Growing up, I listened to Eric B. Hare’s cassette tapes with my little sister before we went to bed. I heard wild stories of how God interacted in people’s lives and stories of what it would be like to be a missionary. I would lie in bed and wish that my family had the opportunity to be missionaries somewhere across the globe.
That dream never died. In college, I began earning a degree in international rescue and relief with an emphasis on community development and a minor in social work. My dream was to work for mission-minded organizations. But how could I feel so strongly about this passion when I had never tagged along on a single mission trip?
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Several of my friends had decided to take a year off from their studies to serve God in a foreign land. Was He calling me too? Over time, I found myself signing up to be a medical assistant in Pagudpud, Philippines.
Upon arrival, my serving heart believed that I was going to convert every person I met and heal every sickness I encountered. It didn’t take me long to realize that I wasn’t really needed at the clinic. You see, the clinic is fully staffed and could function easily without me. The first month, I really struggled with what my purpose was.
I reached out to Andrew Saunders, a great mentor of mine, and asked him why I was in the Philippines if they didn’t necessarily need my help. “Sometimes we need to be humbled and realize the world can go on without us and that we need to step back and learn,” he replied. I had imagined that my mission year was my year to be a superhero. I later understood that my service is what I made it. “What do you think Jesus would do in your position?” Saunders asked. “I personally believe He would have you be humble, learn as much as you can from the local population, build relationships, and show people you care.”
That’s when I realized that I had put myself in a box and limited myself to my title.
My student missionary family and I started getting more involved in the community. During the winter, we began teaching fourth-grade English at a nearby school. We set up a booth on market days to offer people free blood pressure and blood sugar tests. On Thursday and Sabbath evenings, we hosted Vacation Bible School (VBS) programs in three locations. A few of us gave ukulele, piano, and violin lessons to the kids that are not offered music programs in school. We visited the villagers in the village of Nagsango to give them free blood pressure tests and fresh fruit and to pray with them. We held a fundraiser to purchase a much-needed van for the clinic, and, with God’s help, raised more than $10,000 for the down payment.
I had registered to be a medical assistant, but God knew I was capable of doing and being much more. He taught me not to limit my service to the definition of my title and freed me to help others in a variety of ways.
Whatever title you have, please don’t limit yourself to your label. Let God use you in the most surprising ways.