August 19, 2017

Beginning My Missionary Journey – The Early Years

I had the opportunity recently at a ladies’ meeting to share the story of my missionary journey — how God led me to prepare for becoming a missionary-church planter, and then used that call to direct me to a husband and place of ministry. When I mentioned it on Facebook, several of you expressed a desire to hear the story too, and I decided to share it with the hope that it might be an encouragement to all.

My story begins — as all of ours do — with God’s call to salvation when I was a young child. But fast forward about 12 years, and the story of my missionary journey begins. I could sum the beginning of that journey with the words of Abraham’s servant in Genesis 24, when he was seeking a wife for Isaac and was led directly to Rebekah. After learning of Rebekah’s near relation to Abraham and her godly heritage, he praised God and said: “I being in the way, the Lord led me” (v.27).

I feel like that’s my story too. As I was “in the way” of obeying Him — through reading my Bible, serving at church, following godly examples, and staying actively involved in ministry — He led me so clearly, and so distinctly, I’d have had to be blind to not see His plan for me.

Beginning My Missionary Journey

God uses faithful obedience in the small day-to-day things to direct us down the path toward bigger things. tweet this

I can point to 5 of those specific “small things” that He used to direct me — things which all of us, as believers, should be regularly doing:

1. Reading biographies of notable Christians
2. Daily spending time in God’s Word
3. Following godly examples in the local church
4. Being faithfully involved in ministry
5. Bringing the Gospel to the lost

Let’s go back to high school to begin my journey….

I’d always been a book-lover and, as my tastes matured, my parents faithfully encouraged me to start reading missionary biographies. I was about 15 when I picked up the biography of Brother Andrew, a Cold-War-era missionary who smuggled Bibles behind the Iron Curtain. It’s an amazing story of God’s constant protection and provision for those who choose to serve Him wholeheartedly, from blinding guard’s eyes at border crossings to providing unexpected connections to other believers in countries fiercely closed to the Gospel.

By the time I finished the book, God had given me a great burden for bringing the Gospel to spiritually oppressed people. 

I assumed God would send me overseas to somewhere foreign and challenging… somewhere like Sudan or Ethiopia. I mentioned it to my parents and tucked the idea in the back of my mind for safekeeping, and went on thinking about becoming a medical researcher.

A few months later, I was having my regular quiet time with God. The devotional book I was using led me to Jeremiah 1, where we read how God called Jeremiah to be His prophet to the nations. Verses 4-9 jumped out at me:

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not
know how to speak, 
for I am only a youth.”

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am
only a youth’; 
for to all to whom I send you,
you shall go, 
and whatever I command you,
you shall speak. 
Do not be afraid of them, for
I am with you 
to deliver you, declares the Lord.”

Then the Lord put out his hand and touched
my mouth. And the Lord said to me, “Behold,
I have put my words in your mouth…”

I too was only a youth, yet God used that passage to impress upon me a very specific call to prepare for full-time Christian ministry.

And to show you how God always works even beyond what we can see — notice that last line, “I have put my words in your mouth.” At that time, I had no ambitions to be a writer, but it wasn’t long before I started writing devotionals for small magazines and local church newsletters. Now I look back, and love that God included that verse in His call to me — because He’s the one who gave me the ability to write, and the opportunities to use His words to share His story!

The third thing that God used during my teenage years was the example of my pastor’s wife. To give you some background, she and her husband had known my parents since before they were married — in fact, Pastor Hanson married both my parents and my husband & me! To say we had a long, close history with them is an understatement. She was also the one who taught me piano and organ lessons throughout my childhood and into my teen years. By the time I was in high school, I was regularly serving with her in our church’s music ministry. I saw her in front of everyone on Sunday mornings, and behind the scenes at home during the week. I watched how she handled the responsibilities of caring for her pastor-husband, how she encouraged and ministered to the families in our church, and how she served faithfully and joyfully in every opportunity given to her.

God used her faithful example to call me to be a pastor’s wife. 

He gave me a very specific burden to care for ladies in the church, by shepherding them, encouraging them faithfully, and providing an example of godly womanhood for them to follow after.

I still had a burden to reach spiritually oppressed people, and I wasn’t completely sure how those pieces all fit together — especially since, at that time, I had no desire to get married and I had never heard of home missions — but I knew without a doubt that God was still writing my story.

And with that, I went off to college to major in Women’s Ministries, which was sort of the “humanities” of the religion majors at Bob Jones University. It included everything from early childhood education to counseling, ancient Greek, Bible teaching, and of course regular Bible classes.

Little did I know what God had in store for me…

Stay tuned for the next exciting chapter of the story!

 


Comments

  1. You left us hanging! Can’t wait to hear the rest of the story.

  2. Thanks for sharing this. It’s neat to see how Mrs. Hanson influenced you. She was truly faithful. Can’t wait to hear the rest of your story.

  3. Have enjoyed reading your story, Elizabeth, and seeing God has been guiding you 🙂 I’ve always wanted to do some kind of targeted mission work but right now am focusing on my mission at home. Maybe later on when my kids are older and we can serve as a family 🙂

    • That’s such an important thing to remember Kim – sometimes God calls us to seasons where we CAN’T go anywhere… but we always have a mission field at home, with our family and our next-door neighbors and local community. We don’t have to travel anywhere to find people who need Jesus!

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