Some people are adventurous. Not me. I enjoy a warm shower in the morning, good coffee and predictably comfortable living quarters. Besides I struggle with allergies and food sensitivities. Unknown food territory is a bit scary.
For a time I was afraid God would send me to Africa as a missionary! That thought kept me from surrendering the control of my life to him, until I realized how much God loved me. If he would call me to Africa, he would give me the desire to go there, and I could trust him to take care of me.
I wanted the Lord to use me to share His love and forgiveness with others. And so I stepped out in faith to go to Mexico with a group of university students to show the JESUS film. That was several years ago. Since then I’ve been to Latvia, Russia, Israel and Thailand. And God has dealt with my questions and fears.
How will I adjust to the living conditions? What if I get sick?
My most serious illness was a cold. And even my allergies didn’t present a problem. I felt like I was buoyed up by prayer. God did indeed take care of me!
I was afraid we would have no hot water in Latvia, but we had hot water every morning, due to a unique gas heater that heated the water as you used it. And in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) I discovered I could wash my hair in cold water in a sink!
My first project in Mexico was probably the greatest challenge, simply due to living in a dorm. But I survived the food, a few days of no water for showers and toilets that wouldn’t flush. I didn’t even come down with “Montezuma’s Revenge,” even though half of our group did. On that project I learned to give thanks in all things, which did wonders for my attitude!
The key to remaining healthy, I learned, is to keep your hands clean and out of your eyes and nose. Handiwipes or hand sanitizer gels are great for international trips when you aren’t always able to wash your hands.
How will I communicate in another language?
In Mexico I learned enough Spanish phrases to invite someone to see the JESUS film. That was fun! Although I practiced reading the Four Spiritual Laws booklet (containing the gospel message) in Spanish, I relied on interpreters.
But in Latvia God showed me that he can use my feeble efforts to communicate. One day in the park I met two young women sitting on a bench enjoying the spring sunshine. One spoke a little English and the other knew some German. After our stumbling efforts at communicating, I pulled out the Latvian Four Spiritual Laws to help explain why I was in Latvia. I opened each page, allowed them to read it silently and pointed to the questions. God used my feeble German and their broken English to progress through the booklet. As we got to the end, I spotted our interpreter and called her over to get their opinion. They had never thought much about God before, but found the booklet interesting and were glad to receive it.
Can God use me?
It was great to see God take care of me in another country, but my most important question was: Can God use me? In new situations I tend to stand back and observe at first, rather than jump in and get involved. But I learned that I could relax and be myself. God will use me in unique ways.
I met Mara in the English department at the Latvia State University in Riga. Her English was very good for a first year student. She was a believer, so I shared with her how she could walk in the power of the Holy Spirit each day. She then shared the message with her brother. And she was eager to learn how to share her faith with fellow students.
Mara also taught Sunday School in two churches. Latvians had just started teaching children and youth about Jesus, something forbidden under communism. But now they lacked materials. So when I arrived back in Canada, I collected flannelgraph and Bible story pictures and shipped them to Mara. She later reported that these pictures were passed around to other teachers and were well used. Branches of the original Sunday School grew to 928 in a few years. Some children walked seven kilometers in the snow and rain to hear God’s Word!
I’m still in contact with Mara today. She is married to a pastor and is a secretary to the archbishop of her denomination.
One day at the English Department of the Latvia State University I heard an American voice in the hall. The voice belonged to Darryl who was teaching English there. After he discovered us, he often sat in on our conversations as we shared Christ with students. He was raised in Texas and was very familiar with Christianity, but had chosen to follow the Bahai faith.
On my last day there I met Sylvia, Darryl’s wife, who was raised in Canada. She brought letters for me to mail back in Canada and gave me her sister’s phone number. She said her sister was a Christian. Darryl’s last words to me were, “Pray for us!”
After I returned to Canada I contacted Sylvia’s sister who just happened to live about 30 minutes away from me! She was eager to meet and hear news of her sister.
When we met, I found out that the sister was a committed Christian who had been praying for Sylvia for years. She told me Sylvia is a Bahai missionary in Latvia. The sister said, “I was so discouraged about the whole situation. It seemed like I have been praying and praying and nothing is happening. A few days ago, I asked the Lord to give me a sign that he was working, and you called!”
It was thrilling to be part of what God is doing in Darryl and Sylvia’s lives. And to think He sent me to Latvia to do it!
It’s one thing to read about what God is doing; it’s another thing to be part of it. God’s plan for a lost world came alive for me on these international trips. And the Lord prepared a place for me on each project. He didn’t allow any more than what I could handle in his strength.
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