Counting the Cost

If your house was on fire what is the first thing you would bring with you? If you could only take five things to a deserted island, what would you bring? Today I stood in my dining room with a lot of stuff around me. Coffee mugs from around the world, knick-knacks, picture frames, shower curtains, bedding, candles, photographs. And as I stood there with this heavy weight on my chest I realized this is the cost.

Over the last month and a half, I’ve deeply felt the Lord stripping me of every single thing that I can potentially find security in or do find security in. Whether it’s somewhere to live, a coffee mug from a place I love (I collect coffee mugs, it’s kind of a problem), or not having a car…all of it is being taken from me.

But over the last few weeks I’m realizing…I’m not being robbed. I’m not being punished. I’m not some poor missionary who’s losing everything. Rather…I’m gaining everything. You see, all these little things my soul has sneakily found meaning, security, purpose and identity in. I’ve trusted in these silly things that have given me place and honor. All of these things that say “I don’t need Jesus here. I have these things to take care of me.” So, Jesus has been stripping me of things and in return, He has given me the very best to fill those faith gaps. He has given me Himself! 

As I walk this road ahead, I’m reminded of Jesus’ calling of the twelve disciples.

…and [Jesus] sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. And he said to them, ‘Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.’

Luke 9:1-3

Jesus calls these men to forsake everything, quit what they’re doing, leave it all behind and follow Him. What a radical call! Even as they were fishing on the Sea of Galilee later on, He told them He would make them fishers of men. And these men immediately left their nets and followed Jesus. These men didn’t even take the time to count the cost! They just followed Him. Oh, that I would have faith that would act immediately, confidently and boldly.

Over the last 2.5 years the Lord has consistently called me to equip young leaders in Croatia to fulfill Christ’s commission through the local church. In this movement of God, lives are being changed, churches are being revived, and societies are being transformed. So as I sit in my dining room looking at all this stuff…I don’t even have to take a minute to think, “Is it worth it?” Just like the disciples left their cast nets, like they left their treasures, like they left everything they knew for the sake of the gospel and to be fishers of men…I am coming to find that Jesus is worth everything. I am counting the cost and following Him. There is nothing on this earth that can bring identity, purpose, security, belonging, anything at all other than Jesus.

So, I’ll gladly get rid of my coffee mugs, my plants, my picture frames, my mason jars, my furniture, all of it…because Jesus is better, He’s worth it, and I am ready to go and make disciples.

Irresistible Invitation

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.”

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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.

front-1-4Here’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. shortterm-60

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.

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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.camp-45

 

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

 

“I want to be a missionary”

This is a loooooong one…but hey, camp happened so there’s a lot to write about 🙂

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Camp has come and gone and I can hardly believe it. After weeks of praying and planning and preparing, the week has passed. We have surely seen God’s hand over it all and He has outweighed our expectations, as usual. Nothing is quite like camp…the days are long but the week seems to fly by. You average about 4-5 hours of sleep per night and learn the limitations of your body like never before. It’s a beautiful thing to see that we can’t do it on our own while our bodies are surely failing us.

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Our Seattle team arrived late on Friday night, and as they fought jet lag we had orientation for them all day on Saturday. We had a tour of Split which gave us and them a great cultural context and understanding of our mission field. From there, we got to talk about specific roles for our staff as well as talk through the schedule. The majority of the team had done several camps with JV in Slovenia in the past. On Sunday, we had church and it sure was packed. Double the amount of people that we normally have and we’ve got a church service! It was so, so exciting to see the Seattle team, the Bieber family and our team all together. God ended up bringing two students to camp literally last minute. Some parents signed their two sons up for camp that day at church a few hours before we were leaving. Crazy awesome!

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Rachael and I hit the road right after church. We ended up leaving a few hours early to set up and get things ready before everyone arrived. However, about 45 minutes into our almost 4 hour trip, an alert to check the engine went off on Rachael’s car. Essentially her car was no longer able to accelerate and we were doubtful we would make it to camp. We prayed the whole way there and truly relied on Jesus to get us there. Somehow (seriously miraculously) we made it to camp. As soon as we hit the town and got off the highway we were nervous as the hills were great, but we made it! (insert major praise hands here) Also, another awesome update: Jure was awesome in the car and Amber ended up getting better over camp.

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Each day of camp sort of blends together as the week goes on. But, generally each day began at about 6AM or so for me, with a staff meeting at 7AM. It was so amazing to hear each morning all that the Lord had done the previous day. Some kids joked that they were at fat camp because we stuck to bread, potatoes and not much meat throughout the week. When Aleksander/Otto, our cook for the week & jack-of-all-trades, allowed us to help him in the kitchen, we did. It’s not easy cooking for 45 people on your own. After a quick morning session, students headed to their first set of class. I got to sit in on one of the classes throughout the week and help with teaching and just be there to hang out with students. I loved helping them learn English as well as learn some Croatian myself! Ryan, our awesome teacher from Seattle, brought a different peanut butter and chocolate candy for us to try everyday. Most of them were not available in Croatia so it was fun for the students to try everything from a Butterfinger to peanut butter M&Ms.

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After a quick break, a mid-morning snack, and some volleyball outside, we had our second session of class. Lunch, then some free-time or, for two of the days we had workshops. The photography workshop was a hit and it was so fun seeing the students soak it all up. Songwriting was also another good one. During the days when this slot was filled with free time it was fun to hang with students playing card games or just chatting. Afternoons included what we liked to call tribal warfare. Everyone was divided into either the red or blue team, shown by the bandanas or tribal paint they wore. From colored powder washed away with water balloons, to a blindfolded relay race, to kickball, ultimate frisbee, and box ball the afternoons were so fun. Camp is the best.

 

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Being our first camp, I had no idea what to expect. I knew coming to Croatia I was helping with English camps but I had no idea what that meant or what it looked like. I hope to write a longer post soon explaining the goals and mission behind English camp with JV (it’s seriously awesome). I had an underlying expectation that something would go horribly wrong; someone would get terribly ill, everyone would get a stomach bug or it just would go to shambles. But God truly was in control (and He still would be if anything bad happened). Sure there were things that didn’t go as planned and some days we were on the last of our strength, but the Lord showed up and did what He always does.

English classes and evening discussion groups were some of my favorite times. Every night for the evening sessions, John gave a message revealing a little bit more of the gospel. Afterward, we had discussion groups. I was so, so thankful to be a part of them. My discussion group brought me to tears every night. One of the nights I will probably never forget. After John talked one night, we started discussion groups. One of the last questions was very vague “What are some of your hopes and dreams for your future?” Croatian youth are sort of forced to think about this much earlier than the average American. The high school they choose to go to basically locks in their future. So they have to know by age 13 or so what they want to do with their life.

A question holding a lot of weight and ambiguity we expected to bring a dead silence welcoming the loud noise of crickets outside the open window. But on student quickly answered, “I want to be like you and be a missionary.” Her statement was followed by two others saying the same. I held back tears as I heard the answer to my prayers. Sitting in that room in Croatia hearing a young student say what I’ve been praying for for months and what the Hinger’s and Judita and Mladen have been praying for years…there’s no way to explain it. It was unlike anything being at a camp with students who mostly all know Jesus but need to be pushed to the next step. We were at a precipice of encouraging and building up the next generation of leaders in the church in Croatia. Wow.

Late night activities were surely some things the students will remember for years to come. From America night (bobbing for apples, crazy law trivia, seed spitting, etc.), Bunko, glow in the dark capture the flag,  and Hrvatska vs. Portugal (we won, and it was the coolest thing seeing the Croatians get so into the game. The Eurocup is essentially the Super Bowl for Europeans. Amber, Sarah, Rachael, Julia and I spent quite a bit of time popping popcorn for the students and they were so grateful and surprised that they each got their own bag).

On the last night, we had the Labyrinth. Essentially, the Labyrinth is an experiential maze gospel presentation with multiple stations. The first station we had set up was a gallery with photos and verses talking about God as creator. The last part of that station had Psalm 139 with a mirror where they were to look at themselves and recognize God created them. There were other stations in between leading up to the final one which presented the gospel and left them at the cross, telling them to make a decision. I was in charge of this night and so many hours of prayers, preparation and wrestling went into this. It was so much of saying yes to God and denying myself in wanting to please people but just do it all unto Him. At the end of it all, I could truly say that it was all the Lord. I couldn’t have done it by myself. It brought tears to my eyes seeing the students take it in and take so much time, seeing high school boys look at themselves in the mirror, thinking about who Jesus is, and so, so much more. I wish I had pictures from it but I was just taking it all in. I’m hoping to get some from someone else.

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There were plenty of other things the Lord did throughout the week, plenty of things I wrestled through that God challenged me on, plenty to say about this awesome team I get to be a part of, and plenty to write about. But for now, dear friends, know this: God is on the move. The events and conversations and relationships being built are all evidence of His divine power and majesty. 

Thank you thank you thank you for standing with me, with us, for this mission.