A few weeks ago, a post regarding calling and the IMB hit SBC Voices (found here). A number of very astute comments were made regarding the nature of calling, and some hard questions came up. All of that got me to thinking, so I went around and asked a bunch of international missionaries for their perspective. Enjoy.
We actually began the process with the IMB before I felt ‘a call.’
Once my husband felt called to serve overseas, he asked me to pray about it. I fervently prayed for 6 months, hoping not to be called to a foreign place. I had obeyed by going from Texas to Oregon, and felt that God had already called me far enough. I was in a spiritual battle of mind and will; God had to speak directly to me about this for me to obey.
After 6 months of prayer we attended “Foreign Missions Week” in Glorieta. During the last invitation time, the Holy Spirit spoke to my spirit saying, “It’s o.k. if you don’t want to go; I can send someone in your place.” I broke and cried out to God, begging him, “Lord, don’t send someone in my place, I know you are calling me, I’ll go.” Each time I revisit this memory of God’s voice ‘calling me’, it encourages me to continue. My ‘call’ is the spiritual marker; that time when I can look back and know without a doubt, this is what God did!!
Once I would have been proud to be known as the least likely to be an international missionary. I skipped chapel services in seminary when there was a mission emphasis just to be sure God didn’t call me to missions, all while married to a woman who felt a call when she was a teenager. She kept it in her heart unless I “got the call”.
I was serving in a dream church with a growing ministry when an FMB missionary who knew my wife as a child turned our names in to the mission board as potential candidates. Suddenly it seemed every sermon and devotional had something to do with missions. Finally, in the midst of preparing a devotional for a group of young adults I came across Acts 14:15 and knew that He was confirming a call to missions to the most reluctant of workers. Through leaving a church and people we dearly loved, language school, coups and civil strife in our adopted country, I have never doubted we are where we must be to have any measure of spiritual integrity.
God calls individuals to carry out certain tasks for His glory; however the way God calls someone can vary greatly. For me, after seeking God’s will for my life, and realizing that He had called me to career missions, nothing else made sense regardless of how appealing some other things may have seemed. That call has been confirmed over and over through Scripture, conversations or messages from others, and by a sense of peace in knowing that I am where God wants me to be.
Peru, Dominican Republic, Mexico
For me, there were no trumpets or angels. I didn’t cry at an altar or feel the nudging of the Spirit during camp. Instead, there was a quiet realization that I was in a wonderful job, a great town, and a fabulous home…and I wasn’t supposed to be there. I lived outside the US previously, and found that I really didn’t have that much trouble adjusting.
Over the last 13 years or so of our missionary journey, I’ve come to see that I am wired for this. My brain works in a way that makes me suited for missions, for learning languages and flexing for cultural shifts. I think for me, maybe, “call” is simply the realization that in order to obediently be all I can be for Him, I need to be out here. To live and work in the U.S. would be a waste of what He has given me, at least for now.
Venezuela, Ecuador, Czech Republic
I have experienced a definite call to a specific place on the mission field. I have also experienced making a decision to leave one place and move to another based on educational needs and mission prompting. I believe both exist and both are valid. I believe God sometimes gives us a very specific call to a specific place for a specific purpose, and sometimes He allows us to choose a place of ministry based on gifting and needs. When God gives us a specific call, we had better obey it. Other times, we pray and ask God to reveal His call or direction and it seems we are left to decide based on things He has already revealed to us.
I would compare it to how we are with our children at times: Sometimes I say to my son, “Go put your shoes in your closet right now”. Other times I may say to him, “Make sure your room is cleaned up.” Both are valid. He would be expected to obey both. But the way he obeys will be a little different in each case.
God is the same today as yesterday. In the sixth chapter of Isaiah, the prophet was already serving, but answered a new call by saying, “Here am I; send me”.
I believe with all my heart God placed me where He could touch my heart. Because I was “comfortable” as an engineer and making 2-3 mission trips a year, if my call had simply been a product of my emotions, those emotions would have been pacified, it seems, by my regular trips. Instead, with each trip, my calling became more intense.
For my first mission trip, I thought I was going simply because I had never been to Guatemala. I remember the first night of that first trip like it was yesterday: a deacon and I were sharing a tent and sometime around midnight, he told me, “I wish you would shut up and go to sleep.” I told him that for the first time in my life I felt as if I were exactly where God wanted me to be.
My wife said I came home a totally different person. She went with me on all subsequent trips and in time, she, too, heard the call. As soon as I could, I resigned my job and went to the mission field. The pay was not as good, but the blessing of being where God wants you to be exceeds anything else in this world.
Calling is a specific task for a specific individual. It may be great or small. It may be far away or near. Calling is not a mandate…it is more like a strong personal invitation designed just for you. My call to missions was a strong invitation, but I think I was allowed to say “No.” I could have turned it down. However, once I accepted the role and the duty, it became a commitment that I cannot quit without a specific calling (or invitation) to something new.
I guess it is sort of like marrying the right person. A girl can date some guy, can fall in love, and can accept a proposal. However, she is free to back out until the moment she says “I do.” At that point, marriage to Mr. Right goes from an invitation to a mandated commitment.
I know I will be in my ministry role until the day I complete the task He has given me. I’ll know I have completed it when He invites me to do something else.
Czech Republic, Venezuela, Ecuador
My calling into the ministry came in my teenage years. Since that time, God has allowed me to serve Him both in the states and abroad. Throughout the years, there have been many highs and lows, many times of rejoicing and times of weeping, great joy in seeing others come to Christ and serve God with a heart of passion, and great heartache in seeing fellow ministers abandon a lifestyle of living above reproach.
There have been many times I’ve doubted whether or not I had made the right decisions, and I’ve doubted my abilities. In these times, the verse that always helps bring me back to my senses is 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:
“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
These verses help me remember that it ain’t about me or my abilities. It is about the grace of God; about His sufficiency in my life.
Whenever I get discouraged and feel ready to quit, I remind myself of the verses above. I do believe that we are currently serving in a place, amongst a people, and that is exactly where God wants us. However, if that door shut tomorrow, it’d be hard, but it’d be okay. My first and foremost calling is to be obedient to God and follow Him. If I keep that in mind, the where, the with who, etc. will work itself out.
Name and Location undisclosed