In high school, I considered myself a very “deep” person, too spiritual for Jesus or Christianity. I was really involved in classical music, was reading atheistic philosophy and looking into Buddhism and meditation. I grew up in a Catholic school, going to Mass, but had walked away from God at 13.
While I was at UW-Madison studying music, my two best friends were very committed Christians. They seemed different. They were faithful friends who showed me the love of God, even though I wasn’t interested in church or the Bible. I transferred to Bloomington for two more years of undergrad and while I was there, I began reading [Søren] Kierkegaard. I learned about the truth of God by reading Kierkegaard. At 23, while studying in France, all of the pieces kind of came together: the love and the truth. And I gave up a 10-year struggle against God and I declared Him the winner.
When I became a Christian at 23, I just thought God was so awesome that I promised Him one year of my life on the mission field.
Within the next couple of years of my journey, I realized two things. First, that God wants all of our lives, not just one year. Second, that everywhere we are is the mission field. It’s not just “out there.”
My life has been quite a journey since then. I went from France back to Indiana. I worked in Texas and Maine, working in classical music and special education, and then I served in China for 5 years. Although I’ve done a lot of different things along the way, the call is the same: to show people the love and truth of God and what it means to be human.
At the end of my 5 years in China, I felt that I was called to long-term overseas ministry but I did not feel like that place was China. I also knew I needed Bible training so I went to Bible college in Canada. While I was there, I learned that Japan is only 1% Christian and there’s a big market there for teaching English. I fell in love with the people, the culture, the food, and so this September, I am headed to Sapporo, Japan, to study Japanese and discern my long-term placement.
The desire of my heart since I was a very young child was for a family and a home. It’s been ironic that the journey that God has taken me on has, in many ways, uprooted my life. But it’s been in that process of uprooting that I’ve found that my roots are in Jesus. Following God’s call is costly.
In Luke 18:29-31, Jesus says, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” I’ve seen the cost in terms of my own family and constantly having to leave and say goodbye. But at the same time, I’ve had the incredible joy of making friendships all over the globe, and living out my faith in communities where there are only a few witnesses, like in northwest China. So while there is a cost, the joy is worth it. In the Gospels, there is an account where the disciples saw a group of needy people. You would think that Jesus would say, “let’s go heal them, let’s go feed them.” But instead He said, “ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38). When I look at a place like Japan, where there are so many broken people, and I see that the church is struggling—they need more workers. I just feel like the call from Matthew 38 is true for each and every one of us;
the Lord is looking at our world this way and He has uniquely gifted each one of us to be a worker.
To be a worker doesn’t mean you quit your job, sell your car, and move to Japan, although it might. It could mean that you go down to the south side one day a week and tutor an Iraqi woman. It could mean that you work one day a week at the Neighborhood Learning Center and tutor an adult learner who is pursuing their GED. It definitely means that you live for Christ in the place God has put you, whether at work or at home.
I fell in love with Jesus when I was 23 because He suddenly felt so real to me. I hope I can be a faithful friend to the Japanese people and show them the love and truth of God in a very real way.