, at a point when we most needed the words God put on her heart to share. While we have not doubted our call to be missionaries, we are still human and struggle with fear and desire comfort. The LORD recognizes we need reassurance from time-to-time and, over the last week, placed friends in our path who, without prompt or knowing what has been on our hearts, reached out with words of encouragement from The LORD.
I do not share the quotation to raise us up, but share the struggle we have and ask you to continue to pray for us on this journey.
When we were first married we laid out a “five year plan” for our marriage and career goals (what a laugh!), knowing we wanted to live in the Caribbean. For those who don’t know, TJ and I have moved roughly every two years from the time we were married. Not by any conscious choice, but rather because of circumstance; having lived in Charleston, Columbia, Richwood (Ohio), and finally back to Charleston before where we are now in the Florida Keys. However, much to my disappointment and excitement, we will not be here for two years before we sail to Belize.
As we have said all along, we feel God has called us to be tentmaker missionaries to avoid the distrust that often befalls missionaries in Belize. Little did we know, this “tent-making” aspect began a little over a year ago for TJ and in January for me. When we arrived in the Keys, I picked up a copy of the local free paper on Christmas Day and they were advertising a need for writers. Without hesitation I sent in my resume to apply for this freelance position. At the beginning of January, the editor called me to set up a brief interview and tell me the job was mine. A dream come true!
I have always loved writing but have never worked as a writer in any professional capacity; however, I have always wanted to try my hand at journalism. After writing for the paper for a few months now, I’ve come to realize this truly is my dream job and I absolutely love it. The editor assures me often that my writing is exactly what she wants and I am “made” for journalism; it is a “perfect fit” for me, she says.
I’ve tried desperately to figure out how we could stay in the Keys throughout the summer (re: hurricane season) so I could continue enjoying my dream job but, through much prayer this Lenten season, I know that is not possible. That, the plotting and planning to try to stay, is Satan tempting me in this “wilderness” period. We have been called to something greater than my position as a freelance journalist; we have been called to reach people in hopes that God will change their hearts and save their souls.
The Bible tells us, in the book of Matthew, Jesus called Peter and Andrew to follow him as they were fishing along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. They immediately dropped their nets and followed him. Likewise, when he called Jacob and John they were mending their nets in their boat with their father, and still, they left their father to follow Jesus. I must leave this dream job to follow Jesus.
In other countries around the world, people who choose to follow Jesus are choosing death. Not just death to self in the sense that the Bible calls us to “…consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry” (Col. 3:5) because through Christ we are given new life, but they will be persecuted for their faith and may actually be put to death. In order to follow Jesus we must give up the desires of our heart daily – death to self – to follow Him.
Death to self is painful. We are human and desire so many things in this world – money, security, careers, things, etc. – and yet, what we should truly desire is eternal life through Christ Jesus. Dying to myself and this dream job hasn’t come without tears. I realized yesterday I need to let this go so I can fulfill the call God has placed on my heart. I cannot have the desire of my flesh and satisfy my eternal soul.
Leaving our country of birth has never been the painful piece we needed to give up, for TJ and me, it is our careers. He found his “dream job” working in Mexico as captain on a liveaboard dive charter in December 2017. He is giving that up to put all his trust in The LORD and follow the call God has placed on his life; just as I am giving up my “dream job” to do the same.
Sitting in the beautiful prayer garden of St. Columba’s in Marathon today, I let some tears fall as I reaffirmed my commitment to follow Jesus and fulfill this call God placed on my life. I want more than anything to serve as a missionary and if that means leaving this short-lived journalism career behind, then I am willing to do it. Sometimes we have to give up something really good for something so much greater.
The opportunity to serve the people of Belize while sharing the love of Jesus Christ and the eternal salvation they have through Him is something so much greater than journalism. It is something so much greater than diving with Great White Sharks in Mexico (I’m speaking for TJ, but I imagine he believes this).
We get one life to serve others in the name of The LORD.
What are you willing to give up to help lead others to Him?