[This is the first part of a blog swap that I’m having with Jaimie from Living in the Light. Tomorrow is my turn to write for her!]
Despite being young, I’ve learned a lot of important lessons in my life so far. God has used some amazing circumstances to bring me closer to him and teach me some things I really needed to learn. Some of the biggest lessons he’s taught me are remembering that He has my life in his hands, how to love others the way I’ve been loved by Him, and trusting him in ALL things, even when trusting is scary.
When I was thirteen I read several books about missionaries which sparked my interest in mission work. The summer I turned fourteen, my family was visiting my grandparents, who live in the town where my parents went to college, and thus several friends of my parents’ still live there. At church during that visit, my mom ran into some friends who were, at the time, missionaries in Hong Kong and China. She asked if they knew anyone with whom I could be pen pals, and they suggested that instead of doing that to learn about the life of missionaries, I just come visit them.
So as a fourteen-year-old who had never left the Midwest or been on a plane (except for a really little one), I flew all the way to Hong Kong… by myself. We paid for an unaccompanied minor service, which was a blessing, but it was quite the adventure. I got to see firsthand how missionaries live, and learn about the work of several different people. That trip created in me a passion to share the love of Jesus… with people wherever I am, whether it’s in my own town or halfway across the world.
My visit to Hong Kong taught me several important lessons:
- that the Body of Christ is present everywhere in the world and the Holy Spirit is working everywhere, too!
- that God’s plans are always bigger than mine…and when there’s a conflict between the two, HIS plans always prevail!
- that God’s love and protection are with me everywhere I go, and he exhibits his love in countless ways
During high school I visited Texas and Mexico for mission trips twice with my youth group. Those were great trips and I enjoyed them, but the biggest life-changer was during my senior year of high school.
In December of 2004, a tsunami in the Indian Ocean devastated several countries, including part of northern Indonesia. My grandparents (the same ones I mentioned earlier) are retired teachers, and they have been to Indonesia four times since the tsunami, to teach English to elementary, middle, and high school students, as well as their teachers. A third of the population of Banda Aceh, a city on the island of Sumatra, was killed in the tsunami, along with a lot of teachers. My grandparents, among others, helped fulfill the need for more teachers.
In January of 2009, I went with them for a five-month trip. I finished high school a semester early (yay homeschooling!), and spent the second half of my senior year in Indonesia. I helped my grandma teach English to over a hundred students a week, from grades four through nine, and helped my grandpa at a community center teaching English to middle- and high-schoolers. What did I learn on this trip?
- The overarching lesson was faith and flexibility. In a country where I didn’t know the language, wasn’t used to the climate OR the food, was a minority, and where nothing was familiar, I often felt ineffective, insignificant, and unhelpful. Sometimes I felt like I wasn’t making a difference. I had to rely completely on God for strength, courage, and the knowledge that he was working despite my weaknesses.
- I had to get used to being flexible. We were on a schedule, but Indonesians have a very different concept of time than Americans! Things often didn’t go according to plan, and there was nothing we could do but adjust our plans.
- I learned that the world is a much bigger place than I had imagined, but I am never alone wherever I am. Not only is God present everywhere, but I met brothers and sisters in Christ from all over the world. We might not have spoken the same languages, but we’ll all be together in heaven.
- I learned how to not judge people based on the color of their skin, the language they speak, or the food they eat, but instead to look at them the way God does–as people created by him, loved by him, and people for whom Jesus died. I made friends who weren’t Christian, for the first time in my life, and I learned to love them, too.
The best thing about all the lessons I learned in my overseas trips? They still apply to my life now. For that matter, God’s still working on teaching me those lessons!
- It’s so important to remember that God loves everyone in the whole world, and sent his Son to die for them all. For that reason, I can strive to love everyone the way God does–equally.
- My life is completely not in my hands! God has it all planned, and I need to realize that it’s okay that I’m not in control. A life is a big thing to handle…that’s why mine is in God’s hands.
- God is completely trustworthy. He has given me faith, and has thus given me the ability to trust him in everything. I don’t have to rely on myself for this faith–it’s a gift of the Holy Spirit. And I can rely on that faith even when life is confusing or scary, because I know that God loves me more than I can imagine, and I am perfectly safe in his care.
Have you learned any of these lessons in your life experiences? What has God taught you in the past? What is he teaching you right now?
Come visit me! I’d love to have you stop by Living in the Light.
Jaimie is a twenty-something college student with two years of marriage under her belt, and is a year away from her bachelor’s degrees in English and Theology. She is passionate about Jesus, marriage, and homemaking, and in her “spare time” loves blogging, reading, and cooking without recipes. She is constantly working on learning to fully trust in God and His love for her, and is thankful for his constant grace and forgiveness. Jaimie and her husband live in east-central Nebraska.
[Yes! You should go visit Jaimie’s place! Now!]