A year ago, an opportunity opened to me to join a mission trip to another part of the world. Then I asked, “I’ll be on a team that will go to another part of the world?” That looked very exciting, but not until I began to think about how am I going to get there.
In a church where making disciples and going for missions were never considered as side issues, there is a sort of a magnetic field when the words “world missions” are dropped. Everybody wants to be a part of it. Why not, when this obviously is a fulfillment of the last commandment Jesus gave before he left – to go and make disciples of all nations. That is, blessing the nations through touching individual lives with the love of God.
Now at first, a lack of confidence didn’t become my problem. My bucket was full of it. While the trip was far from near back then, I didn’t bother to pause and worry about how to get the money for that trip. Meetings were not yet started. And I had that feeling, like the prophet Isaiah with all his boldness when he heard the Lord asking, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I replied with a sublime emotion, “Here I am! Send me.”
Time went so fast and each one of us from the team is required to submit a document that confirms our agreement to anything about what we have signed up for – a mission trip to a former socialist country of Mongolia. A country dominated by the Soviet Union for decades. And to go there, we are going to raise – individually – a certain amount to support our whole trip and our stay. And that, I thought, made it even more exciting.
However, as I said above, it appeared very exciting and adventurous, but not until I began to think and distinguish the how from the what. That is, how am I going to acquire the amount.
Steps of faith
“I can’t do it,” I surprised our team leader. “I don’t have that faith. Even the faith as small as a mustard seed” (Matt. 17:20). Right there in his face I laid out my misgivings. That is, I’m withdrawing my application. “I can’t believe I can acquire that amount,” I continued. While the amount was too much, my faith was not much. My soul was downcast. I knew the problem – I could not believe much more.
But our team leader knew better, better enough to ignite my floundering faith. “If you can’t believe God for this trip, then how can you believe God for bigger things than this?” said he. And I thought he was right! Faith requires small steps. And through time, you will see the miles’ progress. It’s a muscle that needs to be developed or worked out, lest it remain miniscule.
“Alright, I’m in,” I shocked the faithless version of myself. In consequence, I resolved not to dwell much upon thinking about the how. For the how, I thought, was God’s domain and not mine. To be exact – my main concern is to faithfully trust Him. For without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6)
God is always ahead of us
In the months of preparation, we are to believe that God has already appointed certain people to support us throughout the whole trip. That is, our task is to prayerfully tap them to be part of what God has been doing to Mongolia.
Although I already signed up and took some steps forward, nonetheless, I am far from being doubtless. In fact, in my prayers to God, I even tried covering my doubts with good things. For example, a humble comment like this: “Lord, let me not push my own agenda but yours. If my agenda is to experience Mongolia without having the heart for the missions, then please don’t allow me to go there, instead give this opportunity to someone else who captures the heart.” But deep inside I know what’s going on – I’m just whitewashing my doubts!
And then something happened unexpectedly. While I was arranging some chairs for another church service, an excited kid interrupted.
“Kuya, you’re going to Mongolia, right?”
“Well, I have a little savings I have kept to give it to you.”
In my surprise, I didn’t know to respond for few seconds. My heart fell and I can’t explain why. At first, I tried interrogating him to admit where he got the money. That kid used to attend the kids church when I was still one of their teachers, but then he thought he was old enough for it, so he’s now starting to join the adult congregation. But he’s still a kid. And I got the assumption that he must have been provoked by his parents to offer me a support. But without success, he insisted that it was his savings for doing their house chores. And when I asked his parents, they both confirmed his remarked. That is, it was by his own will to give. In result of the faith of that kid, my floundering faith skyrocketed.
Fast forward. When I arrived at Mongolia, I’m fully convinced that a big part of my arrival was that kid’s faith. Thus, God must be trustworthy. As Solomon said,
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight (Prov. 3:5).
God did not just touch their lives, but changed my heart
In that Buddhist and post-socialist country, the gospel is far from being known. By their spiritual heritage, Mongolians are fanatics with their own pantheistic religions. However, the gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). It cannot be hampered by a strong cultural heritage. It counters culture. It touches lives, it changes people, and establishes value-laden communities.
Though God was and is doing something great in that nation, I’m far more convinced that God is changing my heart to capture His heart for the nations.
I met Mark, a Mongolian gym instructor who believes with his church that by 2020, ten percent of Mongolians will be Christians. I got to know Ultzi – who is living in a small apartment with his wife and daughter Aroma – who seeks the heart of God in transitioning to be a pastor. And I met pastor Oyuna, who boldly took the place of her husband as a pastor, because he was murdered in North Korea for no other reason than bringing the gospel there.
Those are just some of the stories. But I know one thing – by that mission trip and those stories, God changed my heart. As Bob Goff once said, “God’s more interested in our hearts than our plans.”