I went on a prayer retreat a month ago. Three days in the woods, off the grid. Obviously I was not without technology. I did, however, avoid iMessenger, Email, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Otherwise known as “death,” to the common teenager.
Behold, my supplies for a successful “come to Jesus” meeting:
Yes, all of the essentials for a few quiet days in the woods. It was lovely! Really, all I needed was coffee and my Bible. Everything else was icing. I had everything I needed for a trip that would renew my strength and refresh my vision.
My time alone with Jesus began with a realization. I had not been drawn to a place of seclusion so that I could sleep and take long baths (although I did both, a lot). I was there because God was ready to speak and I needed to listen. If this wasn’t hard enough, it soon became clear that I was brought to that very place for a little bit of introspection.
Tenderly, God began to remind me of His goodness. He reminded me of a very specific moment in time, when I worked in Germany. It was my first year and I was seriously under funded. I had little to live on, but it almost never bothered me. I would have lived on the couch in my classroom if I had to. For the most part, this only limited how often I was able to purchase a Döner kebab (look it up). However, the issue became much more serious at the end of the year. I quite literally ran out of money. I had nothing in my mission account and I had very little in my bank account. A TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission) finance member warned me that my account was low, but I only had a short period of time to do anything about it before the money was gone.
After a couple short weeks, TEAM contacted me to let me know that I was out of funds and had to return home. I informed them that this wasn’t an option. The yearbook project I was in charge of was far from complete. More importantly, I didn’t have money to purchase a plane ticket either. I had nothing. Leaving was the worst option, but I couldn’t even afford that.
My dependence upon the Lord became obvious. There was NOTHING I could do for myself. So, I prayed. I fell to my knees and then to my face. I prayed long. I pleaded. I cried. I knew it was in His hands, but I was desperate.
In about a week’s time, many people stepped in and donated enough money for me to finish the school year. One donor in particular, who means a lot to me, provided a large chunk of the funds that I needed. Yet God was making Himself clear. He was my provider.
This wasn’t the last time I had to learn this lesson when I lived in Germany. The same thing happened twice more. By the second time, I had learned to choose joy. I very publicly told all of my friends, family, and supporters that I was out of money but I would be ok. I praised God and I waited to see what He would do.
God always came through for me. This is what He reminded me of, when I first began to meditate, on my retreat. There was more though. God reminded me that I was ALWAYS just as dependent upon Him. I have nothing apart from Him. Any thought of “earned” wealth or talent was an illusion. Everything was His. He could provide the funds I needed to return to Germany at any moment.
The next morning, God reminded me of His grace. I flipped through scripture and meditated on sweet promises from the Lord. If I had access to a tattoo gun, I would have made these passages more permanent. I was overwhelmed by the truth God was putting before me.
I didn’t know where to go from there. I had so much on my mind. Many things were unclear about the position I was in- finances, relationships, and ministry. I had already made decisions that I was unsure about. I had more decisions to make that I needed clarity in. I needed so many answers. I wished God would just write everything out for me. He didn’t do that, of course. He did, however, tell ME to write. As I wrote, thoughts started to take shape and God’s message to me became very clear. That’s when God brought this passage to my attention…
In that moment, my prayers began to change. I began to ask different questions. I had no doubt that the Spirit was leading my voice. I had the courage to ask questions that I didn’t even want the answers to.
First, God reminded me of the way I longed for Florida when I lived in South Carolina. When I lived in Germany, I longed for South Carolina. When I spent holidays away from friends and family, I longed for both homes. At that moment, I sat in Florida discontented. I longed for SC and I certainly longed for Germany. No place would satisfy me. God’s first rebuke was that I needed to be content where I was for the moment.
The second rebuke was much more harsh. God called my attention to the fact that my prayers had been egocentric. I had fooled myself into thinking that I was being selfless, because I was choosing obedience. As an obedient servant, I had committed to returning to Germany for long term ministry wholeheartedly. Since that initial step in obedience, I had spent little time in prayer about the spiritual condition of Germany and a LOT of time in prayer about my financial condition. I lost sight of the purpose for which God was calling me. He made it VERY clear that He did not need me to save the lost in Germany. Only He could do that. My presence there was not essential in His plan for the salvation of Germans. He could accomplish His purposes without me. Therefore, it was my roll to remain in prayer on behalf of the Germans and on behalf of those who were already being used by God in that country. He won’t move me until that becomes consistent in my life.
Third, and harshest of all, God showed me that I did not truly love lost people. Even now, I am ashamed to type this. What kind of missionary doesn’t truly love the lost? I have spent time with people that don’t believe what I believe these last 2 years. My lack of love for each of them was put before me, all at once. I have been apathetic.
My obedience to share the Gospel and to love people had led me down the right path. My actions were not coming from a place of desire though. They were instead coming from obligation. I have liked all of the people God has placed in my life and I have wished them well, but I did not truly loved them by God’s standards. I was fooled into thinking that I had, because my actions were different from those around me.
These revelations and rebukes led me to a few different courses of action. Most importantly, I decided to spend my time focusing on praying for Dresden, instead of raising funds to move there. This requires more work in keeping up with my team leaders, the news, and current events. This wasn’t meant to be a challenge that I would take on by myself though. I felt that I should ask others to stand with me in prayer. For this would be the most effective way to reach Germans for Christ.
I’m sure I will have a great deal to share soon. For now, please join me in praying for Germany and for the spiritual condition of Europe. God is at work there and I’m excited to be a part of it in any way that I can. Are you?