*Originally written in the Autumn of 2011 as a letter to friends and family.*
It was a cool October afternoon as I was driving away from my friend, Mara’s, house in Northeast Philadelphia. We had just finished crying and praying together about a new thing – a drastic change – that God was about to do in my life. To be honest, I was terrified. For a person who is accustomed to change, it’s not always appealing to me. This day was a hard one.
I was struggling, unsure about the reasons why God was calling me out of my comfort zone once again. And, Guatemala, of all places! My knuckles were white as I gripped the steering wheel with both hands. I could feel the tension in my face. My thoughts took me back in time. Two weeks earlier I had spent a few days in Guatemala after sensing that the Holy Spirit was whispering to my heart that God was doing something amazing there and wanted me to join Him.
I couldn’t get the images out of my mind. Each one was a paradox: barefoot children – laughing and playing in the streets; dirt-smudged faces and rotting teeth – with smiles so radiant I couldn’t help but smile back; a small, yellow building – brand new – nestled in the center of one of the poorest squatter communities in the city, where most homes were built out of sheets of corrugated cardboard and metal.
So many mixed emotions. But, I knew God was doing something wonderful. The missionaries in that yellow building were feeding, at the time, over 150 children three times a week and providing basic medical treatment to the suffering. All for free. It takes a lot of love to give away your life like that. The Gospel was being shared not just through words, but deeds as well. My world was turned upside down.
Familiar with ministry, having served in my local church for 10 years, giving of myself was nothing new. I loved it! Life was an adventure to say the least. I loved being a twenty-something single girl living in the midst of chaos and being able to offer hope – loving the unlovely.
As I sat at the traffic light just a few blocks from Mara’s house, the intersection was eerily quiet. Mine was the only car. Then, I heard it. “Summer.” Someone said my name. I looked around, startled. The only person I saw was a little elderly lady walking along the sidewalk on the right-hand side of the street. No one else was around. Hmm. I must have been hearing things.
As the light turned green, I slowly left the intersection and continued my journey home. And as I drove along, the tears began to stream down my cheeks as I came to the realization that God had spoken my name. “Summer.” That was it. Yet, somehow, I understood in that instant that God was speaking into my fears and anxieties and telling me that everything would be alright; that it was He that was calling me to Guatemala and that he would be with me every step of the way.
So, that’s how my missionary journey began.
By April of 2002, I had sold nearly all my possessions, purchased my one-way airline ticket, said goodbye to my family and friends, and boarded a plane that would take me to Guatemala. Faith, obedience and love for my Savior were the wind beneath my wings.
And now, nearly 10 years later, God spoke my name once again.
It’s impossible for me to put down on paper all of the things that I have learned as a missionary. Yes, God has used me in many ways: to be a part of a team that started a ministry to prostitutes; raise funds for a ministry that teaches the Bible in public schools where poor children attend; coordinating missions trips for dozens of American church groups; providing pastoral care for local Guatemalan ministry leaders; discipling women; leading worship; teaching and discipling middle class young adults; and many other ways God chose to use me.
I’m honored to have had those opportunities to proclaim – to live out – the love of Christ.
But, I think I’ve learned much more than what I’ve given: a whole new language; to drive a stick-shift; a whole new culture; to be a better listener; to show compassion; to mourn with those who mourn; to give with no strings attached; to see past the hard shell of a wretched sinner and to contemplate the heart of flesh that God sees; and the list goes on.
I’m humbled. Truly humbled, that in all my shortcomings, God still wanted to use me. More than that, that He still loved me.
You see, a year ago I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression. I had lived many dark months before realizing what was actually happening to me. It started with the birth of our first child and escalated through my second pregnancy and came to its peak just before our daughter turned two-years-old. Without going into detail, my defining moment was when I actually began to contemplate suicide. I shared this with my husband and he immediately took action. We got spiritual, psychological and medical help and now I can say that God was with me the whole way through.
It was hard. Harder than hard. Yet, I would never change what I went through. God has been doing some wonderful things in my heart and life. He has given me greater understanding and, surprisingly, a new way to minister to others.
If you know me at all, you know that my passion is ministry. It’s really all I know. It’s what I love to do. And you also know that I am now a wife and a mother. And taking on those two roles has been quite a transition. And I think in my case it’s been tougher than what most women experience. Letting go of my passion and activeness in ministry and shifting into motherhood was extremely difficult and surely one of the main causes of my depression.
Yet, in recent months I have begun to see the strain of attempting to balance both ministry and family life and have realized that the two have been in competition – all by my own doing. God began his nudging. And I pretended not to pay attention. I was not ready for another drastic change.
But, He kept pursuing me until I finally gave in. It wasn’t just a decision I was making. It really wasn’t mine to make. It was yet another step of faith and obedience that needed to be taken. And God had gently and lovingly brought me to the point (having prepared me along the way) where saying “Yes” to Him wasn’t as hard as I’d expected. I was immediately filled with peace – that peace that passes all understanding.
You see, that peace is essential when taking such a step because, for us as a family, it means giving up an extra income when we face so many practical needs in the coming months. My husband and I both agree, that the God who has provided for us up to this point, will continue to provide – especially as we walk in obedience with him.
So, as of October 1st of this year, I will no longer be an official missionary. In the early days of making this decision this was hard for me to say, but, now I’ve come to realize that I still have the same spiritual gifts that God has placed in me and he still plans on using me in the body of Christ. But, my first priority is my family. They really need me more than anyone else does. And I’m excited about the ways God will use me in their lives.
Thank you, from the very deepest part of my heart, for being an essential part of my life throughout this journey. Thank you for supporting me and for understanding what it means to walk in faith and obedience with Christ.
This is not the end of anything, really. It’s a new chapter. And I’m anxious to see what God writes on these blank pages.
God bless you as YOU continue to walk in faith and obedience. I know that I’m not the only one on a journey. That’s why I’ll continue to pray for you as you pray for me.
I continue on my journey, more than seven years after writing that emotional letter, having learned much and experienced many ups and downs. The kids are older and a little more independent. My greatest joys have been hearing them pray as they gave their lives to Christ and watching them take the step of publicly declaring their roles as disciples of Christ in baptism.
Parenting has become my primary ministry. And I can truly say that I am not doing it alone. My husband also makes our children a priority in bringing them up “in the fear of the Lord”. We both know how important it is to teach, by word and example, what it means to follow Christ. They are also learning, through their imperfect parents, what it means to ask for and experience forgiveness.
I mentioned that God’s purpose for me was to continue using my spiritual gifts to encourage those around me, and I have strived to be faithful in that. It is virtually impossible to describe in words what a joy it is to be used by the Lord. Not in public ministry, but privately – connecting heart to heart.
And now, just two months into starting this blog, following God’s leading, I am able to reach out to those I’ve never met with the Word of God with the purpose of pointing them to Christ. I constantly pray for my readers as I write, that God would use me to be a light in this dark world. May it be so. To God be the glory.
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