I recently got an email from a girl who wants to be a missionary when she grows up. She had some really GOOD questions for me. I thought it would be cool to post those questions with my responses to her.
Enjoy reading a bit about my life!
1. How do you know when God is calling you to do something?
What a difficult question... I still struggle with this one at times. I think it is different for each person individually. God is a personal God and He calls us each into a personal relationship with Him. He is our friend, our Father, our God, our Lord. Who He is SO amazing! AND I believe He speaks to us all in a variety of ways.
Often times for me, I suddenly am thinking of someone or I have an idea in how to help or bless someone. It could be something as simple as calling someone to talk or asking to pray for someone. When I step out and do what is on my heart to do - what I am sensing or feeling I should do - I can see that God was leading me the whole time. Many times the person will say, "Wow, I really needed to talk to someone just at this moment and you called!" or I can really sense God touching the person's heart during our time of prayer.
As far as knowing if God is calling you to personally do something BIG like going into missions full time, choosing a college to attend, or dating or marrying someone, it is also wise to have other people praying with you. For BIG life decisions ask trusted friends and family if they will pray for you and ask them their opinions as well. If they support you (which you need lots of support in BIG life decisions) then I also see that as a "green light" from God.
Basically, as you grow in a personal relationship with God, and are connected with Him, you will recognize His voice speaking and directing you. He is a loving Father who wants the best for us and always has our best interest in mind. Often times His word will also confirm what you are already thinking or senseing He is speaking to you. What can also happen is that everywhere you turn you seem to hear the same message which also confirms what you are sensing God is speaking to you. These are just a few ways God speaks but there are SO MANY special ways God speaks to His children. He often speaks to me through times of worship and singing songs to Him.
I could write so much more than this... but I will stop for now on this question.
2. How did God call you into this???
That is a LONG story!
When I was 18 years old I went on my first missions trip to Bolivia with my church youth group for 12 days. During this trip I enjoyed speaking with the missionary family serving there and was really praying and asking God if missions was a direction that He would want for me to take with my life.
I remember a time of prayer during the trip, where I really felt God's love for the people and also a sense that He was calling me to a life of serving in missions. I did not understand it completely, how I would be involved in missions, but I just opened my heart to God and told Him that I was willing.
After this special time with God, whenever I would hear missionaries speak and share about their lives serving in missions, my heart would stir and I would sense such an overwhelming sense of God's love. God confirmed my calling into missions in a variety of ways after that. I just knew in my heart that He was calling me to it. Through different words I would read in the Bible and through different experiences as well with missions opportunities, and different friendships with people from all over the world. God would amazingly bring me international friends no matter where I went!
In 2000, as part of my missions study in my university, I went with a team of 5 people to serve in Brazil for 10 weeks. During this missions trip God spoke so many things to me. He opened my eyes to needs in the world I had only heard about, but never seen with my own two eyes. I was in the city of Sao Paulo, Brazil and I had never seen so many street people and also street children. I also had the opportunity to live in a slum for a week and work with the needy children living there in extremely difficult situations. God really placed the hurting children of Brazil on my heart.
After returning to the USA, God reminded me constantly of the children in Brazil. After graduating from college in 2001, I wanted to go out on the mission field immediately - somewhere in Brazil working with children, but as I prayed about it, I felt God telling me to "WAIT."
I also was constantly talking with my parents about my dream to go on the mission field. They really wanted me to get a college education and were so happy that I had completed my college degree. After praying and talking with my parents, I decided to get some experience in the USA teaching children and also save money to get prepared financially to one day go on the mission field.
I spent 3 years teaching in an elementary school and now I see how God was preparing me and training me for my future of working with children on the mission field. After 3 years of hard work, working as a 1st grade teacher, I decided to step away from teaching and pursue this dream of going on the mission field in Brazil. I had been praying about what organization I could serve with and was often hearing great things about an organization called Youth With A Mission (YWAM). I started researching this organization and decided to do a Discipleship Training School (DTS) with YWAM to learn about the organization and see if serving with this organization would be a good "fit" for me.
During this special time of training with YWAM, I felt God confirming once again my call into missions long term. I also learned about how YWAM was serving in Brazil. I read a book called, "A Cry from the Streets", which was written by Jeannette Lukasse, one of the leaders of the Belo Horizonte YWAM missions base - where I am now working. The book told the story of how the missions work began and interestingly enough all the work was focused on helping children at risk ( which is basically children in extremely needy situations such as living in poverty, living on the streets, who have been abused,ect.). The missions base seemed like a perfect "fit"for what God was already speaking to my heart about the hurting children of Brazil.
After a time of preparation and much waiting to receive my visa to serve in Brazil, I finally arrived in Brazil in April of 2007. I have been serving with YWAM Belo Horizonte ever since!
When I began serving here in Brazil, I worked for 5 months at a house called the Rescue House. This ministry focuses on making relationships with children who live on the streets and helping to get these kids off the streets - to either go back home, or if they can not go home (because it is a difficult situation) helping the child enter into a shelter or home of some sort.
I then spent 3 months doing a YWAM training course called the Children At Risk course, learning how to specifically work with children at risk. After competing this course, I moved to the largest slum in the city to work with the Light House Community Center. Here at the Light House we work with the children and families who live in the slum in a variety of ways. In everything we do, we are attempting to share the LOVE, HOPE, and message of Jesus Christ.
3. And last but not least, what does JOCUM Belo Horizonte mean?
We work for a missions organization called Youth With A Mission. Since that is a mouthful to say, we also call it YWAM taking the first letter of each word making an acronym.
In Portuguese, the name of the organization we work with is literally translated JOvens Com Uma Missao. The acronym for that is JOCUM.