Those of you who follow my blog have probably noticed my absence the past few months. I tried to come back to writing, I really did. To be completely honest though, this past year has been one of the hardest I’ve gone through personally. Growing up is never easy, even if you’re already supposed to be a “grown-up”. People we love can hurt us. Plans can change. We often disappoint others and fail ourselves. Lets just say a lot of that happened this past year.
I’ve always wanted to get things “right”. The voice of perfectionism speaks to me daily, often overshadowing the voice of God.
I’ve spent so many years beating myself up when things go wrong and expecting myself to always get it right. Mistakes are not an option. Bad choices aren’t allowed. Oh I talk a good game about “not being perfect” and “accepting myself” but the truth is that most days I’m striving for an unrealistic and unattainable goal that should drive most people completely bonkers…
Goals come in all shapes and sizes – mine was a size 6.
Picture the photo shopped beauty queen, size 6, with flawless skin who looks perfect in every shot. Mix that with the “Christian” who always serves, never loses their temper and can quote the Bible on command… now add to those goals the fact that I’ve graduated from not one, but TWO bible colleges and have been in full time ministry for nearly a decade – two things that can produce high expectations from people – so on top of feeling like I need to look perfect and be perfect, I also need to produce results.
I just recently stepped away from a full time position at an incredible ministry (which I believed and still believe I was supposed to do) – one that produced great results; millions of people coming to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and seeing thousands of people healed all around the world. I loved what they do – I still do for that matter. They were and still are absolutely amazing. If we’re being completely honest though, I felt like the world was watching to see if I would fall off course and settle in to my comfortable life in America or keep going forward with missions work overseas. I’m sure 98% of it was in my own head (placed there by satan) but regardless; I felt the pressure to produce. And when the last mission trip I had planned was finished, the feeling of failure began to creep in once again.
I told myself (and others) that I was taking a few months off to rest and catch up – after all, I had been in Asia for 9 weeks last summer. I had earned a little break, I thought. At least that’s what I told everyone. It was a better answer than “No I have no idea where I am going next. I have no idea what I’m doing. Did I miss God? Did I make a mistake? What am I doing with my life? What is God doing with my life?” Those were the thoughts that would bombard me anytime someone would ask, “So Jamie, when are you leaving and where are you going next?”
The first few months were hard. And each passing month got harder. I wasn’t finished with missions, but I didn’t have answers either. I didn’t know what was next. And although I’m sure God wasn’t silent, that stupid voice of perfectionism was getting louder every day. As it grew louder, my hope and joy began to fade away. And I just didn’t seem to hear anything from God.
When hope seems lost.
I reached an all time low, crying my eyes out while yelling at God that I couldn’t understand why He had brought me to this place in my life. He knew me after all. He created me. He knew how miserable I would be where I was. He was the one who called me to missions. I actually asked God if that was what he wanted? For me to be miserable… I know, I’m ashamed of myself, but I’ve forgiven myself and thankfully, so has He. I didn’t get the answers I wanted that night, but the stubbornness in me refused to quit. So I dragged myself out of bed the next day and did what I had to do. And the day after that, I did the same. I kept praying – trying to figure out what was next. I still had no answers.
Finally I sat down and told God that there were three things I had on my heart that I felt I was supposed to do this year in ministry. I was going to write them down and take steps forward, until He told me something else. At this point, I calmed down a bit and simply asked Him to show me if the things on my heart were wrong, to tell me and I would go after what He wanted. And through a series of events and the course of just a few days, I received confirmation on all three of the things I had written down! I’ll share more about some of that later. For now though, I want to focus on one of the bigger items on my list, returning to Asia.
There is an incredible ministry in Asia, Life Impact International, that I have known about (through a friend) for several years now. They work to rescue children out of slavery and prostitution and prevent others from ever entering that world. They give these children a place to call home and hope in Jesus Christ. They are literally rescuing children and training them to take the Gospel of Jesus back into the world. I knew the work they were doing was important and had always wanted to experience it first hand. And even though I am certain I don’t deserve it, God opened the door for me to take part.
I came with the intent to fill a need or several needs, if possible.
I came to serve, not to be served.
I thought these kids needed me.
What I didn’t know was just how much I needed them.
It wasn’t a part of the original plan, but I was asked to join a small team from the ministry that would go into a neighboring nation and take the 28 rescued children they had there, on a trip. I agreed. I was actually thrilled for the chance to go spend so much time with these kids.
We arrived late Monday afternoon and headed to the “Boy’s Home” where we would first encounter the rescued boys – 13 to be exact and later the rescued girls. There were 15 of them. We spent a few hours together with introductions and packing for the trip ahead. My introduction was hilarious since I had managed to lose my voice the day before. Nothing like whispering your name to a room full of kids and then having it translated… It was bad enough I couldn’t speak their language, now I couldn’t really speak mine either. We hadn’t even started and I felt like already I was failing them.
As we got on the large bus the ministry had rented, the funniest thing happened. I was practically dragged into a seat with the cutest little girl I’ve ever seen. We’ll call her “Niah”. Now at this point, I’m sick. I have a cough that makes me sound like a chain smoker, no voice and I’m hot and sweaty. Nothing about me screams “she looks like fun, I should have her sit with me”. Yet Niah wanted me by her side. She didn’t know me. She couldn’t speak to me, but she wanted me there with her for the next six-hour bus ride. This little girl slept on my lap, drooled on my shoulder and shared her blanket with me. She didn’t know me, but I was enough.
Every day thereafter, Niah was glued to my side. When a chair was open next to me at the breakfast table, she was right there. We learned from God’s word together and worshipped together. As we took the children to the beach, she was always the first to grab my hand and insist we walk together (although by the end of the week others had followed her lead – I didn’t have enough hands for all the kids). We couldn’t communicate with words, but her laughter and never-ending smiles said it all.
Daily we chased waves, as she tirelessly collected her seashells – valued treasure to her and yet she gave the majority away to others (myself included). I can truly say I have never seen a child with so much unending joy. Not temporal happiness that comes from getting the new toy you’ve been waiting months for or even the happiness that comes from experiencing Disney World for the first time, but real joy… a true joy that only comes from being rescued, from knowing the unending love of a Savior. The truth is, I don’t know all of Niah’s story, what she went through and how she got here today and maybe I don’t want to. I’m told her beginning was a rough one, although you would never guess it.
This amazing little girl took one look at me and that was enough. She didn’t care about my muffin top; smile lines on my face, or whether I could quote any of the Bible. She didn’t care if this was my first or 51st missions trip. She simply took me at face value, The same way Jesus does. I was perfectly imperfect and that was more than enough.
The trip came and went faster than I would have liked, but I can assure you that I’ll be back to see Niah again. I can’t help but learn from this little girl. Niah reminded me of why I started missions work in the first place. She was exactly what I needed and I suppose this “not size 6” “imperfect Christian” was exactly what she needed too.