As I look back over my childhood, I easily see God planting seeds of a calling in my life. My heart lit up when I listened to the missionary stories my dad read around the dinner table. Stories of sneaking Bibles into China, stories of aged men serving behind the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe, and stories of sacrifice from all parts of the world. Other stories from newsletters written to my parents rooted deep in my soul as I grew in appreciation of those who stuck in the trenches despite attacks and violence.
The missionary mind began to take shape in my life early on, but soon I understood that to be a heart for missions. I grew in respect for the missionary but had little inclination that I might be one when I grew up. Yet the missionary fervor burned inside of me.
Yet there was one point of certainty, or was it. Along our journey, we get these signposts or mile markers that help us understand better where we are going or at least where we have been. Even then, we still have ambiguity and confusion.
For me this moment came during a camp meeting. I worked my way out of football practices for one night of camp, so I drove up solo to meet up with my youth group and participate with one day of the week-long camp. That one day happened to be mission’s night for the camp. I loved missions, but did not look forward to this night. Don’t tell anyone, but I heard the speaker as he spoke at my church the Sunday before camp. I was the sound guy, so I got an extra special privilege of hearing him twice already. Shhh, but I might have fallen asleep during his sermon.
I fell asleep until he started to set up the response. He began talking about ducks and beavers, the famous animals from his state. Ducks represented missionaries. He made the call, and even though I wanted to be a pastor, was compelled to go forward. I quickly rationalized that the pastor story was to continue to illuminate my calling but with a bent. I would be on mission in my own country. This continued when I heard the stats that the US was now receiving more missionaries than they were sending for the first time. I had the ammo in my tool belt.
About a year later, another sign post popped up when I received a prophetic word. Our church had Helen Volonis speaking, and she always brought a word for some of the people in the room. Now, I was in one of the quandaries when a prophet comes through the church. Part of me wanted to duck down. Don’t pick me out, don’t embarrass me in front of everyone…I don’t need everyone looking at me for this. But on the other hand, I was always overlooked in these meetings…doesn’t God have anything for me…
Well, that day, he did.
She spoke over me that she saw me travelling overseas like a missionary. She went into more detail, but I quickly dismissed the word as way off base. I thought, really, I wanted a word, and this is what I got. I couldn’t fully accept or reject the word, so I put in my back pocket to see what might happen.
Yet, in that back pocket it remained as callings turned into rationalizations and words disappeared into the deepest regions of my memories. I still loved missions, but did not see myself crossing borders.
All of that changed when I met a girl.