by Amelia Sanders
I remember when I became a Christian. I was four, and I prayed the prayer. I understood Jesus loved me, because I could feel it, and I didn't want His love to go away. I wanted Jesus to live in my heart, because I couldn't fathom living without Him there.
I understood the missionary life as a response to loving Him. It came so naturally to me. When I heard people discuss missions, I knew that's what I was - a missionary.
I lived it out too. I made and put VBS invites into everyone's cubby holes at my kindergarten classroom. I remember it caused a controversy, because the school didn't want to endorse any religions. As a five year old, I embraced that, and I recall thinking. "Ah, yes, Jesus said we would face persecution."
As I grew up in the Clovis suburbs, I sensed that being a missionary was not normal. It seemed to me that a majority of Christian believers had a bad taste in their mouth when we talked about mission work. I discovered that many thought being a missionary meant being boring, prudish, and socially outcast. I came to the conclusion that I couldn't serve Jesus AND maintain the reputation and status I was trying to promote. I was a missionary, and as much as I desired to pursue the path God had ordained for me, the price was too steep. I had heard that it was crazy to surrender so much for God. So, I closed my open hands. "You know what God, I think I'm going to try the path everyone else is taking. Here's my calling back, I don't want it."
God let me go. But he didn't let me forget. As I tried to construct my own way, God kept showing me about His heart for the world. There was a missions themed week that Barbara Knepper and Chester Goodale hosted where we heard about the persecuted church. And Wildwood 2013, where we talked about making God to known to the ends of the earth. I kept finding myself learning about missions. Every time, I struggled with my calling. The unreached, the persecuted, the lost and the lonely, broke my heart. Still I said, "But, Lord. It's not for me."
January 15, 2015, I sat down to a divine appointment as I sat down at church. A representative from Gospel for Asia was speaking, and initially, I could not have cared less. However, as I stared at the wall, I realized I was in a conversation with God, and an image flashed into my head. I saw myself hiking over a mountain with a backpack full of bibles. I heard the Lord say, "GO," and as the image faded, Isaiah 52:7 sprang to my mind.
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion,“Your God reigns!”
In that moment, I realized that I had to be a missionary. "Jesus, send me! But, not too far. Like, don't send me to Asia."
I thought that was it. Surely, God would have me on the next flight to TImbuktu. That's not what happened. Because, Jesus wasn't done with me. See, now, I was available to His will. I spent about a year and half in prayer, often at Kuppa Joy, "Lord, where would you send me?" It was a season of waiting, and it stretched me into the person I had to become before I could take the next step. It frustrated me at the time. But, I see the gift of it now. I was at the mercy of God's timing, and before I could grasp it - I was on the short term team going to Albania. In the midst of preparing to go, I struggled with severe anxiety and depression. I remember sitting in my car before a meeting and in a full hyperventilated panic attack. "God, why me? I can't do this."
Yet, I made it to Albania, and God met me over Matthew 11:28-30.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
He removed my anxiety and depression, and I realized in that time that I truly wanted to be His hands and feet. More than I wanted riches, fame, family, or even my own country. I wanted His path. I wanted to be His missionary. My clenched fists opened in full submission.
I ended up enrolling in Torchbearers Bible School of Erseka, and it was there that God handed me my next step, although I didn't realize it at the time. He connected me to a ministry in Southeast Asia, and then he began to build a love for the people in my heart. I had said "God, NOT ASIA." Yet, I am headed there this March to share God's word.
Which leaves me here, in the middle of the road. Somewhere between the past and the future, in prayer and discernment over the road before me. I want to say thank you to the First Presbyterian Church congregation for encouraging me, praying for me, financially supporting me, and loving on me as I grew up here. I had the calling, but it took all of you to make it a reality. It takes a church to raise up a missionary, and I'm blessed to say you were the church that raised me. I am looking forward to sharing more of my adventures with you all.
PS: As I mentioned, I'm headed to Southeast Asia (for security reasons I can't mention the specific country, but uh, Robin Williams had a successful radio station there.) the first two weeks of March. Maybe you'd like to join our team? It's a group of around twelve folks so far, most from the Mason County Area in Washington. We're connecting with a ministry started in our destination country, and helping with a few "projects". It's going to be an amazing trip, and if you are interested please contact me!