missions

To stay, not go.

I was hardly released from jet-lag's hands when I traded the heat of Nepal and its unpredictable streets for the cold A/C and an organized cubicle in Florida.

I went from blistered bare heels to gold glitter heels. Hardly making cash to making hard cash. Seeing numbers of people to seeing people's numbers.

Only four weeks separated these extremes.

A quick visit with my precious family back in August was meant to be just that—a quick visit. I had plans to catch up, raise support, eat my mom's cooking, and sleep on my childhood bed. Maybe even play a few rounds of Monopoly Deal with my siblings.

It was going to be great. Then God placed a decision down before me, and even though I was tempted to pull a "Just Say No!" on Him, I had to stop myself and consider. I am defiant at times. I am human and I like to pretend I know what I need. I really have no clue. 

The plans had been set for me to return to Hawaii and staff a Discipleship Training School. That opportunity was drenched in the good things I had desired and yearned for. But what I felt God prodding me to consider was to stay. To stay in Florida, to gather finances, to further the relationships there, and to find a mentor, church, and place to serve.

I have left Florida twice now, and I think both times I declared it would be my last. With some irritation at the constant change, I took the decision to prayer. I laid it before my leaders and those whom I respect. I sought God's heart and voice through the Scriptures. And He gave me an unexplainable peace.

A peace to stay.

I made the decision on a Monday. Tuesday, my previous employer called me for an interview. Since my belongings were tucked into a suitcase at a house 4,724 miles away, I scrambled to Goodwill. I purchased formal work attire, changed in the store bathroom, lost my keys, found them in said bathroom, and showed up to my interview with maybe 30 seconds to spare. I got the job.

Staying here is not what I wanted or expected, and it surely was not the route I had planned for.

I have had many friends transition from being support-based missionaries to returning to their lives at home again. Some have been launched into ministry, missional living within their cities, or started their own businesses. Others have fought purposelessness, depression, and have even turned their backs on God. The move is often frazzled from emotions.

A sweet friend who has experienced the transition herself reminds me to take it "moment by moment, day by day". I am thankful for her encouragement, as I want to rush through figuring out why it is even good for me to be here once again.

The level of self-criticism, anxiety, fear, judgment, perfectionism, and oppression I now battle has rocked me. I get on my knees and thank God He is the Rock that won't move—because remember?

I am only human and I know not what I need.

Life has swept me up and I am looking for a piece of comfort to still me from my failing performance.

"This, too, is good," He whispers.

Those four words hug my heart.

Friends, maybe you need to hear that as well. Maybe you need reminding that God is even good at all. I am holding to the belief that He has plans to redeem us and grow life from areas which previously brought ache.

You may discover the city which you've been placed in is hungry for the presence of the living God, too. Hungrier than either of us may have thought. Let us repent for the ways we have compared or cast judgment towards others and ourselves.

It matters not if we are far from our birth countries or tucked away in its very corner—because as the Church we have been called to live on mission, and that's not going to change.

We are not our achievements or adventures. We are frail and small. We need to be bent and broken, so the Maker can shape us and heal us. There is work to be done here and there. 

Be in Him, and let Him prune you for His glory.

I know that I can trust You.

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Eleven hours before I was Hawaii-bound, I sat in the passenger seat of our Honda CRV, weeping. My dad and I drove to Target to pick up some travel items when I began doubting my departure altogether.

There in the parking lot, we talked through why I should or should not go.

I felt like I had very legitimate reasons for no longer returning and many would agree. With my financial situation and physical health having hardly budged in the direction I hoped, it seemed like I would be setting myself up for failure if I left. 

The confidence I had just days prior when hosting a missions event was gone. This missionary temporarily lost sight of the mission. Reality of circumstance suddenly took precedence over faith.

One of my biggest fearsthe fear of failurehad begun to consume me because of the lies I had given way to in my mind.

What happens if you cannot fully do what you feel so called to?

Consoling me with patience and grace, my dad said, "Remember, Erika. You are not a human-doing. You are a human-being." It caught me off guard.

This truth was the very truth I had wrestled with the last three months of ministry. And so the snot bubbles continued, no longer giving me a chance to maintain composure. Clearly, the deeper issue was now exposed. It was not really about whether I was healthy enough or had the money I needed.

The question really was, "Do I trust God with these areas of my life? In my health, my finances, my ministry?" 

I've wrapped my identity and worth around the good I am able to accomplish for God and for people. When you think about it, it is silly. I can do nothing apart from Him. Who am I to think I must please others or prove myself to be a heroine of sorts? 

That night, I remembered the yes I had given God.

There are two lines in David Brymer's "Wedding Song" that say, "And then I hear You call my name—it's the sweetest voice I know. I will leave it all behind, Lord—where You go I will go." Those words were my heart's cry; the words I read publicly at two missions events just days before.

But sometimes, I must tell God things and then I forget.

Or I tell Him in a swirl of excitement and emotion, unprepared to actually do what I just willingly said yes to. (like going wherever He leads.)

I didn't expect the "going" to feel so painful or risky that Tuesday night. Yet knowing God is worthy to be trusted, I packed up my suitcases and stuffed away my fears.
 

It's been two weeks since that Tuesday. I am back in Hawaii, and there is not much more that makes sense to me.

Daily, I am being challenged to place my trust in Him.

I am continuing to discover He is the One who understands my greatest fears, needs, and questions.

The other night, I knelt on the floor with my fists on the concrete, repeatedly shouting out, "I know that I can trust You! Even in my sickness! Even when I don't understand! I choose to believe You are good! I lean not on my own understanding!"

Over and over I sing to Him, "I know that I can trust You," and He gives me new strength for the day.

Something is shifting inside every time I close my eyes and thank God for His unending goodness. It does not matter whether my rent money is in sight or the doctor I need exists in the state. I said yes to a good God, not to a situation.

I was not provoked to give Him my yes because it meant a life of riches, perfected health, or a blossoming ministry carved out for me. I simply said yes to trusting and following Him because this life is about obedience and a love response to the One who has given me everything. 

I know that I can trust Him.

O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired, 
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:27-31