As we concluded the two week series on the Book of Esther, one message I walked away with is that God sometimes uses the completely inexplicable events in our lives to point us toward Him. We get to decide each time whether we will lean in toward what is unfolding and say yes or back away.
Esther, an orphan and a Jewish woman, was the least likely to ever become a leader and a hero, but God worked in and through her. All along her journey, Esther had the opportunity to say "no" and to disregard God's call but instead she trusted God through difficult times and decisions.
In June, two Carmel UMC members, Lauren Roberts and Amelia Harrison, are stepping into unknown events for 7 weeks in mission. Amelia will spend all of her time in El Salvador and Lauren will be in El Salvador for a few weeks and then in Uganda for the remainder. Lauren will leave her employ as a funeral director for 8 weeks and Amelia will be exiting the stage from high school graduation into an unknown.
We plan to keep the congregation connected along the way but here is an email received from Lauren as she shares what it looks like to enter into an unknown experience as she points her life toward Jesus.
"For me the desire for another mission trip began after I returned home from Guatemala. Being overseas and seeing the extreme poverty and desolate conditions really tugged at my heart strings and right then and there the Lord put missions on my heart in a big way. I love serving in the local community and with national missions lending support with my time, efforts, energy, and money as much as I possibly can, but there is something very different about third world countries, and being outside of your comfort zone face to face with real need. Anyone who hasn’t tried, but maybe considered this should GO!
I planned a trip to go back to Guatemala, but after that trip kept getting changed and delayed, I felt a very strong call to go to Uganda instead. Honestly, I saw some pictures online of people serving there and literally heard the call, “Go to Uganda”. I researched different groups that were going, and prayed for discernment and answers. I spent time doing a self-evaluation, (which I highly recommend doing) and found that some of the most impactful moments of my faith journey happened while I was at SLAM in Nashville with our youth. One day Amelia made a joke in passing that I should be an intern with her for the summer in El Salvador (through SLAM) and I told her that I felt called to Uganda. Well, as it turns out the summer internship was going to both El Salvador AND Uganda and with the organization I felt had a huge impact on my life.Our small group did a study on the Holy Spirit, and the question was posed, if Jesus walked out of the bushes and came to you right now, what would He be asking you to do? We followed that study with another about “open doors” and how open doors manifest in your life, but what is holding you back from walking through them, are you allowing fear of the unknown to keep you from following God’s plan for your life?
Pretty powerful messages to hear. I certainly felt convicted by both, but I was still scared. I think what it came down to for me was the same kind of theme the Lord was sending to me over and over; I wasn’t giving God the opportunity to show-up. I was relying on myself and what I could do through my own will and strength instead of trusting that if this is what I was called to do, the Lord would provide. It became a kind of mantra I would tell myself, the Lord will provide, and I would just tell myself over and over again.
Once the decision was made to trust the Lord and go on the trip, the obstacles didn’t get smaller, and the attacks didn’t go away, sometimes it felt even worse than before. It would have been easy to make excuses and say never mind, but the Lord kept showing me the path I was supposed to follow and I simply took one step at a time.
I don’t have all the plans finalized for going, and I don’t have all the answers, but I trust that the Lord didn’t bring me this far to let me down.
I am leaving behind my family, my animals, and friends for 7 weeks. I am going to eat weird food and stay in unknown places, I don’t know what days I travel, and access to my phone will be limited. It isn’t going to be easy. I know I will continue to be tested, and I will be pushed past many limits, but the Lord will provide and I look forward to hopefully growing in my relationship with Christ and being used for His purpose."
So the next time God asks you to do something that is completely inexplicable… and it requires a decision or courage that is way over your pay grade, something that might even save lives, say “Yes!”
Heroes say yes to the opportunities God gives. Ask Esther. Ask Lauren. Ask Amelia.
Rev. Patti Napier