Wow, what a year! As I reflect and look back over my time here as a GFA School of Discipleship (SD) student, I am just amazed by what the Lord did in my life. And I look forward for Him to continue breaking me, molding me, and creating me into what He wants me to be, leading me where he wants to go.
One of the biggest things I saw and experienced while being here has been the power and presence of God displayed so evidently here. He is definitely at work through this ministry! First off would be the most important and effective way – prayer. We pray a lot here. Someone once told me when I first got here, “We don’t plan prayer around our day, but we plan our day around prayer.” This is so true! And it is such and joy and encouragement to get to be a part of those (many!) prayer times, and then get to see God answer them. This year definitely grew my faith in prayer. Even in my personal prayer life and relationship with the Lord.
Another way I know God is at work with GFA is by getting to hear some of the staff’s personal testimonies and hearing how God is working in their lives personally and as they serve at GFA. And another way is through hearing stories and reports from the field. God is for sure working and saving so many people’s lives in Asia! But ultimately, I know God worked in my life so much! I know He still has so much to do, but He has also brought me so far. He broke my selfish flesh in areas I didn’t know needed broke. He taught me how to have grace for people – even when they fail. We all fail, including me. So, God has shown me to have grace on myself when I make mistakes, and to give grace to others, because He has given us such amazing grace.
God taught me how to live in a community with other people. We’re all different and unique, but we all have one thing in common: to serve Christ and advance the Kingdom of God. He showed me how to love these people for who they are – none of us are perfect – like He loves us, even if it takes a cost.
God showed me how to be fully content and joyfully serve Him, wherever He places me. To be honest, staying in the IT Department for my second vocational training assignment was hard at first. But God helped me to totally overcome that! I am so thankful for the team I got to serve alongside. I truly love those people!
God grew my trust and faith in Him so much! Not having my SD Tuition fully funded and losing my one and only monthly supporter was really hard. But I prayed a lot about it, and finally got to the point of having peace in the Lord, knowing that He was going to provide because He always does. He is so faithful! Building this faith in Him drew me into a closer relationship with Him, which has been so special.
My favorite course was probably Touching Godliness by Dr. K.P. Yohannan. It was so hard, but God taught me so much in that book! He showed me what it means to fully submit to those in authority – even when I don’t agree, or don’t feel like it is “my way” or the “best way”. He taught me that we can obey without fully submitting. Submission is all the attitude of the heart.
God grew me in the knowledge of church traditions: liturgy, founding church fathers, leadership names and meanings, and even why the leaders wear what they wear! 😉 Attending a “small-o” orthodox church this year was not the easiest at first. But I started to really enjoy it. I asked lots of questions, I saw the influence liturgy has in our faith (Satan can’t stop us from saying what is already written and right before our eyes!), and I am now fascinated by how the ancient church got established by who.
A special Scripture passage that stayed with me all year was Psalm 139 verses 7-10 “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.”
Moving away from home – family, friends, and familiarity – was really hard. But God gave me such a peace about it, and I had such a rest in Him, knowing He was with me the entire time, and was going to give me the joy and strength to get through this year.
So now with the year wrapping up, I am very excited to see where the Lord leads me next! SD has changed me. So, with everything that I have shared with you and so much more that the Lord has taught me and grown me in, I want to keep applying it all to my life. I can’t go home and act like nothing happened. I need to take everything I have learned, and keep growing, keep learning, and keep applying it to my life for His glory.
Sometimes it is really hard to fit in with the people around you. You feel like everyone around you has a different way to say or do things. You feel like you are on the outside looking in. You feel judged and looked down on. This can make it hard to go to a social gathering or hang out with “friends”. You try to put on a good impression for those around you to think that you are having a good time, but you actually aren’t. You feel unheard and ignored. No one takes your advice or hears out your opinions. You feel like you still need to please them, even when they don’t respect you.
This has been my struggle over this last month. It has been really hard. But I know God, by His strength in me, brought me through the worst of it and taught me so much through that. The biggest step I took was talk to my housemates about it. Apologies are the #1 healing key for overcoming this hurdle–asking them for forgiveness and forgiving them, as Christ has forgiven me. Through sharing with them and a couple other people, I have felt better and less overwhelmed with this struggle.
Yes, I still struggle with it, but it is going to take time – God’s perfect timing. God has reassured me a ton lately that I am created just the way He wants me to be, in His image, with the personality of exactly who He wants me to be… I am just going to be myself. I am not going to care anymore what other people say/do/think about me. I’m just going to be who I am, who the Lord wants me to be…
Making that decision and being reassured that God always loves me, no matter what I’m like, has also helped me to know that He also loves them all, too! Even if I see that they are different than me and I have to fight so hard to get along with them, God has taught me to have grace for them – even when I feel like they have failed or have not done things the way I think is right. No one has done everything perfect; I know I have not. Jesus, perfect and sinless, offered so much grace and forgiveness upon His disciples and us believers, so how much more should we, imperfect and sinful, have grace and forgiveness upon ourselves and those around us. I am reminded of a very good example of grace and forgiveness… Jesus says we are to forgive seventy times seven, meaning numerous times over and over. I have learned to accept people for who they are, and by God’s marvelous grace upon me, I am now able to have more grace towards myself and those around me.
So, I want to encourage you to be yourself! Don’t be ashamed of who are and what the Lord has created you to be. Don’t let the people around you judge you and try to change you into something you are not. Live the life the Lord has in store for you. . . And I used to think I wasn’t very emotional. But I have come to learn that we all need our emotions. Emotions are the glue, the main key, that connect us to other people and build relationships. So, find just one person (even just your mentor or pastor!) to be open with and process those emotions.
Not much effort is required in distracting me. I most often am distracted in one of two fashions. Number one being, out of the blue or random distractions, and the second being fixated or captivated distractions. Both forms endlessly battle for the steering wheel of my emotions, mind, and will. The devious culprit here recently has been more of the second.
a young age I have always had a difficult time remaining focused. As a child I
was diagnosed with ADHD, which is a common attention deficit disorder in the United
States. An overactive imagination was more of the terminology I preferred,
nonetheless however, I had a problem. Medicine was recommended, and so I took
prescriptions for the disorder most of my childhood and adolescence. The
medicine helped tremendously, but I felt like a zombie day in and day out most
of my school years. I grew agitated with it and finally was able to quit taking
the medicine in my later years of high school. Of course, when I stopped taking
the prescriptions I had a higher sensitivity to distraction; I was determined
however to live without the medicine. I fared well and completed high school
better than I expected.
I still struggle with being distracted, but not so much in the same manner as I did growing up. Since I have come to School of Discipleship, I have noticed the strategy of attack that distractions have assumed, has been more subtle and sneaky in its efforts. Often, it comes in simple everyday day distractions that evolve into unreasonable daydreams. For example, I may see someone working outside from the office window in the web department in which my cubical is placed. The distraction would first begin as a longing to be working in the beautiful sunshine. Once I give into the longing further, that’s when the simple distraction has grown into a head trip. Within minutes, I’m dreaming of a crop lavished farm, front porch sitting, a plain-jane white washed house, watching the sunset with my wife (non-existent at the moment) after fulfilling a hard day’s work. I’m telling you…all the works.
Like the example used, most of my distractions, here recently have a key element constantly present…my future. Anytime I’m deeply lost in a daydream, it’s concerning my future. I have come to the realization, that the enemy is working ever so diligently to bewilder me from what the Lord has for me at this present time.
As this year’s School of Discipleship class is coming to a close within just a few months, I asked God what His next plans were for me were. His answer…to simply trust Him in the everyday acts of obedience He desires of me. Upon feeling that this was all God’s answer was, I became perplexed; I wanted a more definite answer. Despite my own desire, this was the Lord’s plan, and still is. Reluctantly, I decided I would give it a shot. There was a problem however, I never gave up thinking about my future.
I began to look for everyday acts of obedience in which God prompted of me. With each day they came, some different, some the same every day. Something was not right however, I knew I was not doing what God was really asking of me, and that was to stop worrying about my future. As the days went on, I merely acted as if I never heard that command. Of course, in this disobedience it made it nearly impossible to be at peace with God. So, as the days carried on and on I became more and more distracted. The enemy threw every single concern of future my way. Things being a job, dreams and ambitions, and the most notorious distraction of all, for me at least…MARRIAGE. This one has always been a distraction for me, even as a kid. Romance is ever present in my mind; indeed, it is a strong burning desire. But God had His answer: “Stop worrying about your future and trust Me. Quit asking me what’s next. Focus on finishing your year and pursue Me and nothing else.”
Now its April, and farther and farther I have grown from the Lord. As I mentioned earlier in this paper, my School of Discipleship year is coming to a close…is this really how I want to finish it off, on bad terms with my Father? This is something I will have to allow Him to break me in. My advice to whoever may be reading this: be cautious of worldly distractions. We face them every day, and frankly, we will fall into them, we’re not perfect. However brothers and sisters, keep your eyes peeled for distractions big and small. Remember, the little ones can evolve into large ones as well. Pray constantly that God would make clear the distractions in your life and obey when He shows you. Pray for me too.
Lately it’s been on my heart to share how I ended up on this path at Gospel for Asia. Looking back a year ago, I can see 100% how the Lord was preparing my heart and allowing things to happen in my life that would eventually lead me here.
Exactly one year ago, I was on a flight to Oregon for one week. Just a month prior, I thought I would be moving back to the west coast after staying in Virginia for a little bit, after being in South Korea for three months. I’m getting ahead of myself, though.
A lot of things were different a month before this flight. I felt good. I had a boyfriend, I was moving back to a beautiful state that I had fallen in love with, I was working out regularly, I knew what I was going to do with my life, and I had everything figured out. I had just gotten back from a missions internship; I was doing so good.
Then something happened that I never saw coming in a million years. I started doubting everything. All my plans… I started wondering if, maybe my boyfriend wasn’t perfect for me and if there was someone out there a little more similar to me; that maybe for the last two years of knowing and dating my boyfriend on and off, I was wrong. It was like I woke up one day and everything was literally right in front of me – my whole life. I’d move to Oregon, I’d marry this guy and we’d work at the camp or church that we met at, and that was my life. So of course, Oregon became a question too. Is this all there is for me? Am I ready to settle down?
Now, please don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like I thought there was anything wrong with that, but that is so not who I am. I want to travel, and do missions. I want to do things for the Lord on the field! Anyone who knows me, knows I can’t sit still in one place for too long. I get antsy. In the past two years, I’ve been to Virginia, South Carolina, Oregon, South Korea, Vietnam, China and Texas. It’s great – I love it.
Anyway, so after crying and seeking out the Lord and having my whole world come crashing down in front of me, I broke up with my boyfriend of two years. We kept it on the down low, because I wasn’t sure if I just needed to really spend all my time with the Lord and I was just having a mid-life-crisis, or if this was real. So, for the first time since I was 17, we didn’t talk once for a whole month. I was still freaking out because I always thought Oregon was the place I was going to end up, and now all of a sudden my heart was changing. It was hard. I talked to different people, and tried looking for an answer I liked. Whether they said to go to Oregon or stay here, none of them set well. I felt the Lord telling me to go talk to the worship leader at our church, and, after putting it off for weeks, I finally did. I didn’t know why I was going to him, it’s not like we talk all that much, and he only knew me through my brother who had been on the worship team for years. But God really used him. He said to me, “Neither of the places are right or wrong. It’s just a matter of where you will grow in the Lord the most.”
I left feeling a sadness in my heart. God had very clearly shown me in that conversation that if I went out to Oregon, that would be my life. Have a job, get married, have kids, grow old. The American dream. But if I stayed in Virginia, I would be pursuing missions. I could so clearly see how my life would end up in Oregon, but I couldn’t see anything from Virginia. I don’t even like Virginia. Why would I want to stay?
I knew, though, where I would grow the most. So with a monstrous leap of faith, I called my employer in Oregon and told him I would not be taking the job I had been offered. I cried a lot. But I had peace – a weight had been lifted. A few days later, I was telling my roommate-to-be in Oregon that it wasn’t going to work out and she convinced me to come visit. So I bought my plane ticket.
One year ago, I was on a flight to Oregon for a week. I decided to surprise my guy (who I technically wasn’t dating anymore), and not tell him I was coming. If I’m being honest, it was a really great week. We both felt like we were starting fresh in our relationship. I got to see old friends, my brother and sister-in-law, and my nephew. But my time was coming to an end. I got offered a position at the camp again and I was seriously considering it. My boyfriend and I had been together for a pretty long time, but there was just some things that were getting in the way of us being together. So before accepting that position, we had a talk and I basically told him that I couldn’t move out there if there wasn’t a future. I left it at that and gave him time to think about it.
When I got back home, I had an interview I had set up a few weeks before flying out to Oregon. I prayed a lot about that job and the job in Oregon. I decided that if I got this job, then that would be it. I would stay for sure. And of course, I got the job as soon as I walked in, pretty much. I felt so much peace about it all.
A few days passed since I had been back, so after there not being any mention from him about our conversation in Oregon, I finally brought it up and that was it. It felt like the end of an era. I had been crazy about him since I was 16. And now it was all gone. He told me he wasn’t ready for the commitment. I was devastated.
For months, I felt like I couldn’t breathe at night. I wasn’t prepared for the sacrifices I had to make in following the Lord. After my brother went overseas, I went straight to one of the pastors at our church and told him to send me overseas too. Instead, he then gave me the link to GFA School of Discipleship. So, with a joyful and excited attitude, I applied. Just kidding – I was so grumbly and annoyed and…ugh. But a few weeks later, I got accepted and here I am!
I have no doubt in the world that my King and Savior allowed me to go through the things I did so that I would end up here at School of Discipleship. There has been so much healing and love and grace in my life these past three months. I am finding who I am in Christ and His unfailing love for me. The love I so deeply desired and was searching for in my boyfriend was in front of me the whole time. My Jesus is so real and He pours that love on me more and more every single day.
There’s a lot more that goes into this past year, but a blog post wouldn’t be the place to share. Taking that terrifying and painful leap of faith essentially led me on a journey of self-discovery through Christ. So whatever you may be going through or struggling with, take the leap of faith. The Lord will always follow though in His promises. Chances are it’ll be painful and hard, but abundant blessings will follow.
I hope I could be an encouragement to at least one person today!
You’re an overcomer
Stay in the fight ’til the final round
You’re not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now
You might be down for a moment
Feeling like it’s hopeless
That’s when He reminds you
That you’re an overcomer
Five years ago, a friend shared this song (Overcomer by Mandisa) with me, and God is still using it in my life this year. It had been my theme song for January. He has given me an abundance of strength and lavished His love on me to overcome so many struggles this last month. What a privilege to know I have victory in Him!
We read through and discussed K.P. Yohannan’s book, Touching Godliness, talking all about submission. Ultimately to God of course. But then to the authority He has delegated above us. “Bitterness leads to rebellion. And that rebellion to man leads to rebellion to God.” God taught me so much through that book! At times, I felt like it was too much. But He always showed Himself faithful. He caused me to humble myself under Him, and those in authority over me here. I have overcome so much through Him! And He has given me strength, hope, and faith to keep fighting, reminding me that He is holding me in His arms this whole time. He has saved me and bought me with his precious blood, and I have victory in Him! He gets all the glory for all I overcame last month.
Yes, I still have a long way to go, as it is a lifelong changing process, but I am praising Jesus for how far He has brought me. He is so victorious! He loves me, and has bought me with His blood. What keeps me going and gives me strength, by God’s grace, is pressing forward. Not to look back in regrets, but keep moving forward, remembering all God has brought me through. So don’t give up! Keep fighting. Make little moments matter. Look to the little things.
Oh victory in Jesus, my Savior forever He sought me and He bought me
with His redeeming blood He loved me ‘ere I knew Him
and all my love is due Him He plunged me to victory
beneath the cleansing flood
(Victory in Jesus by E.M. Bartlett)
When the ad for School of Discipleship says, “die to yourself for a year,” they sincerely mean that. Upon arriving here, the concept was presented to my intellect and I perceived that I understood the practice…goodness, was I wrong! Knowing a concept or ideology and establishing the principle in your day to day life, are two drastically distant stand points.
I considered myself an individual accustomed to sacrifice before I checked in at Gospel for Asia. I’ve always loved people and desired to help in any way I could, and if one is to genuinely help another, it requires sacrifice, most typically. However, I’ve been learning that sacrifice is not only reserved for our fellow man, but most ultimately to God.
Romans 12:1 says (NIV): “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” This ministry wholeheartedly embraces that verse! GFA is an organization dedicated to sacrificing and giving all to Christ. Upon arriving here, I was on fire for the Lord, and thought I was ready to embrace this lifestyle as well. As my first month proceeded, I slowly started losing my passion more and more. I became burned out and grew bitter toward sacrifice; not so much sacrifice unto others, but primarily sacrifice unto God.
The Holy Spirit began convicting me to relinquish loved things that I held dear. Things that are not good for my spirit, and that are harmful in my growth with Christ. Upon being convicted of this, I became angry with the Lord and refused to surrender them over to Him. My course of action was an undoubtedly horrid mistake; when I refused sacrifice, I became bitter toward my Creator.
The reader must note that my goal in confessing all of this, is not to drive you away from School of Discipleship or Gospel for Asia, but rather to inform you that you will face tremendous amounts of personal sacrifice. You, as an individual must choose to relinquish dear things that the Holy Spirit convicts you to let go of. From personal experience, if you do not, the School of Discipleship program will increasingly become more difficult and you will feel trapped. Prepare yourselves brothers and sisters if you are considering coming here. If our Father has called you here, then follow His commands. This is a wonderful and blessed place to be and I highly recommend it! The program is excellent: marvelously prepared, and supremely taught, but it will not benefit you if you are not willing to die to yourself.
I’m currently struggling with a multitude of convictions; relinquishing them is immensely difficult, in fact I would dare say it is near impossible without the strength of our Loving God. As our Messiah told us “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 (NIV) (bold letters not in actual text). If you feel that God is calling you to this wonderful ministry, then by all means come! However, brothers and sisters, prepare yourselves to sacrifice to the Lord. Dying to self hurts…that is why it’s called dying, but know that our Loving Father is using this necessary and painful process to benefit and bless your life here and in eternity!