I met you at a YC Conference in Indianapolis. I was a shy backwards 15 year old girl from a broken family. The summer before the conference I had been introduced to my first Missionary. She was a “Summer Missionary” from Oklahoma sent to a small, rural, Indiana Baptist church to serve in Backyard Bible Clubs. I was mesmerized by this young college student’s excitement, wholeness, and desire to share the gospel.
I determined that summer I would also take the big step of faith and surrender my life to Missions. At that time, I honestly thought International Missions was crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky! This was the only foreign land I knew of, being raised, as a small town Hoosier.
I still remember this conference like it was yesterday. I heard you speak with profound passion, authority, confidence, and heart wrenching conviction. You spoke on, “Why did Jesus Spit?” Taken from John 9.
Afterwards, you gave an invitation for each of us (3000 students) to come forward, spit in the dirt, and take our first step of obedience in ‘Getting Our Hands Dirty’ so others could know Jesus.
I wish I would have had the courage to come up out of my seat that day. But I didn’t. I gripped the chair in front of me until my knuckles were white. I knew the words you were speaking were for me, but fear gripped my heart. All I could see was my lack. My lack of resources, stability, and spirituality. All I could think was, “Why would God want to use me?”
You see, I knew who I was. I knew where I came from. I knew that God only used, “Other People.”
I had no idea the need I had in my life for someone to speak into me my value, my worth, my calling and my God given identity.
I left the invitation gripped by your words, but unable to bring myself to action. I knew, If God was really calling me, He was going to have to do a miracle, to overcome me.
Not even 30 minutes later I saw you in the lobby of the Conference Center talking to students about summer Awe Star mission trips. Still gripped by fear and shyness, I looked from a distance. My mom, who was close by, told me to follow her and we could just walk by your booth and get a brochure. I conceded to get closer, but never did I expect that this “Small Walk” would change the course of my entire life.
As we got closer, my mom literally pushed me into you. Instantly, you began challenging me with going overseas that summer! It was like you didn’t see my heart beating outside my chest or my hyperventilating panicked breaths as I stood to listen. I’m not sure I said a word. I nodded my head, took the brochure and walked away.
But in that moment, God placed before me a moment that
would alter my future forever. It was an Isaiah 6:8 moment.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
In the deepest part of my being I knew I was created to go, tell, and be light in darkness.
Like a whirlwind, God moved every mountain that summer and put me on my first International Mission trip to Budapest, Hungary. My family was poor, but God provided all the money in less than two weeks. Red seas parted and Jericho walls came down, as I embarked on a journey, that I am still on today.
I learned through your discipleship my value, my worth, my God given gifts and my calling. I was challenged to step outside of my limitations and into God sized moments of trust and adventure. I learned that God had incredible plans for all people, even me. I learned all I needed to do was put Him first. I learned despite my past, my failures, my family, my culture, my limits, my doubts, my insecurities, and my fear, God could use me. Yep, you heard it right! God COULD use ME!
You were there rejoicing when I led my first two prostitutes to Christ. You taught me how to have a daily quiet time, and watched God use it to bring scripture to my memory for the very first time.
You were there when I was tired from doing ministry all day and didn’t think I could keep going. You prayed for me and I remember standing and feeling like fire was coming out of my arms as God renewed my strength. I learned the value of enduring so others could hear the gospel.
That summer set the course for the last twenty five years of my life.
Now, over 30 nations later, thousands of miles trekked among the most persecuted, unreached, and forgotten, I want to say “THANK YOU!!”
Thank you, for believing in me. Thank you, for not seeing my lack but my value for God’s Kingdom. Thank you, for walking this journey of faith with me for so many years.
You see, it all began with that YC Conference, but every day since then you have faithfully role-modeled the gospel and poured into me.
You stood with me when I shared about the abuse of my dad and step dad, you wept with me when my mom went to prison, you assured me with scripture when I felt alone and abandoned. You encouraged and prayed for me when I embarked on my first journey to living in Africa. You challenged me to not quit college, when I didn’t see the value of finishing. You walked me down the aisle when I married the love of my life.
You always told me the truth, despite the lies I often heard yelling in my heart from my past. You ALWAYS believed in me.
Today as I write this I’m crying. Not because I’m sad, but because I’m so grateful. I’m so grateful you chose obedience. That you cared and that you loved Jesus so much, that He was able to shine through you and use your life of obedience to alter the course of my life. Thank you for mentoring me all these years. Thank you for investing in me and not giving up on me. Thank you for loving me like Christ loves me.
Today is a big day for us. You will step into your next season of ministry and life, retiring from Awe star (never retiring from Jesus Ministry.) I will accept the Baton of Servanthood and Ministry you have carried for 25 years through Awe Star and begin a new season of leading the next generation of young student missionaries into ‘all the world.’
You have taught me well. Mostly you have taught me not to put confidence in myself, but the God who calls.
So, I accept the Baton.
I will carry it high. I will run fiercely with it, so others can hear, know, and be awakened to the Great Commission that rests in front of them. I will live loud, bold, and be fearless toward the mission of telling others about Jesus and raising a generation of young people to embrace their right of passage into adulthood, to embrace their calling and usher in the return of Christ.
I will also slow down just enough to be present and see the struggling, wounded, and insecure. I’ll call them out of their lack and into their value, their worth, and their calling, just like you taught me. Most importantly, I will show them the love of Jesus. Because that is what you showed me.
“THANK YOU” for loving me well and mentoring me into the person I am today.
“THANK YOU” for entrusting me with the next generation of Missionaries through Awe Star Ministries.