Here’s a quick recap of what got me started on this path: For several years I was the administrator of South Shore Church (now Red River Church) in Austin, Texas.
I loved my job and thought I’d be there for a long time to come.
Mark Browne, then executive director of Mission Global Outreach (MGO) spoke at church in the fall of 1999, and some friends felt in their hearts that I should go to Russia and get to know Mark better. So, my friends surprised me by paying for my trip to Russia with MGO in January of 2000. I thought, ‘well, this will be great, a free trip to Russia. Should be interesting.” This was the beginning of an unexpected change in my life.
Well, after the trip I felt, through prayer, that I should return to Russia but I wasn’t sure in what capacity. While in Russia on that first trip, I had felt a call to “see the seasons change in St. Petersburg.”
The elders at church had been praying about my situation, and we all agreed that it was time for me to step off staff and move on to new things–that was a scary step of faith. But God has been teaching me that it’s quite alright to trust Him in difficult or confusing situations. Let me give a little background on that:
As I was praying in the summer of 1999, I sensed that the Lord wanted me to go on a fast–I hadn’t been planning to fast at all. (I was quite overweight, and that was an indicator of a lack of discipline which spilled over into other areas of my life.)
So, I prayed “how long should this fast be?” I felt that it should be 40 days. Then I asked “what kind of fast should it be?” I was thinking maybe one meal a day, or no TV/movies/radio/newspapers, something like that. The fast I felt prompted to do, however, was the following: no solid food, and nothing that had any flavor. Well, that kinda left me with water.
So, I started the fast in early July 1999. It was a long 40 days. As a matter of fact, at the time I said it should be called a “slow.” It was very difficult, but the benefits far outweighed (pardon the pun) the cost. I’ll tell you, if the Lord calls you to something, He will give you the strength to complete it, and the result will be very good. If you’d like to know more about the lessons I learned in the fast, please feel free to write me.
I will give God the glory, because I certainly didn’t have it in me to do something like that. This was a very big lesson in learning to discern the will of the Lord, and trust Him to guide my steps as He gave me strength.
So, back to Russia: Originally I thought I would probably return to Russia as a member of a team from Austin. As I was stepping off staff at the church, Mark Browne asked me to work as a staff member with MGO in the summer of 2000, serving the teams that work in the summer camps.
I spent three months living in a camp and an orphanage, serving kids and helping coordinate the various teams that came from the States. In the fall of 2000 I was elected to the board of MGO and was commissioned to go to Russia and start a Russian charity (now named MIR).
In less than twelve months I went from my first visit to Russia to living in Russia. It was quite a ride! And the ride continues . . . .
My readings in the Bible took me back to Psalm 23, and I know that the Lord is a good shepherd; He will lead us beside still waters, He will make us lie down in green pastures, and He will be with us in the valley of the shadow of death. His rod and staff (discipline, leadership, salvation) are comforting. So, we have nothing to be anxious about as we walk with Him.
I encourage you, whatever your situation, to seek after the righteousness of God and trust that everything you need will be provided. Put your faith in Christ. Very few will be in the situation in which I find myself, but we are all called to love God with all our being, and to love others as we love ourselves.
God is a loving Father, He is worthy of our praise; Jesus sets the perfect example for us all to be selfless servants, speaking the truth in love, walking by faith, and looking out for the needs of others; the Holy Spirit gives us the life of God as a river of living water, of blessing and truth and mercy, to flow through us to the people in our lives who God loves more than we can imagine.