“Turn off the water while brushing your teeth!” was one of the appeals Maureen gave as she spoke about her missionary service in India. This plea stands out in my memory, only a small piece of what she shared, yet the Holy Spirit used all her story to “call” me to vocational ministry overseas.
At age 14, the Holy Spirit put this stamp on my heart. I had recently learned to hear His voice, and this was a specific invitation — even a gentle shove — to serve as a missionary doctor, somewhere overseas without adequate medical services.
“OK” was my initial response, followed by, “What do I do, Father?” He responded by setting out an initial path: “Finish high school, university and seminary. Follow me, and I’ll prepare you.” It wasn’t until later, during an Urbana missions conference in 1979, that God gave more direction: “Learn to share your faith and disciple in your own culture.”
Then Karen, a sorority sister, started discipling me. This led to four years of involvement with Cru, where I learned to share my faith and I discipled a group of women who discipled others. I also took a year off from my studies at UCLA to serve as an English teacher with Cru in the Dominican Republic.
This experience refined my call in two ways. While the experience of being around marginally ill people clarified that it would not be wise for me to be a medical doctor, the experience of teaching English opened up many opportunities to share my faith. Around my class schedule, I went to the local market to buy mangos and talk with people. Over 50% of the people with whom I spoke about Jesus, said they wanted to follow Him!
That context seemed to be spiritually rich, and my heart wanted to serve in a place that was spiritually poorer. So after returning to university, I spent the following summer in China. Though our main objective was to study Chinese, we were also there to pray. I thoroughly enjoyed being in China, but once again, I sensed God redirecting me from China to another unreached people group.
Not being sure where, I did know that a change in majors from Biology to Linguistics would get me there. And, before I went there, I needed to finish the last leg of the initial call, graduate school. I started at one School of Theology where three key ingredients shaped God’s initial invitation: a summer project in Hungary, a class on “Church Planting,” and an internship with a church which eventually served as my sending church in California.
First, God used the summer in Hungary to call me to that country. One statement in particular by our Hungarian translator touched my heart: “We need people to disciple us.” Hungary was then under Communist rule with few churches surviving, so the situation beckoned me as a disciple-maker. Second, the required class on “Church Planting” brought new light on what a “church” is. Having never thought of how a church begins, the subject was new and fascinating. I wanted in. I wanted to be a part of starting churches. During these same months, God placed me in a church-planting church as an intern.
It’s incredible how God weaves things together. Not only did I study the dynamics of church planting, but I lived it. This experience revolutionised my approach and vision for ministry. It greatly shaped “what” I wanted to do as a missionary. So, I then began looking for agencies that were church planting in Hungary.
My 6 years at Community Baptist Church was an invaluable experience — I enjoyed investing in church ministry and I relished being mentored. During the sixth year, an inner voice prompted me to revisit the overseas call. After speaking with a pastor friend, I sensed it was time to begin moving toward Hungary. I grieved the loss of a successful and fulfilling ministry, and a place where I loved many people, yet I wanted to obey the call.
Some 12 years later, during the end of ministry in Hungary, God opened my heart for further studies in the area of Intercultural Education. The many cultural differences I noticed while teaching in Hungary pushed me to explore the diverse dynamics of “learning”. I was graciously given a sabbatical to study, during which I met a missionary who talked about the need to equip missionaries in their organisation. The opportunity opened up for me to serve as a trainer for this agency, so I moved to France after completing the Ph.D. All my previous experiences greatly informed how and what I did – even the way my supervisor coached and supported me in this new role confirmed the decision.
God had another unique “call” by moving me to France. After a year there, I met Daniel, my husband! During our short engagement, God confirmed this call through Proverbs 3:5-6.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
Since Daniel was involved in a church plant in Milan, we chose to live in Italy rather than France. This new “call” was wonderful and difficult. At age 46, it was not easy to learn a new language, make new friends and establish new habits in another culture. As the church planting ministry progressed, I moved fulltime into coordinating training for World Team. Later, we moved to France in order to work directly out of our international office.
Just last summer God’s call showed up again during a sermon at our French church. The Bible passage was discussing a prophet’s “call.” And, I heard my heart ask our Heavenly Father, “Do you still want me overseas? Is there still a call?” I quickly heard His voice: “Yes. Stay put. I’m still calling you to this.”
After many years of listening to “His call”, I know one thing: God calls, and He will complete His call.