I fell in love with a city over 7,600 miles from home some years ago. I have basically no sense of direction, so I am absolutely confident I could not have found my way home from that place by myself if I had tried. I was quite certain my friends and family back home could not find me if they needed to either. Although I was not free to share why I was truly there, there was only one Message so powerful I would travel all that way to share it. A wife and mother of four small children at the time, the youngest of whom was just over a year old, I would have never chosen a mission field so far or so foreign. In that season, going to dinner alone with a friend was a feat, but my Father had made a way for me to go so His children could know.
The terminals of Nashville airport are familiar to me. I don't travel often enough to know them by heart, but it all comes back to me when I walk on that wildly patterned carpet. I remember clearly how that journey to the other side of the world felt. From the moment I boarded the plane and buckled my seatbelt, everything was out of my hands. I went further than I could have ever gone on my own, soared high above life as I knew it, sat amongst people I had never met, then exited the next terminal and was thrust into a culture unknown to me. I witnessed darkness and idol worship I had never witnessed before, felt an urgency in my soul to carry my light into night like I had never felt before. Brothers and sisters pointed me in the right direction, but it was left up to God to give me Words to say, wisdom to know where to say them, and His power to let those seeds take root wherever He saw fit.
When you wander so far from home, it gets harder and harder to blend.
As if my southern accent wouldn't have been enough to give me away, my glowing white freckled skin, fair hair, and big blue eyes made me feel a bit like a unicorn in that land of beautiful people with shiny black hair and kind almond eyes. I'm a lot of things, but petite is not one of them so I stood head and shoulders above many that surrounded me. Everywhere I turned, someone was staring. A complete stranger handed me her baby in a shopping mall. I'm not sure what she said, but her smile and excitement made me feel like some kind of celebrity for just being there. There must have been unicorn sightings all over their social media because everyone on every corner had their phones out snapping pictures of my friends and me.
Before I had left home, I had asked how to properly prepare for such a journey, anticipating instructions to prepare elaborate lesson plans and explanations. Instead, I was encouraged to simply choose a verse or two to share with my personal story of His faithfulness. That is all that was ultimately required. Father would do the rest. That seemed so counterintuitive here with my feet planted firmly in familiar soil where churches are on every corner. Surely, they needed more. Surely, they needed someone more equipped.
Home was so far away. Nothing was familiar. No one I met knew anything about me and no matter how many pictures I tried to show them of home or what I tried to tell them, there's no way they could have had an accurate grasp of precisely how different the world I had come from was from the one I was standing in. In moments, it was clear why it had not been necessary to prepare a detailed plan or explanation. The more confusing we made it, the more reason they had to look at us like unicorns instead of brothers and sisters. We did stand out. We were different. However, it was our citizenship in Heaven that made the biggest difference and I quickly discovered no language barrier was great enough to hide the connection made between the eyes of one believer and another. Love speaks loudest of all.
In a land so filled with darkness, the light only shines more brightly.
We had the opportunity there in that land so far away not to teach strangers great and marvelous things, but to love fellow men and women like the brothers and sisters our great and marvelous God intended them to be. We were able to come alongside our friends there and scatter seed wherever the Father led us to walk. Friendships grew that our hearts will not soon forget, but we may never know this side of Heaven which seeds took root and which ones never will. That was never part of our job description anyway. We were simply called to go so they could know, to scatter seeds that He alone could grow.
"He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap. As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. In the morning, sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will do no good."
Walking the streets of that beloved city though, one thought kept flooding my mind. Scripture had come to life and I got a glimpse of what David meant in Psalm 139 when he said he knew there was nowhere he could flee from the Lord's presence. I doubt I will ever travel further from home than I do when I visit my friends there in Asia, but I felt more seen by the Lord there than I ever had. His peace and provision were perfect throughout our trip, as it always is when we are on mission for Him, no matter where He leads.
It has been a few years now since these feet have left American soil, but as I wade back into the incredible waters of Bible study with other women, I am catching glimpses of myself back then in Asia. Eyes are opening and the realization that there really was no distance so far their Father would lose sight of them hits them right between the eyes. No matter how far they have wandered, He was always there. No matter how long they were gone, He remained.
The place where our faith journey begins is usually a familiar one. No matter how far we wander or how we change after that day, it only takes a moment for it all to come flooding back when we plant our feet in His presence. The moment we surrender our lives to Him, we also - however unknowingly - surrender our control and become His responsibility. We are free to go further than we ever could have gone on our own, to soar high above all that held us down before, and we are sent forth with the responsibility to share the story that made it so. We will witness darkness and idol worship of all forms and when we do, it's meant to ignite an urgency in our souls to bravely carry the light into darkest nights.
Some are noticing for the first time that God has changed them from the inside out. What has become commonplace for them is still extraordinary to hungry, curious onlookers who are marveling at the work God has done and is doing their lives and these sisters are taking notice either for the first time or the first time in a long time. At last, many are seeing the value of the treasure the Lord has given them in His Holy Spirit and they are seeing opportunities to plant seeds, to apply that power and love in the places where they have been called to walk.
Many of the people we are brushing up against in elevators and on busy sidewalks have wandered so far from Home. It would feel foreign to them to go back now. They know this Jesus we speak of, but something has burned them so badly, they are terrified to draw near again. Others have never had the luxury of knowing the comforts of Home at all. Never having received such unadulterated love, it is impossible for them to reciprocate it.
When you wander so far from home, it gets harder and harder to blend.
"I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the Lord: that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them."
As light-bearers, our Father will point us in the right direction, give us the wisdom and all the words we need to do this job He has called us to do. We need not be formally trained evangelists. We merely need to be His. It is vital to know what we believe and why we believe it, but the Message we have been called to carry all over this dark world is not one that should ever make it harder for others to find their way home, but should look so much like love that it points straight to the Father who is waiting with open arms.
In a land so filled with darkness, the Light only shines more brightly.
"In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."