Sunday, February 10, 2008

Milestones on my Journey

We have all had certain experiences or encounters that, though seemingly inconsequential at the time, have had a profound effect on the rest of our lives. A few of those major experiences for me have been spiritual in nature, and have shaped the core of my identity.

My mission trip to Ireland when I was 13, for example. I simply knew I was supposed to go on that trip (my first encounter with that still small voice, I think). I wasn't conscious at the time that my concept of the missionary - evangelist - "superchristian" was to be eroded away. After all, if God can work through a self-conscious 13 year old girl, He can surely use anyone!

Another profound experience for me was leading our junior high youth group through the 30 Hour Famine for the first time. Newly married, I had all kind of concepts about what I "needed" to furnish our apartment home. After going through the studies and videos provided by World Vision for the youth event, I was completely floored by how badly I'd confused my wants with my needs. God was starting to break my heart for the poor, though I didn't know yet what that meant for me.

The next 'breakthrough' moment for me came during a general seminar at the National Youth Workers Convention in 2004. These seminars are always encouraging and thought provoking, but one in particular cut right through to my heart. The speaker was Princess Kasune Zulu, a Zambian woman who spoke about the effects of AIDS in her country, and her dramatic story of how she has been affected personally.

After the seminar concluded, our group headed to lunch at the nearest Del Taco, but I was so overwhelmed I wasn't able to get out of the car. I just sat back and sobbed. God was piercing my heart, taking me to a new level of brokenness: so painful, but so undescribably right.

What I most remember Princess specifically saying was how other governments had begun to provide assistance to those in need in Africa, money for food and HIV tests and treatments. And that was all good. But, despite all of that, the church should have already been there.

The church - God's chosen means to demonstrate His love, His care, to pray for the sick, to provide for orphans and widows, the church - had missed it's call. It had fallen down. And in that moment, I cried, not just for the sick babies and widows forced into prostitution and all the horror that goes with poverty, but at the realization that when we as a church, we as individuals, do not live out the purpose God has designed us for, the world suffers. There are horrible consequences to our resistance to 'get involved'. And I was just as much a part of that as anyone.

It's funny to me, that at the time I had no overwhelming call to go to Africa, or sponsor an AIDS baby, or anything that specific. Some people are called to do those things. Others are made for a different purpose. But at that moment, a veil was lifted from my eyes, and I received a glimpse of what could be possible - what God might accomplish through His people if we were only willing. What suffering might be alleviated. What lonely people could experience love for the first time. What freedom might ring if we chose to stand up for the oppressed. What joy might resound if we loved the Lord with ALL of our might.

All that to say, I made a decision that day: I don't want to miss an opportunity; I want to fulfill my purpose. Have there been other milestones in my life, in my journey of faith? Sure. And I pray that there will be many more.

I suppose I share all this with you now, because I just learned that Princess Kasune Zulu will be sharing in a local church this Friday, and I am elated to go and see her again. God has brought me oh so far since that afternoon in the Del Taco parking lot, and I know He ain't done with me yet.

Praise God.

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