Did I ever tell you what happened the night I found out that I couldn’t go to Ireland?
1997 – God gave me a burden for Europe, continued my burden about slavery & injustice
2009/ish – learned about human trafficking
2010 – called to missions
2011 – applied, accepted to serve with HOPE61 and One Mission Society (OMS)
-assigned to Philippines
-after struggling with that because of my burden for Europe, reassigned to Ireland
Being assigned to serve with a human trafficking prevention ministry in Europe was like a dream. I felt like I was walking on a cloud, better than being in love with any person on earth – it was the fulfillment of a heavy burden I’ve carried for most of my life. Every part of me was lighter, glowing. The second best part was having a friend from Houghton College as my teammate. Then God led my teammate-to-be in another direction.
HOPE61 was founded around 2009, but in 2011 had not yet been able to carry out its plan of sending trainers to equip national churches to prevent human trafficking. OMS has been around since 1901 and HOPE61, a ministry of OMS, had different goals than some were used to. The focus on a social justice issue seemed far removed, to some, from the traditional OMS focus of evangelism and church planting. There was concern about my going overseas by myself, to a country with little OMS infrastructure. My boss at the time warned me that, without a teammate, I might not be able to go to Ireland. I was deliriously hopeful, though, and sure it was time for me to do something concrete about my burden. I didn’t really believe it would be taken away.
I was babysitting the night I found out. When the phone call came I sat at the kitchen table where I could talk and still keep an eye on the boy I was watching while his parents were at a work event. He’d just put on an Irish movie when, over the phone, I heard, “I’m sorry…you won’t be able to go to Ireland alone.” I don’t remember what else was said, only the numbness and disappointment.
By the time I hung up, it was dark outside, and since the TV was on my charge hadn’t felt the need to turn on any of the living room lights. I thought how good it would feel to be angry at God, just for a minute. God had given me something I’d longed for with my whole heart – then taken it away before it could come to fruition. Nothing in the world seemed like it would be as satisfying as being furious with God. Then I recognized Satan’s presence so plainly that it was a little frightening. The temptation to give in to doubt and anger was staggering. “Just be angry for one minute! Then He’ll forgive you.”
I felt like I was balancing on the edge of a knife. True, if I chose to give in to the temptation, God would forgive my anger. I could go back to Him. But does that make it OK? Is that the kind of disciple I want to be? Over and over again I forcefully whispered, “Hallelujah, Amen.” until Satan left. Then I saw something I never expected, something I haven’t seen since that night. I had a vision.
In front of my eyes, somehow, I clearly saw the children of Israel in the desert. I saw them standing, I saw their faces. Then I saw the faces of what I interpreted as (As dramatic as it sounds.) all people throughout history. I saw detailed facial features, skin color, hair styles. As they raced through my line of sight/mind, God said, “I’ve known each one of these people. What makes you think I don’t know you, too?”
Instantly I was both humbled and exhilarated. “Thank you God. Thank you, thank you.” was all I could think. After a few moments I went back into the living room, where the movie still played. (And my babysitting charge remained engrossed!) Settling into a recliner, I felt enormous gratitude that God had spoken to me. He knows me so much better than I can understand. I was content, still wrapping my mind around the vision I’d had and what it meant, when God gave me more.
This time I saw Ireland, as if from above and from the side. I could see the outline and shape of the island. Satan was there, building walls. God spoke to me again. “You think you know what a spiritual battle is, but you have no idea yet.” One day God would use me, and HOPE61, to do something in His name in the Republic of Ireland. But I wasn’t ready – not yet. There was more for me to learn.
That experience five years ago still amazes, comforts, and drives me. Choosing faith, to be faithful and to have faith, can be painful. It can be standing tiptoe on the edge of a knife as you decide between temporarily giving in to your own weak feelings, or carrying on through immobilizing hurt and disappointment. Carrying on…because you know there is something greater, because you serve someone greater.
I’m not always faithful. I don’t always make the right choice. But I am incredibly glad I made the right choice that night; not only because of the visions – but because I know it made me a little bit stronger. After that night I was a little more prepared to choose faithfulness next time. Since then I’ve had more opportunities to, truly by the grace of God, choose Him. Each time we make the right choice, regardless of the fight to get to that point, it is a little bit clearer the next time around.
The Living God has never yet wasted my troubles but made me stronger through each one.