Saturday, July 25, 2009
David's calling to Ukraine actually goes back several decades to when our pastor, Dr. Jim Vineyard, signed up in high school to take a Russian course. Dr. Vineyard had a girlfriend (or maybe it was just someone he was interested in) who was going to be taking the class, and he thought this would be an excellent opportunity to see her more often. However, several days later this young lady quit the class, and Dr. Vineyard's father would not let him quit because "Vineyards are not quitters!" This gained knowledge of the Russian language later led him to undercover operations as a soldier in the American army. Many years later, Dr. Vineyard would return to Russia and other former Russian countries for a greater purpose: to spread the Gospel. After one of these such trips, David was sitting in Dr. Vineyard's congregation, listening to Dr. Vineyard share the great opportunities that lie in the former Soviet Union, stating that "so many have been saved, but there is no one to stay and disciple them." God used this to speak to David's heart, and at the age of 17, David surrendered specifically to be a missionary to the country of Ukraine.
When I was just 15 years old, some young people in my youth group (also a part of this church) took a missions trip to Ukraine. That next year, so much was said about Ukraine, that I determined I was going on the next trip. So, at the age of 16, I was one of five young ladies that traveled with my youth director and one of his assistants. I was a bus kid and thought I knew what poverty was. However, this trip opened my eyes and helped me to return to America a changed person. Not only did I feel compassion for the economical burdens of the Ukrainians, I also felt a deeper burden for their spiritual needs. I just knew in my heart that I would go back some day. David and I began dating when we were both 17 years old and, well, you know.... "the rest is history."
Just this week I was asked by a teenager through an e-mail "How did you know that Ukraine was the country God wanted you and your family to go to?" We are actually asked this by young people often, so I thought I would answer it here on my blog.
There are no two people alike. One of the unique privileges of Christianity is that we have ONE God who can speak to billions of people in very different ways. So, there is no "formula" answer for knowing how to know where God wants you to be a missionary. However, I do believe there are some basic principles that apply to everyone....
1. Lamentations 3:51 says "Mine eye affecteth my heart." God will use things you SEE to speak to your heart.... this could be through missionary presentations or letters, National Geographic magazines, etc...
2. EXPERIENCES such as my trip to Ukraine
3. Other PEOPLE'S BURDENS such as my Pastor's personal experience that he shared from the pulpit, or through my youth group's return from an earlier mission trip.
Of course, these points are not all-inclusive. However, if you feel like God is calling you to a specific place, pray about it for 30 days. This is what my youth director recommended to me, in order for me to have time to understand whether or not I was making an emotional decision or not. After 30 days, I still felt like God wanted me in Ukraine. I never made a public decision in front of the church, but I promised God that I would go wherever He wanted me ("but please let me go back to Ukraine!") Well, God gave me the desires of my heart, and here I am, joyfully serving Him and loving every minute of it!
When I was in grade school, I thought God wanted me to be a missionary to Africa. In Junior High and High School I felt specific burdens for Mexico, China, and the Jail Ministries... all at separate Missions Conferences or because of certain speakers or people. There is a drive in teenagers to know exactly what their future holds (and this is not a bad thing in and of itself), but many times it causes an uneasiness and a "need" to make a public profession to a specific field, if this teenager has already surrendered to missions. As an adult, I now understand that I was feeling burdens for specific places, because I, like all Christians, have been called to be a witness to the lost and I was feeling a burden for different peoples God has created. Knowing this, my advice to teenage girls who feel that God has called them to missions would be this: be willing to go anywhere. In the meantime, continue to seek counsel from your parents and your pastor as to the person to whom God has for you to marry. One day, when God reveals His will to you about whom to marry, the decision of where will most likely be settled. As long as you are fully surrendered to God's will right now, then you are in God's will right now!