This past year has been amazing.
I graduated from high school. I got my full driver's license and have been enjoying driving my siblings around town. There were coffee dates with dear friends and kayaking adventures. Saturday morning Bible studies and soccer games. Another amazing week at Worldview Academy and an mission trip to Asia. New friends were made, old relationships were renewed, and existing relationships were strengthened.
But it's also been a tough year in a lot of ways. With the change of graduating high school and becoming a young adult came some changes in friend circles and a lot of new, rather important decisions that had to be made, which weren't very easy. I continued working at Bed Bath and Beyond this year, and that too had many challenges. Let's just say, retail isn't what I want to do for the rest of my life...
But when I look back on this year, the amount of growth that I experienced really stands out. And to be honest, a lot of that growth came from working through the tough situations. This year, I've really come to appreciate the trials in life. They aren't easy, but with perseverance and trust in God, they can bring a lot of good.
God did a huge change in my life this year.
For most of my life, I believed that I could never be a missionary in a foreign country. It seemed scary and dangerous and I didn't think that I had the qualifications necessary. I hoped that God would never call me to be a missionary. I had always had a heart for reaching the lost, but I wanted to do it from the comfort of home.
But the mission field seems to be where God is leading me right now. And I'm going rather willingly and excitedly! It still seems scary sometimes, but in light of how truly awesome God is, it really doesn't matter as much anymore.
This past fall, I went on a mission trip to Asia with a team of 5 other people from the Grace Church of Orange. In three weeks, we visited Cambodia, Singapore, and Vietnam. Although visiting Asia had previously never been on my bucket list because, honestly, I was scared to go, I felt like this was still a trip that God could use me on and grow me through. It was also my first opportunity to go on a mission trip. So with a mix of excitement and a bit of nervousness, I braved the 20+ hour flight to Cambodia with my team. The first couple of days were a little rough as I tried to adjust to my new surroundings. There was enough about where we were staying that was similar to home that it didn't feel too foreign, but it was still different, and the thought of staying there for 2 weeks was rather intimidating. But through prayer, God totally changed my heart and perspective towards my surroundings. Within days, I had developed a sincere love for the country and the amazing people that lived there.
(Bottom two pictures: PC-Michelle Goodyear)
There were definitely hardships about the trip, but to say that I was very glad that I went would be an understatement. God truly taught me so much through it. The biggest thing I learned is to not let my fears hold me back, but to instead trust in the One who is so much bigger than all of them and follow where He seems to be leading.
Which is what I'll be doing this coming year. Despite my former hesitations, I will be pursuing the mission field further. From January 5 to February 11, I will be attending a five-week cross-cultural ministry training course in Atlanta, GA. The course is through Encompass World Partners, a missions organization connected with the Grace Brethren Churches. It has been such a joy to get to know some of their staff the past couple of months as I went through their application process, and I can't wait to learn from them next month! In addition to class time, we will be serving with refugees and international students in the Atlanta area.
This year has been amazing, both because of the wonderful memories made and the amazing people who I got to meet AND because of the trials and what I learned through it. I honestly wouldn't trade any of it. And I am so very thankful for all of the people who supported me throughout this year through prayer and encouragement. The events of this year have certainly made the Body of Christ more precious. It has been so encouraging to see the various ways that God has been working this year, and I am looking forward to seeing what He does next year!
May you all have a wonderful New Year!