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As a child, I grew up in the church. If those doors were open, we were walking in. Wind. Rain. Snow. Sun. Morning Service. Evening Service. Special Service. You could count on us.
I remember during one such special service when a missionary spoke about the amazing things the Lord was doing in the utmost regions of the Earth. Hundreds, thousands coming to Christ via missionaries that were living among them, learning their language and culture.
Wow! I thought. Missionaries must be the highest calling from the Lord—to sacrifice everything and leave home in order to preach the Gospel to those that did not know anything about God! I decided then-and-there that I would be a missionary someday, too.
As I grew up, I became very involved within my church body. When we moved to another state and found a new church home, my dad and I signed up to help set things up in the morning. Later, I became one of the children's worship leaders. Then, a fifth and sixth grade girls' leader. There was a lot to be done, and I was willing to do it.
College came, and after three major changes, I decided to graduate with a degree in Intercultural Studies. This major was for those who wanted to do mission work after graduation. I took two years of Spanish. I took countless Missions and Theology courses. I prepared for my mandatory practicum in another country—South Africa. This was my ticket to future missions work!
As the Lord would have it, I met a boy during the Fall Semester. He was a friend of a friend, a big fan of our university's volleyball team (in which I participated), and happened to be in one of my classes, as well. From the first day of meeting this fellow, he would not leave me alone. He walked me home from class, he called me to work on homework, he cheered me on in my games, he sat beside me in class... He became a little annoying.
This boy was very upfront with his future plans. He was going to be a pastor; he'd go to seminary after college and get his Master's degree. Then, he would pastor a church and later get his doctorate so he could be a professor as well. These were all things he insisted were going to happen.
For this reason, I tried to stay as far from him as possible. There was no reason I wanted to be a pastor's wife. Why would I want to give up my life to support him? To be placed under such scrutiny? I was a tomboy, regularly wearing pajama pants to class and having my hair up in a ponytail. I liked going to dance clubs, drinking an occasional Long Island Ice Tea and watching scary movies. These were not traits a pastor's wife should have.
And so, I tried to thwart this boy's affections. I declared I was leaving this country "ASAP" to truly do God's work, and that's when he simply stated: "Our greatest mission field is our own backyard."
That was true.
I had no problem telling strangers about Jesus, but my own friends from high school were a different story. I had no problem loving that African child living in filth, but loving that former friend who lied to me wasn't easy. Maybe what this young, annoying boy was telling me was true. Maybe all this work was getting me ready for a place where I would look, think, and act differently, but it would be harder because it would be within my own country's walls. That thought scared me.
God, what are you really doing here with me? I asked myself.