If I were to make a guess, I’d assume that most everyone’s experience with missions begins in a different way. My exposure to any sort of potential work in the mission field began at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee. As a student, I was not interested in missions or going to be a missionary, period. My job — at least as prescribed in my head — was to go in, get the degree, and get out as soon as possible. Southern Adventist University, however, has had and continues to have a strong student missionary program. Every year, the student missions office has at least one student missions vespers program on a given Friday night of the school year. These programs contain one or more active calls for participation from students to go to the mission field for everything from teaching to nursing. I sat in some of these vespers programs and listened with little interest. Me? Go as a missionary? I decided that I would rather actively resist the call to get up and go. Missions wasn’t for me, and I didn’t want to fall behind in finishing my degree or lose my friends, so I kept myself glued to my chair for all the wrong reasons.
A few years later, while still in university, I was chatting with a friend about missions. This friend was headed out to the mission field as a student missionary the following school year, and she was attempting to encourage me to go out too. Me? Go as a missionary? Forbid the thought! I said to my friend, “No, I’m not going. If I went as a missionary, that’d be a waste of my degree. I’m studying to be a programmer, not a missions expert. I want to use the skills I’m studying. There’s plenty to do here back home. Not my thing. Not worth my time.” My friend left, disappointed by my decision. I carried on with my academics, not realizing what God had in store around the corner in just a few years and the way that one’s stubborn opinions can change.
Fast forward a few more years. After I graduated from college with my master’s degree, I settled into the workforce, still at Southern Adventist University. I still had the thought of missions in the farthest reaches of my brain, but I didn’t pay attention to it. It wasn’t until a few friends began going to the mission field that things started churning more in my brain. One close friend of mine in the computing department was especially passionate about missions and left for a year to Indonesia to help build a website and do other aid in other activities. Wait — you mean more than just pastors, nurses, and teachers can go to the mission field? Although I’d likely been told this before, my curiosity was aroused, and I began reading more materials on missions and volunteer opportunities. Soon after, I donated towards a friend’s journey with AFM after stumbling across their page quite randomly, and this led me to begin reading AFM’s magazine.
My reading on additional missions information and opportunities led me to the YouTube series I Want This City. This YouTube series discusses the serious lack of funding in the mission field as well as the great need for workers in the field. While watching that series, I slowly began to realize that the mission field is still very much active, still very much in need, and still very much in need of laborers…yesterday! But wait a second — me? Go as a missionary? I’m still learning and growing myself. How could I go do something for others if I don’t have all my ducks in a row yet? Somehow, though, the more I learned and read about missions, the more I began to think about how people were needed. And if people were needed, someone needed to go. And if someone needed to go…why not me? (See Romans 10:14-15 for a little bit more on this topic.)
I prayed about the idea that I had in my brain that refused to go away. I spent hours in conversation with others about my desire to go and encourage others to also go and serve, yet for many months I still sat on the edge of the proverbial fence. It was not until I learned that AFM’s recruiting director was coming to Southern that I finally buckled my mental seat belt and prayed for God to let me know on a specific date whether or not I should go. Needless to say, as that day ended, I knew that I needed to go. Over the course of the next few months, I began working through the application process. It was not easy, and I definitely wavered during the decision making and in the application process. Interestingly though, when I was struggling and discouraged the most, God sent people to encourage me specifically in the area of missions, as opposed to some generic encouragement. And now, here I am! Headed to Cambodia in just a few short months to go serve a people I have never met in order to show them the love of God that I have experienced in my own life.
Please join me in prayer and support of the people of Cambodia. I look forward to getting to know some of you as the days draw nearer to my AFM training and departure!