Friday, August 5, 2016

My Ever-changing Life is About to Change Again

Last summer, Barbara Lawhon called me to ask if I would pray about speaking at a women's luncheon at her church. I had no idea how God would use that simple phone call to radically change my life. 

I ended up speaking at the luncheon in October. After I spoke, Mike Russell, who had filmed a promo clip and handled my slides and sound, mentioned an upcoming Global Outreach missions conference. I had been a Global Outreach summer missionary to Honduras several decades earlier, and the ministry had always held a soft spot in my heart.

"Who's manning your prayer room?" I asked. 

The conversation went from there. Those who know me well won't be surprised that I offered to help. 

Along the way, I met Steadman Harrison, the CEO of Global, and Rory Tyer, the VP of marketing. There was instant rapport, and I found them to be kindred spirits. Under their leadership, there's a fresh wind at Global, and God's doing exciting things. 

Before long, I began to attend Hope Church. It turned out that Steadman and his family attended there, too. One Sunday, Steadman welcomed me and told me about a new Sunday School class he'd be teaching on Mission Mindset. He invited me to attend. 

I smiled and made a noncommittal reply. I had a class I enjoyed already. There was no way I was leaving the class I'd just joined.

Before Mission Mindset began, however, I realized that the blog had thousands more views per week than I had realized. Who knew Google+ counted views separately from Blogger? Not me. 

I saw those thousands and thought, "Maybe God is doing something more than I realized." Instantly, the Mission Mindset class came to mind.

I waited weeks before I finally gave in and agreed to attend. (I'm on furlough from my "real" Sunday School.) That class rocked my comfortable world. 

I began to see that everyone in our class was on mission for the cause of Christ, but there was a big difference. They were associated with a mission-sending organization of some kind. I, instead, was the Lone Ranger. Well, the Lone Ranger before Tonto. 

I remember the moment so vividly. We'd introduced ourselves by telling about the organizations with which we volunteered. When it was my turn, I looked around the room and realized I was just with me. Well, me and God. I teared up and said, "I'm the only one in this room without a group."

Steadman Harrison leaned forward and said words that changed my life. "You are, but you don't have to be. I've already told you we'd like to partner with you."

And he had. But it had been just God and me for so long, that I was afraid Global Outreach would "get in the way" of God. 

I've struggled about my decision. Steadman and Rory have had the patience of God Himself with me.

One day, we chatted at the Global office about the potential partnership. It made the most sense in the world. "Yes," I said. I'd do it. I walked out to my car with an application in my hand and a long list of questions in my pocket.

Unanswered questions.

I sat in my car, looked at the thick application and the list of unanswered questions, and cried. I couldn't remember having to fill out an application before. God had always used my little lists of questions as confirmation. This time, everything looked different. 

I was missing the one thing that had made every other job transition easy. Confirmation. I needed a clear YES from God.

I struggled for days, couldn't get my yes, and finally, one Friday morning, I emailed Steadman and Rory. I didn't have a yes, so I couldn't go forward without it. They agreed to pray for me.

This still seems unbelievable, but the following Sunday (yes, 48 hours later), Pastor Scooter announced a new sermon series. Next Steps. To begin, he suggested we bow our heads and pray for God to reveal our next step. 

I bowed my head, along with everyone else in the room. "What's my next step, Lord?" The words weren't even completely prayed before I heard "Global" so clear in my heart that I nearly fell out of my chair. 

I wanted to jump straight up and shout, "Why didn't you tell me this on Friday before I sent that email???" But I didn't. Instead, I thanked Him, cried, and rejoiced that I'd finally heard a word from God.

I spent a long time with Pastor Scooter later that week, and that conversation confirmed what I'd heard on Sunday. Global Outreach is my next step.

I've had a jillion questions about how the partnership will look. What I'll do that's different from what I'm doing now. How I'll help Global. How Global will help me.

What I know for sure is that Global is my next step, and God is leading. This is truly a leap of faith. My Heavenly Father knows everything He has planned from here, but I don't. At least not yet. 

I'll be a "digital missionary". If you've read my blog or participated in the Hosea study, that won't be a surprise. I'll do what I'm already doing, and do more of it. I'll work to expand my reach to further the cause of Christ.

As a digital missionary, I won't have to move. I'll still live right here in Blue Springs. 

Will I travel some? Probably so. For a good while now, you've seen me write about Nigeria and refer to the people there as "my people". One day, I hope to go there and serve on a short-term mission project, but I have no plans to move there. 

Will I return to the practice of medicine? I doubt it, though my continuing medical education is up to date and I'm still renewing my license every year. Those years in medicine are not wasted. They've shaped me in ways I can hardly understand. I'll always be a physician. Medicine will always be a part of my identity. Nothing will change that.

The reality is that I can't do everything at once anymore. I never could, of course, but there was a time when I (foolishly) thought I might. If I return to practicing medicine, there's no way I can continue the digital outreach that now reaches literally around the world. 

It's been a hard choice, but I'm sure of my decision. It's right. 

Global provides "Member Care" for their missionaries, and they'll do that for me, too. It includes everything from assistance with finances (a way for partners to give tax-deductible support with 100% passthrough),to pastoral care, spiritual accountability, prayer support, and a large family/network of missionaries worldwide. 

The Bible studies will still be free, but you'll have the opportunity to partner with me by making a donation when you participate in a study. There'll be books for sale to raise money for the ministry, and I hope you'll partner with me by buying them. There'll be a donate button on the blog (sometime in the next few weeks) if you're so moved by God. 

I'm not a salesman and I'm not good at asking for anything. I've lived for the last two years (since I left medicine) on my savings, but that won't last forever. I haven't made a penny from the blog so far. I did make a little over four dollars last month from online book sales. It's not a bonanza, but it was almost enough to buy a loaf of gluten-free bread. Almost. 

What I've done for years is tell God my needs and trust Him to provide. He's never let me down. He never will. When I have a need in the coming years, I'll ask God. If He prompts you to help, I hope you'll follow His lead. I might press you to follow Jesus more closely, but I won't press you to give. 

What I will need the most is what I'm trusting you to provide. Prayer support. This has been a hard decision and I know my life will change. I'm just not sure how yet. I'm counting on you to pray me through.

One thing I am sure of is that God has the plan and it's a good one. Jeremiah 29:11 is my "life verse", and I'm depending on it's promise now, more than ever.

"I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11 nasb

Next Monday, I'll begin a week of Missionary Orientation and Training. I'm truly excited about this next step, and I hope you'll rejoice along with me.

When I was just a girl, I read Isaiah's words and prayed along with him. "Here am I, Lord. Send me." (Isaiah 6:8) It's taken a long time, but that's exactly what He's doing now. Sending me.
Tomorrow's blog is about some of the blessings I've already received from volunteering with Global, so be sure to check back.

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Only One Who Could 

Here's the link to the worldwide prayer guide: The Prayer List

#nextstep #globaloutreach #digitalmissionary