It was the summer of 2016 and I had just arrived in Split, Croatia after long days of travel. I had been preparing for this summer for the last six months but had no idea what God had for me. I’d known for several years that God was inviting me into cross-cultural missions so this opportunity seemed like a practical and wise experience for me as I stepped into the future. What seemed like a practical and wise move was quickly turning into much more. Day after day, it felt as if my heart was bursting. I penned in my journal, “I came into this season with hands wide open and a heart ready. It may be the very beginning but I can truly see myself doing this for the rest of my life.”
I found myself struck by the great grace of God with tears in my eyes as He continued to speak to my heart in the coming weeks. All at once, it was as if everything was coming full circle; these things that God had begun in me years and years ago were being brought to fruition. It was as if God was placing me in the exact place He wanted to use me. He was calling me to what He had equipped me for. Could God really be opening the door for something as big as this? I tucked that prayer away for a later time, focusing on what God had brought me to do in Croatia, serving Him one day at a time.
Now, before I get too far into this particular story, I want to clue you in on a little bit of my background. Through the faithful friendship of a childhood friend and pursuit of Christ, Jesus radically changed my life when I was 16. Throughout all these years, there were many misconceptions that were broken down. Not unlike many others, I had this perception that missionaries were special. Afterall, they’d known their whole life that God had called them to *this* place and *these* people (don’t get me wrong…I don’t doubt that is the experience of some) and so I’d shut out the idea that God would ever want me to share the gospel overseas. I’d thought missions required an experience or a-ha moment. This misconception would slowly but surely be corrected over the years as I traveled to many places, met many people, and deeply fell in love with the world and saw the deep need for revival. Plain and simple: through God’s Word, His Spirit, prayer, and various experiences I clearly saw God’s command to go and make disciples. I found no greater joy than in this posture of humble submission to the great commission. Did I know exactly what that looked like back in 2015? No, but God would faithfully lead me. Now let’s get back to that part...
This tugging at my heart wouldn’t leave quickly. Was God opening a door here in Croatia? Over many years, my heart was breaking for places where the gospel was not being heard, for places where the gospel is misunderstood. When I learned that out of 4.5 million people in Croatia, less than 0.5% know Jesus, I quickly thought, “we have to do something!” As I wrestled with God, anxious and trying to navigate His plan like a jigsaw puzzle, He stopped me in my tracks. “Following Me means dying to you. Your life is me. You must die to truly live.” What? The God who died for me tells me that I must die to myself, my plan, my path, my way in order to truly live? That is precisely what Jesus was calling me (and is calling me!) to do.
Here’s the problem. What Jesus was calling me to was very contrary to what I wanted. I’ve always been one with a set plan, a purpose, and a precise path. I like to have it all figured out, don’t we all!? Dying to myself meant dying to walking by sight, dying to the approval of others, dying to my plan, dying to control (and oh how I love control!). Dying to my desire for a clear and direct call. And coming alive to obedience and faith.
So when those chilling words reminded me that following Jesus means dying to myself, I quickly tightened my grip on the life of my plan and control. As a young woman, there’s been plenty of paths that have caught my attention. Some lasted longer than others. When I was 16, I planned out the perfect future: I would go to college, meet the perfect guy, get married by 22, have kids, buy a house, be comfortable, and be a faithful disciple of Christ. Sounds great right? The thing is, there isn’t necessarily anything inherently wrong with that plan, it’s just not what the Good Shepherd had planned for me. So as I’ve tried to tighten my grip on my plan and control, the sweet and patient grace of Christ has slowly loosened my grip.
So everyday for three months while in Croatia I kept hearing the gracious voice of God, “Will you serve me here? Will you die to yourself? Will you trust me?” And for several days it felt like trusting Him meant falling into the great unknown and it was scary. But then, this unexplainable freedom was realized and this weight was lifted. Because my new life is in Christ, I have died to myself. I’m called to obedience and faith in following Him. Following Him to unknown places with unknown people. Following Him to build up the next generation of believers. Following Him to walk with disciples as they make disciples. Following Him to share the story of what He is doing throughout the earth.
So when I came home, this question kept circling through my mind, “Could God possibly be inviting me into what He is doing in Croatia?” The Lord was ever so patient with me as He ever so clearly and consistently invited me. “I am moving; changing society, transforming lives, and rebuilding my local church here. Will you join me?” This was an irresistible invitation I couldn’t pass up. This was an invitation to die to self. Again. But this time, it was as if I had finally realized that if Jesus wholeheartedly said yes to an invitation from the Father to give His whole life in obedience for the sake of the world, how could I not say yes to this invitation? How could I not say yes to my ever-faithful Father who has (quite literally) saved my life and give my life to making Him known?
So what’s the invitation that I’m saying “Yes, I’m going!” to? The invitation is this: the sovereign God of the universe is building His kingdom through the saving and sending of His people. The call of God is to go. I go because the glory of God is at stake. I go because the story I am caught up in is not my story; I’m caught up in God’s story. I go not because it’s radical but because it’s necessary. I go to join a team of incredible Kingdom builders who are seeing God move on a daily basis. I go to fulfill Christ’s commission in Croatia, by equipping young people and making disciples.
I’ve responded to the invitation. I’ve given my RSVP. I’ve given a bold yes in obedience and faith. I will need to continue to give a resounding yes as I walk this road and link arms with others who also give a bold yes. I choose to say yes, knowing that He has far greater things for me than I could ever imagine or plan on my own. I choose to follow Him even when things get hard or when they are seemingly perfect. I choose to say yes because there is no other option, no greater call, and no higher honor than making Him known.
In his book Great Commission Obedience author Jerry Rankin says, “Jesus did not introduce the concept of the Great Commission upon completion of His time upon earth but ratified this as the eternal will and purpose of the Father.” There’s no clearer invitation than this. Jesus tells us to come, go, follow. Without reservation. Without our own plans. Without our own confidence. Without our old selves. But, with Jesus. With our coming King who invites us, so irresistibly so, to go and make disciples.
So what does this look like for you? Obedience and faith, dying to self, saying yes, responding to the irresistible invitation. What does it look like to be a faithful disciple? Maybe it’s digging into the city you live in, being bold in your faith with your coworkers, or making disciples in your local school. Jesus calls us to die to ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. What does that mean for you? Whatever that looks like for each and every person, what I know is this: God has given us a clear call and it’s this.
Go make disciples.
Thank you for reading and following along. Please leave me a comment or send me a message! I’d love to hear from you. If you’d like to hear more about what God is doing in Croatia or you’d like to partner with me, please click here.