The first week of August I attended a training at the EFCA national office. As part of our time together, we were each asked to share our testimony of how the Lord has called us to our ministries. I thought I would share what I wrote. This is my story:
For some, the calling to ministry happened in a moment in time that can be recalled as a single event. That was not the case for me. I think that, knowing my heart, God knew that a more clearly displayed message would have scared me and sent me running the other way. Instead, He strategically placed hints of this message in my life piece by piece over time. God called me slowly.
Growing up in the church, I got involved in ministry activities from a very young age. As I grew in my relationship with the Lord, my passion for missions grew as well. I also had a fascination with all things Italy. But I didn’t ever connect these two loves until I spent a semester of Bible college in northern Italy. As we studied and served, my eyes were opened to the need for the light of the Gospel to bring hope to dark, post-Christian Europe, and specifically Italy. It was then that a spark began to glow.
After this semester, I was working and looking for another job, but door after door kept closing. When sharing my frustration in my situation with one of my church elders, he asked me, “What do you really WANT to do?” And I answered semi-jokingly, “Well, I’d really like to go back to Italy.” We laughed, but then he told me that he thought I should pray and actually consider going back in a ministry role. So I did. And as I thought and prayed and sought guidance, the Lord opened the door to ReachGlobal. I applied and was accepted to serve on the Rome City Team for a one-year term.
When I eventually got to the field, it was wonderful and terrible and beautiful and hard and I loved it. But I thought, “Surely this life isn’t for me in the long-term.” When considering my next steps toward the end of that year, I knew I wasn’t ready to make a long-term commitment. But at just the right moment, I was told that I could finish out the short-term assignment and come back for one more year. I hadn’t even realized this was an option, but I knew immediately it was the answer I didn’t even know I was looking for. I committed to return for a second year.
Year two was so much more rewarding. My language improved exponentially. I became more deeply involved in the life of the local church. I was able to see ministries expand. It assuredly was not without it’s difficulties, but the growth I was seeing was beautiful. Reaching the end of this second year, I began to make arrangements for returning home, and I became incredibly sad at the idea of leaving this ministry, these friends, this life behind. But I wasn’t considering returning to Rome long-term at all. Then one night at dinner with my team leaders, they told me how much they would love for me to come back, and asked me to really consider it. So I said I would. As I began to explore this possibility, I realized that I was still operating in the same mindset that I had had at the end of year one. I was still thinking, “Long-term is a long time. As a single woman, there are so many obstacles in this context. It would be too hard.” I hadn’t let myself re-process everything, and I realized, “I have already been here for two years, God has been faithful to provide for all of my needs and He will continue to be faithful.” Once I overcame that mental roadblock, the decision to return long-term was almost as immediate as the decision to return for my second year. If the Lord has shown favor and grace, if I love what I do, if there is a purpose and place for me, and if people desire my return, how can I not come back to a place that has become so dear to my heart? The Lord paved the way. He has used my whole life to lead me to this place. My favorite verse is Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Last year was hard, but it was the best year of my life. I know that following God’s leading to long-term ministry is the best decision I could make, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.