Dear young lady,
I wish I could be sitting across from you, face to face over a good cup of coffee. I’m beyond excited to hear how the Lord has placed the nations on your heart. He does all things with his good purpose in mind. When he gave you a burden to see others know him, it was no accident. I remember being in your position. I had sensed his leading me to serve cross-culturally since I was a teen. And man, oh man, did I have so much to learn. I wanted to take a moment to share with you some things I wish I had known, done, or practiced much earlier in life. I’ll start with four practical things I hope you’ll begin practicing now.
Take Jesus Seriously
Following Jesus is serious business. Yes, it can be enjoyable, exciting, challenging, and a whole list of other positive adjectives. But we must take following him seriously in all areas of our lives. I wish I had been less concerned with what others thought of me and instead put that energy into delving deeper in my relationship with Christ. You can do that here and now by developing good spiritual disciplines that will help you grow in godliness. Focus on developing a faithful prayer life. Practice healthy habits of discipleship. Maturity is both essential and crucial for all believers. I lament my lack of maturity when I was in my college years and early twenties. I can name more than one area where I could have been more effective and fruitful, had I been more spiritually mature. I want the best for you. Yes, it means making sacrifices and fleeing from sin. When God prunes unfruitful areas in your life, it will be painful, but it will be for your good. Stick close to Jesus each and every day.
Grow in God’s Word
When you go overseas, you could likely be in an area where there’s no thriving church, no weekly small groups, and only a few believers. Girl, let me tell you now. You cannot live on podcasts and live-streamed sermons alone. Many places overseas are spiritual wildernesses. Learning to dig deep into God’s word will sustain you in those tough places so that you will survive and thrive. Think of it this way. If you want to eat (spiritually speaking), you must learn how to feed yourself.
Seminary or theological education might or not be a requirement for you. Still, I can attest how theological education helped me learn how to dig into Scripture and gave me a deepened love for God and his word. You are called to love God with your heart and your mind. For now, I would recommend starting with a trustworthy resource like Jen Wilkin’s book Women of the Word.
Are you learning how to articulate your faith and beliefs? Once again, that’s where seminary helped me put words to what I believe. It is a great exercise to practice fleshing it out in easy-to-express terms, because one day you may be doing that in another language.
Gain a Skill You Can Use
If you are just now considering what to study in college, it’s okay and actually advantageous to choose a marketable degree. You don’t have to forego your knack for business or marketing. God can and may have wired you to use those skills overseas in places with little or no Christian presence. God gave me a passion for writing, and yet while I was obtaining my seminary degree, I realized he had gifted me in administration. I used those skills and gifts for years in my job, which allowed time for them to sharpen and develop. Today, I am still using both things I enjoy. So hone those skills, spiritual gifts, and talents. Shoddy work does not bring honor or respect to the name of Christ.
Build a Community
You will need a spiritual community before you head overseas, and the best place to start is your local church. Allow your church to know your heart, skills, and calling. Let them speak into you and be of assistance. Unfortunately, not all church leaders can provide this, so it may be wise to seek mentor relationships from other mature believers within your congregation.
Are you building relationships with non-believers and sharing the gospel with them at your current job or school? Being intentional takes practice and effort. If you intend to be active in sharing your faith with non-believers, start with the people around you. Before I moved overseas, I was deeply invested in an international community. Part of me couldn’t help it. These people had become like family and were a blessing to me in many ways.
There are things you don’t have to worry about today. You don’t have to be preoccupied with what country you will be in or would like to serve in. If God lays a nation or people group on your heart, great! Get to know people from that country if possible. It’s fine to look for short-term opportunities or internships to help you gain a vision for where God is leading you. (I encourage it!) But you don’t have to have all the answers about where and when today. You don’t have to wait for a husband to come along.
You don’t have to have all the specifics nailed down, but you do need open hands and an obedient heart. As you are praying, growing, and waiting, allow God to direct your steps. And never stop pursuing him. You won’t regret it. I’m cheering you on!