Overseas mission? The conference brochure said ‘You can pray… give… go. ‘ Already involved in the first two, I had discounted myself from the third. But the Lord surprised me at that conference; I heard I could be involved in the third too…
With no clear ‘call’ to a particular place and thinking it would be some years before I would be free to serve overseas, (I was a single parent with a teenage daughter and was teaching in a Christian school. Plus, I had never been abroad) I looked for ways to prepare myself while I waited. I got my passport and decided to learn Spanish. The next summer I went on a three-week missions trip to Spain. It was wonderful and I loved everything about it: I had enjoyed being focused and working as a team in England and found the same enjoyment alongside the added excitement of a totally different culture. Short-term mission seemed a positive step forward but how would I finance it? A long-termer in Spain encouraged me with how God had met her needs… and the following summer saw me on a 4-week ‘expedition’ to China!
I returned with more than additional travel experience: I returned with a call to the Muslim world…
As the oldest team member by at least 10 years, I was in a group of twelve going right up to Urumqi in north-west China and four of us continued on to Kashgar. I had known of this opportunity before I left England … I wanted to do it … but why? We spent three and a half uncomfortable days on a local bus travelling across the desert to get there, praying as we went, and spent two and a half days there before flying back to Urumqi. I returned with more than additional travel experience: I returned with a call to the Muslim world.
This was followed up with a short-term trip in summer 1994 to a Muslim nation, one of the ‘Stans’ – in the former USSR. We were a very mixed twelve-person group led by people much younger than me.
As the plane landed the Lord told me, ‘I will give you the desires of your heart.’
‘They’re in Kashgar’ I said.
The Lord’s reply? ‘Wait and see.’
I felt exhilarated. I didn’t know it yet but that was the beginning of my call to a ‘Stan.’
First exhilaration: then testing..!
I went on to have a terrible time: I was really sick and struggled to find my place in the team as an older, more experienced Christian woman but totally inexperienced in overseas mission. Despite everything, though, I knew I was in the right place.
What next? By now, my daughter was in her 3rd year at university; supposing I tested my call with a year overseas and returned to the UK for her 4th year and her finals? That summer, advised by a mission organisation, I went back to ‘-stan’ to visit two of their families serving there. Home again, I applied to do my short-term year with them: I realised I shared their vision for church planting – maybe that is what had been on my heart all along.
But the path ahead was not so smooth-going…
At several points in my journey there were difficulties that taught me more about prayer. Would my home church continue to support my vision? At a point of stalemate, through someone I had met the previous summer, I heard of the need for teachers in the Christian school for workers children in the capital city. Although I felt called long-term to the people of this ‘-stan’ and church planting, I had always felt that what I did for this year was just part of my training so – with my church’s backing – I applied for a year with this school with People International as my sending organisation.
Intense preparation followed: going on a Perspectives course, background reading, form-filling, and packing up my house. It was difficult to get the required visa but it finally came through less than 48 hours before I was due to leave – another test of faith!
The Sunday before I left someone at church gave me something which began ‘If God has said Go’. . .’ I thought about that. Had he said ‘Go’? I realised that he hadn’t; he had said ‘Come’. He was waiting for me in ‘-stan’ and I was happy to join him there.
I never looked back…
One year short-term in the school became twelve years and although there were obstacles, the Lord overcame them all.
The team I joined in the city was – because of my vision – not the one that teachers would join but a church planting team. This worked amazingly well for me because I also wanted to see people come to faith and for indigenous churches to grow and flourish. I lived with a local family for five years, and although my language was never good, I was able to be involved with discipling new believers and seeing people come to faith.
Most of the western Christians had to return home – The Lord called me on to Turkey…
However, things became increasingly difficult in ‘-stan’ with most of the western Christians having to return home. Life in that country was not easy for the last two years I was there but just before my 60th birthday the Lord called me to Turkey. I didn’t realise we all were going to have to leave soon. At 60 I found myself enjoying my new ‘retirement life’ in another country with time to do language study and interact naturally with another people group.
When I came to my first Turkish city, God spoke through John 14:1 -3: ‘In my Father’s house are many places . . ., I am going there to prepare your place for you.’ Again God was calling me to come to him.