Anniversary Blog Part 4 (click here to read part three)
Its often said that life is not about the destination, its about the journey. Whoever made that statement was a very wise person. This has been my personal experience, especially over the last 8 years.
My best friend April and I always say there are no coincidences in life, that everything happens for a reason. We started telling each other this in high school, basing our philosophy on Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
The thing is, the message doesn’t stop there. And in the conclusion lies the fulfillment of this week’s series on my 8 year anniversary of living in D.C.
The next two verses read:
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
I have witnessed the truth of this passage of scripture more over the last 8 years than any other time in my life. Because of the experiences I’ve had since 2000, I have grown personally, spiritually, relationally, and professionally in a way accomplished only by the work of God. It was because of these experiences that I grew to understand what it means to call upon the Lord, and to seek Him with all of my heart.
Before September 11, 2001, I had yet to commit to a church in DC. I had visited several, including a large church in northern Virgina called McLean Bible Church, but honestly, church was not a priority to me in the first year of my time in DC. I still had my relationship with Jesus, I can’t say I turned my back on my faith, I just was caught up in the decadence of the capitol city and all it had to offer me.
After September 11, I realized how important it was to me to have a close group of like-minded Christ followers in my life. This was something I was missing, and had missed, really, since I graduated from Union in 1999. So I was a woman on a mission, to find the church family I was destined to join while living in DC.
I visited so many churches and had so many experiences. I visited about every church on Capitol Hill, including Capitol Hill Baptist and National Community Church (where I sat next to John Ashcroft one Sunday). I visited several churches in northern Virginia, Methodist churches, Baptist churches, Presbyterian churches, and more. One memorable moment was when I visited a Columbia Baptist in Falls Church and was flipped off on my way into the parking lot by someone leaving. Needless to say, I didn’t even get out of the car.
In all my searching, something inside me kept drawing me back to McLean Bible Church, specifically to the young adult services called Frontline. The preacher at that time was a man named Ken Baugh, and he reminded me of my uncle Eddie. I know that sounds crazy, but at first, I really liked going to Frontline because the pastor reminded me so much of my uncle, I felt comfortable because of it. So I made the commitment to the 30 minute Sunday evening commute and started attending Frontline on a regular basis. I didnt know anyone, so when I went I would always sit near the back in the same seat, (I grew up Baptist, creatures of habit we are!) This went on for an entire year, all of 2002. I didn’t meet anyone. I didn’t really try either. I didn’t know it at the time, but God used that year of personal, one-on-one soul searching to prepare me for the next chapter coming in my life.
One night in the beginning of 2003, I was at Frontline the night the missions pastor, John Park, was ordained/commissioned as a minister in the church. He spoke from the heart about his passion for missions, particularly in South East Asia, and I was so moved by his testimony. That night, there were two interest meetings for missions trips, one to Turkey and one to Guatemala. I didn’t even have a passport at the time, but I sort of subconsciously went to the interest meeting. There I met two women who are still two of my best friends to this day… Winnie and Jenny. I also met Guy that night. Its so funny to me to look back on it now, knowing how everything played out in the end.
I will admit, I had a difficult time deciding if I should apply to the Turkey team or the Guatemala team. I ended up choosing Guatemala because of my boss. When I met with him to tell him about the two opportunities, it was about 2 months after the United States went to war in Iraq. I was worried that he wouldnt want me to go on the Guatemala trip because it was during session. The Turkey trip was during August recess so it seemed to be the better option. But when I posed this to Krister, he slammed his hands down on his desk and said “TURKEY? YOU WANT TO GO TO TURKEY WHEN WE JUST WENT TO WAR WITH ITS NEIGHBOR?” And he told me to go to Guatemala.
I grew so much through the preparation time for this mission. The most impactful aspect of this prep time for me was not so much about the trip but about a sermon I heard from Ken. He was talking about Christ’s last words before dying on the cross. This sermon series helped me understand God’s love for me in a way I never understood before. I learned the truth of Romans 5:8, “God demonstrated his GREAT LOVE for us (me) that while I was still a sinner, he sent Christ to die for my sins.” My behavior did not determine how much God loved me. Nor was my salvation based on my behavior. It was a free gift of love from the God who made me, sees me, and knows me better than I know myself. This truth embraced was life changing for me. I never “got it” until then. Praise the Lord for leading me down this path of truth!
Going on this mission trip was how I got “plugged in” to he community at Frontline. The team was AMAZING and I am still good friends with everyone who was on the team. But more than the friendships and the community I desperately needed, God birthed in me a passion for his church around the world that continues to compel me today.
I often blog about missions here, its even one of the key words of my tag line. In 2003, I believe God called me to work on his behalf among the nations. I had the chance to go back to Guatemala later that same year, to the same project we worked on the first trip, and during this trip God set my heart on fire for the global church. There was much to learn, and paradigms shifted in so many ways. But, again, everything happens for a reason! And God is still using me to bless the nations. This is the greatest privilege and honor I’ve had of all the experiences in DC, the opportunity to serve Him and bring His name and renown to the nations through the missions ministry of Frontline. I would NEVER have had these opportunities if I were not in DC. I dont know many other churches with as robust a missions ministry as Frontline/McLean Bible Church.
Funny thing is, I was well on my way to the field at the end of 2003. I was praying and talking to friends about what it would look like to transition into a long term missions opportunity. Then…. GOD INTERVENED in a huge way. On December 31, 2003, I met my husband and everything changed!!