“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”Joseph Campbell
I didn’t plan to work with Asian Mission Outreach (AMO) when I joined Go To Nations (my sending organization) and moved to Thailand. I honestly didn’t fully understand what AMO was. However, when I moved to Thailand I found out I would be joining AMO for their one year training, with the purpose of consolidating our Go To Nations training with the AMO training in Thailand.
Even though it wasn’t what I expected, or, honestly, what I desired, I chose to submit myself to the process. It required a good deal of dying to myself and my own desires, but I also knew that the Lord would have many treasures for me along the journey. I was excited to glean all I could from the leaders of AMO, who have pioneered many great things in ministry. I also knew that, working with a mainly Filipino team, I would get a completely different kind of exposure to culture and learn a great deal about ministering to and with Asians.
Looking back, I picture myself before this journey began as someone sitting on the edge of a dock, dangling my feet in the lake, dabbling in ministry and culture, giving just enough to be considered a missionary. Then, when I joined AMO, it was as if someone ran up behind me and gave me a push into the water. It may have taken a little while to learn to swim and adjust to the water, but once I did I was able to thrive. It’s where I really wanted to be.
From then on, I wasn’t able to just coast on the surface. I wasn’t able to be satisfied with teaching a few classes or doing typical “missionary” things. But I dove in- to relationships with team members, to culture, to ministry, to my relationship with the Lord. Sometimes diving in is raw, uncomfortable, scary, messy, but you’re not really soaking until you’re immersed, and you can’t be immersed when you’re still sitting safely on the dock.
When I was beginning this training, a mentor had a picture of me. She saw me walking down a path toward a destination. Yet along the way there were many jewels buried in the dirt. I would stop, dig one out, wipe away the mud and dirt, and then attach the gem to myself. This is really representative of the season I have been in. I’m still in process but I’m still moving towards a destination. And these moments that make up the process I’m in are what are transforming me to look more like Jesus. The process is where the gems are. And if we get too destination focused we miss the things of true value.
So here are some of the gems I have picked up in the past year:
I used to think cultural adaptation was learning to like the food, or speak the language, or to be patient when people were late. But in this training I’ve had opportunity to understand cultural adaptation on a whole other level. I’ve worked alongside people from another culture, followed them, and led them. And I’ve made a LOT of mistakes in all areas. I’ve missed social cues and misunderstood instructions. I’ve run over people with my individualism and directness. There were times when I felt completely misunderstood and times I felt I didn’t belong. Sometimes I felt like even a simple conversation was exhausting.
But gradually and slowly, I began to learn and see with greater depth. It’s like I began to empathize with another culture and see from a different perspective, even if it wasn’t my perspective, I could see it. I learned that sometimes I need to lay my own mindsets down. I will carry this with me anywhere I go in Asia.
I learned how to fight for relationships. I learned what it looks like to be “all in”, not selective on my involvement based on my own convenience. I learned to sacrifice my own preferences and schedules for the privilege of being part of family. And it was so worth it. Things that come free aren’t as valuable to us, so I can honestly say that the team I worked with at AMO as a whole, as well as our batch of apprentices, are so valuable to me. We went through the process together and we had to fight for our relationships.
But really, that’s what love does. It fights. And this is the way we should not only love our families, our teams, our friends, but also how we should love those we are reaching out to. It takes fierce commitment and sacrifice. All good things come at a cost, are we willing to pay for our relationships?
I thought I was good at submitting before this training, but that was when most of the people I had to submit to made decisions I easily agreed with. That was surely put to the test during this apprenticeship! (In the best way!) I learned to say yes when I didn’t understand, and usually I started to understand later down the road. This can’t really be explained in words but must be experienced. I realized that I had good intentions to submit, but hadn’t had my submission muscles really exercised before. Now, I seek out leadership and someone to submit to. I want to be under the covering of submission, it’s so much safer and better. Often its still incredibly hard for me to submit, even when I don’t understand or see the whole picture, but submission has become a core value of mine.
You can’t help but get the heart of pioneering when you sit under Bishop Ariel. His heart for reaching the lost is contagious and his methods have shaped the way I view missions. It’s one thing to say you are a pioneer, to hear about pioneering, and to desire to do it, but it is certainly a whole different thing to DO IT. During this apprenticeship the thought of pioneering has moved from some far off idea, into reality. I no longer feel like planting a church or starting an outreach needs to take years or that it is out of reach, I now see the simplicity of it and I know I can do it again. The seemingly impossible has become possible.
I received my call to missions because God was continually wrecking me for the lost. In worship and prayer I would see tribes, nations gathered, and I would hear there cries. He steered me towards Asia because this is where people need to hear about Him. This is where the lost are. Yet, we can come so far and still let the lost pass us by. We have to be intentional to go against our nature, to go against the ways of the world, to go against apathy, if we are going to reach the lost. That is one thing that was ingrained in me during this training.
And after submitting and obeying for a year, I realize that where He has placed me is really where I want to be. I’ve come to learn that often I am an unable to choose for myself the best path that God has for me, which is why sometimes it’s good when He doesn’t give us much choice.
To sum up this long memoir, submit to the process. Be all in where God is calling you to be. No matter how painful or hard or messy the process is, it’s always worth it. You and your destiny are worth investing in.