Overseas mission? The conference brochure said ‘You can pray… give… go. ‘ Already involved in the first two, I had discounted myself from the third. But the Lord surprised me at that conference; I heard I could be involved in the third too…
With no clear ‘call’ to a particular place and thinking it would be some years before I would be free to serve overseas, (I was a single parent with a teenage daughter and was teaching in a Christian school. Plus, I had never been abroad) I looked for ways to prepare myself while I waited. I got my passport and decided to learn Spanish. The next summer I went on a three-week missions trip to Spain. It was wonderful and I loved everything about it: I had enjoyed being focused and working as a team in England and found the same enjoyment alongside the added excitement of a totally different culture. Short-term mission seemed a positive step forward but how would I finance it? A long-termer in Spain encouraged me with how God had met her needs… and the following summer saw me on a 4-week ‘expedition’ to China!
I returned with more than additional travel experience: I returned with a call to the Muslim world…
As the oldest team member by at least 10 years, I was in a group of twelve going right up to Urumqi in north-west China and four of us continued on to Kashgar. I had known of this opportunity before I left England … I wanted to do it … but why? We spent three and a half uncomfortable days on a local bus travelling across the desert to get there, praying as we went, and spent two and a half days there before flying back to Urumqi. I returned with more than additional travel experience: I returned with a call to the Muslim world.
This was followed up with a short-term trip in summer 1994 to a Muslim nation, one of the ‘Stans’ – in the former USSR. We were a very mixed twelve-person group led by people much younger than me.
As the plane landed the Lord told me, ‘I will give you the desires of your heart.’
‘They’re in Kashgar’ I said.
The Lord’s reply? ‘Wait and see.’
I felt exhilarated. I didn’t know it yet but that was the beginning of my call to a ‘Stan.’
First exhilaration: then testing..!
I went on to have a terrible time: I was really sick and struggled to find my place in the team as an older, more experienced Christian woman but totally inexperienced in overseas mission. Despite everything, though, I knew I was in the right place.
What next? By now, my daughter was in her 3rd year at university; supposing I tested my call with a year overseas and returned to the UK for her 4th year and her finals? That summer, advised by a mission organisation, I went back to ‘-stan’ to visit two of their families serving there. Home again, I applied to do my short-term year with them: I realised I shared their vision for church planting – maybe that is what had been on my heart all along.
But the path ahead was not so smooth-going…
At several points in my journey there were difficulties that taught me more about prayer. Would my home church continue to support my vision? At a point of stalemate, through someone I had met the previous summer, I heard of the need for teachers in the Christian school for workers children in the capital city. Although I felt called long-term to the people of this ‘-stan’ and church planting, I had always felt that what I did for this year was just part of my training so – with my church’s backing – I applied for a year with this school with People International as my sending organisation.
Intense preparation followed: going on a Perspectives course, background reading, form-filling, and packing up my house. It was difficult to get the required visa but it finally came through less than 48 hours before I was due to leave – another test of faith!
The Sunday before I left someone at church gave me something which began ‘If God has said Go’. . .’ I thought about that. Had he said ‘Go’? I realised that he hadn’t; he had said ‘Come’. He was waiting for me in ‘-stan’ and I was happy to join him there.
I never looked back…
One year short-term in the school became twelve years and although there were obstacles, the Lord overcame them all.
The team I joined in the city was – because of my vision – not the one that teachers would join but a church planting team. This worked amazingly well for me because I also wanted to see people come to faith and for indigenous churches to grow and flourish. I lived with a local family for five years, and although my language was never good, I was able to be involved with discipling new believers and seeing people come to faith.
Most of the western Christians had to return home – The Lord called me on to Turkey…
However, things became increasingly difficult in ‘-stan’ with most of the western Christians having to return home. Life in that country was not easy for the last two years I was there but just before my 60th birthday the Lord called me to Turkey. I didn’t realise we all were going to have to leave soon. At 60 I found myself enjoying my new ‘retirement life’ in another country with time to do language study and interact naturally with another people group.
When I came to my first Turkish city, God spoke through Al 14:1 -3: ‘In my Father’s house are many places . . ., I am going there to prepare your place for you.’ Again God was calling me to come to him.
Has this beautiful story inspired you? Do you think God may be calling you to overseas mission?
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