With 36 days to go until i get on a plane to Cambodia for the first time, I am drawn to reflect on my journey to this point. Going out on mission, I’ve heard, is hardly an immediate occurrence for many people. A process often taking years, this has certainly been the case for me.
The reality of what it is I am stepping out to do is beginning to weigh on my mind heavily – the gravity and the extent is starting to hit me. Lets face it; the difficulty i will face is not to do with possessions or the things that I own – i’m more then happy to give that all up should the need arise. The difficulty that I am beginning to feel in my heart is the people I’ll be leaving behind for those 200 days – my family and friends, the church family that I love, the kids and the youth I often serve week in and week out. Sitting around a firepit two nights ago and around a table at a friends birthday last night has only accentuated that feeling, and it is making me realise it all the more.
In my mind, I have this image of stepping stones – each new stone a step further along a path less travelled, each new stone another experience heading towards new and exciting shores. My journey over the last 4 years has been full of new and exciting vision and the next 8 months are bound to provide even more; but this is just another small step in a longer term “stepping out in faith” experience that God has been leading me on. Because of the weight I am feeling on my mind, i felt it would be incredibly helpful for me to write this post. This is just one of the many ways I want to process my thoughts and this will also be one of the way, alongside a newsletter, that I will process my thoughts while in Cambodia.
The first steps of the journey began sitting in a home group towards the end of 2013. By this point I had toyed with the idea of overseas ministry, but it hadn’t yet taken hold. That’s when we read ‘Radical’, by David Platt. This is a book that makes you feel like you need to give up everything you have and give to the poor. Never before has a book impacted me like that, where i have been convinced to take a hold of the radical nature and call of Christ for myself.
Platt spoke about the unreached people of the world, those who for whatever reason have never heard the gospel nor the name of Jesus Christ once. This would normally be on account of where they were born, the family they were born into or the simple fact that missionaries had not yet gone to their people group; often an amalgamation of all three.
On the grounds of the need of the world, accompanied by the fact that I as a Christian have the gospel while others by no choice of their own do not, I recognised the need for mission overseas, something I had never experienced or envisioned prior.
Prior to flying out to Nepal in 2015, I went through an intense period of research. Ultimately, this cemented my convictions – me with the gospel, others hopelessly without it. The Great Commission took on real meaning for me; we must go and take it – not only to Jerusalem and Samaria (the close by), but also to the very ends of the world. I wrote a number of missions based articles, each stemming out of deep convictions about unreached peoples and social justice.
Going back and reading these now has been helpful, not only for perspective but for purpose and to recapture that sense of calling. Yes, this is why I’m going. This is why its all worth committing my life to. This is why I must give and go and do whatever I can.
I’m not sure I’ve ever had a faith forming experience like it since and I’m certain Cambodia will cement things even moreso. When you spend 10 days of tearing down houses, meeting local national people, learning about Buddhism and speaking to refugees, there is always going to be a part of you that leaves more empathetic, more willing to change how you do things. Rather then write it all out again, like before, I wrote a number of posts following my time there.
Even now almost 2 years on, this remains an experience that has formed and shaped me spiritually. If there were any weeks in my life more foundational for the missional sort of faith I have acquired, it was those 5 days in Malaysia and those 10 days in Nepal. God has a way of unexpectedly turning everything upside down and changing you in ways you never thought possible.
I wasn’t sure where study was going to take me when I began doing a graduate diploma of divinity, but of course, I was hooked after the first semester. The inner theology nerd in me just can’t help it. Now doing a master of divinity, bible college has a way of dismantling the theology you thought was strong and solid. What I thought I knew for a fact was broken down bit by bit, until now I am forced to build it all back up again.
Learning new things, applying new concepts to life and ministry, seeing God at work in purposeful Christian community at college. Its like church meets university, and its awesome. The uplifting conversations, respectful disagreements and acceptance for all kinds of theologies and mixtures of people.
Completing missions units has cemented my conceptualised mission ideas even more, making it feel all the more real. I’m looking forward to applying the things I have learnt in college to not only life and ministry here, but to life and ministry abroad in a cross cultural context far different to my own.
This next step of the journey has really been in the planning books since March of 2016. Discussions following my time in Nepal had given me pause to think about the future, especially the where. The work of my church is centred in Cambodia, so naturally Cambodia, in line with the vision and the mission of my home church and senior pastors seems like the place to go.
For anyone who has not yet heard of what I’ll be doing, I will be going with an organisation known as OMF (Overseas Missionary Fellowship) – first begun by Hudson Taylor and known as the China Inland Mission back in the 1800s. These are the definitive details of my trip(s):
- Trip 1: June 14th to June 30th 2017 – Assisting at the children’s program of the OMF Cambodia Field Conference, a bit of sight seeing and visiting the ministry I’ll be joining in July.
- Trip 2: July 18th 2017 to January 28th 2018 – Teaching English to children alongside a church plant in Cambodia (amongst other things).
I will have the chance to learn the language, learn the culture and experience life in a very different and foreign place. 10 days in Nepal was great – but so short a time is equivalent to a “honeymoon” phase. Once the elation wears off, the homesickness sets in, the culture proves difficult and the language barrier too great. I’ll get the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the whole suite everything I have learnt about in class.
Experience always tends to trump head knowledge, regardless of how much you know and are prepared. I can prepare myself as much as I like; when my feet hit Cambodian soil, it’s going to be a whole other ball game from the get go.
“You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” ~ André Gide
This is just another stepping stone in my journey along this path of following God wherever He leads. I’m not yet sure if the shore, the final destination is at the other end of January 2018. I can’t see the end. I’m not entirely sure what the next steps in January 2018 and onwards will be. I don’t know where or what next. But I do know that wherever God leads, no matter what it costs, I will follow.
Proverbs 20:24 says “A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can a man understand his way?” There is certainly a part of me that is unsure. That the next step I take could plunge me into the waters outside of God’s plan and purpose. My experience with missions has been one of stepping out in faith, and so far my feet have met with stone every step of the way. It’s now just a matter of watching for the closed doors, stepping stones leading towards different shores, the gentle prods of the God who guides.
For anyone who may be interested, I will be writing a newsletter while over in Cambodia. In it, I would be sharing a little about my experience and my struggles, pictures and prayer requests. I would love for you to partner with me in prayer, as I step out in faith.
If you’re interested in playing a part in my journey in the second half of the year, please subscribe to my newsletter. It would be a pleasure and a privilege to have you on board, praying alongside me and for me.
Looking forward to sharing more on here once I’m over there. No doubt will have a great many things to write about.
Thanks for reading