I decided several years ago that I would never pass up an opportunity to share about the ways I have been privileged to see God work. However, when Kelcie asked if I would like to write something about my most recent trip to China, I was nervous. I wrote a series of posts for the ministry where I worked—all based on individual kids that touched my heart. However, the trip as a whole was...well, if I am being honest, really hard.
About a year ago, I started working for an orphan care ministry called Families Outreach. I wanted to be absolutely convinced that this was the job God had for me. I began searching the Scriptures and reading books to see what He had to say about loving and caring for orphans. For the next several months, I was blown away by the number of times God clearly states that it is the job of the church to care for orphans, widows, and sojourners (or travelers). God was placing a burden on my heart to reach out to these children in any way that I could.
In the fall, I knew that my 25th birthday was coming up and I had decided that I wanted to take a trip to celebrate. I was thinking about going to NYC where I could enjoy musicals, sightseeing, and eating. I decided to pray about it. I told God that I really would like to go on a trip, but that if He had different plans for my birthday, I was willing to do whatever.
Within a week of that prayer, my director mentioned that he had seen a trip advertised with one of our partnering organizations—to China. His wife quickly looked up the description of the trip. We had both been feeling particularly burdened for the older orphans that we had been hearing about. This trip would be going to an orphanage, which had ALL older orphans, to teach an English camp. I glanced at the dates of the trip and we would arrive to China ON my birthday. We both knew instantly that we were supposed to go on this trip.
After months of planning, a bumpy start in the US with several flight delays, and 30+ hours in airports we arrived in freezing cold Beijing. We spent the night in a hostel and visited an orphanage that cared for babies with physical disabilities or illnesses. The next day, we had another flight south to get to the province where we would be spending the rest of our trip.
Now, when I think about this trip, I immediately remember everything that was difficult and exhausting. Everywhere else I have ever been has had its hard moments, but this time was different. After the first few days, I was ready to come home. I loved the children in my class and desperately wanted to love them in the name of Christ, but so many things were uncomfortable and hard for me to understand.
But for every hard experience, God would give me moments where I would just look at the children as they laughed and played, and I would forget that I was exhausted from 13 hours of non-stop activity each day. The kids that had the greatest impact on me were several younger kids who joined our camp from the government orphanage across the street. I got to see these kids as they were experiencing things for the first time—like Peter who had never been allowed to play on the swings because of a physical handicap. Stoic little Luke transformed before our eyes, and I can still hear him laughing as he told the funny story about how Peter bruised his chin. And Piper...my sweet Piper. I am still challenged by the boy who learned about Christ as a young child and has clung to our Father through the circumstances that landed him in a government orphanage.
On our flights back to America, I kept thinking about what I was going to tell people back home. After 40 frustrating hours of planes and airports, all I wanted to do was complain. I wanted people to know how hard we worked in rough physical conditions. I wanted people to be proud of us and feel sorry for what a hard time we had. God quickly put me in my place. I started asking Him what I was supposed to learn from this experience. It is the first time I had ever had an overall negative experience overseas. God’s answer was simple: obedience.
“Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.” Jeremiah 42:6
In so many ways, it has been somewhat easy for me to obey God for the last few years. I have always loved Africa. I grew up in a godly family where ministering to the broken and impoverished was graciously built into me. I have lived in countries that were far less comfortable than the US, but the cultures seemed more fitting than my own. However, China was a different experience all together.
I felt God asking me, “Will you obey Me even when it is hard? Are you willing to love when it is difficult? Will you truly go wherever I send you? Do you want to glorify My name or your own?”
I know that God doesn’t send everyone overseas to minister. He sends a lot of us across hallways and streets to share the hope of the gospel. Jesus sent out the disciples telling them to be his witnesses where they lived, nearby, and to the ends of the earth. As Christians, we have all received this same command and it is our responsibility to look for the ways that God is telling us to be involved with missions locally and internationally. Sometimes I get to be the one delivering the message, but other times God is telling me to help financially so that others can go.
What opportunities is God providing for me to be His hands and feet? How can I become involved where God has me right now? What way can I be a support to those that He has called to go overseas?
All we can do is ask questions like this and then choose to obey His voice -- whether “good or bad.”
Anna-Marie has been known by many names in her 25 years of life. Her parents, brothers and sisters call her ridiculous nicknames. She has worked as a nanny for several families, and their kids usually create their own special versions of her toddler-unfriendly name. After college, she spent 7 months at a missionary training program living in Africa where she answered to the Swahili and Arabic versions of her name. Recently, she moved to Dallas where she is going by "Anna-Marie" (with a Texan accent). She lives her life as God directs her and, hopefully, as a mirror of His love to the world.