So far I’ve been on this earth for 20 short, quirky years. I say quirky because I am thoroughly convinced God does not write normal stories, only beautiful ones. Most of my life has been the drawn out story of falling in love with Jesus, but one of the sub-plots has been falling in love with nations. In the past few years, I’ve gotten to travel the world through ACU’s developing missions program. I’ve gained a bunch of wonderful stories, such as being chased through Indian jungles by monkeys, or attempting to break up fist fights in my bible class in Africa. I’ve been to the Taj Mahal, and struggled through whether or not Jesus would want me to give my shoes to a little boy who is begging me for them. I had no other shoes, for the record…but Jesus still said give to those who ask of you. I still wonder if I should have been more generous! All of these stories have been a wonderful blessing to live, feeling like the chapters in a book written by an incredible skilled and gracious author. What’s funny is that these are the stories that people ask me to tell again and again. They remember how I got into a motorcycle accident because we tried to fit too many people on a motorbike, or the story of playing Cricket in India.
The thing is, these aren’t the stories I want to tell over and over. These are not the stories that changed me. The stories that changed me are the ones that most people don’t think are worth hearing again. The stories that are made up of memories of faces more than of words and plot points. I don’t know why God gave me the opportunity to collide with such wonderful, beautiful people…but I have been altered by it. I’ve been altered by my friend Sumit who is amazing, in love with bettering the situation of the poor in “his” India. He confessed to me that he believed in Jesus, but couldn’t follow him or be baptized because to do so would betray his Hindu family. The very family that had nurtured his beautiful heart. I can’t be the same because of Blinka, a little girl in a slum house who yelled “Bya! Bya!(Brother, Brother!)” and waved everyday as I walked by in India. I can’t be the same because of a girl in Africa who, when hearing that I would be her bible teacher shouted, “We love to learn about Jesus!”
The reason these people have had such a deep impact on me is they became my statistics. I hear that India has 800 million Hindu’s, and I think of Sumit who invited me to sit on his roof and eat cantaloupe, making me the first foreigner to ever enter his neighborhood. I hear that Liberia is the 2nd poorest nation, and I think of working side by side with a nine year old boy named Uriah as we built his orphanage brick by brick. The statistics can be painful though. I lay awake some nights burdened by the fact that 2.1 billion people have no access to the gospel. That there are 143 million children who don’t have parents. They can’t simply be numbers anymore. They are faces, and dream-filled hearts who are deeply precious to Jesus. And they should be deeply precious to us.
I showed up at college with a desire to communicate the gospel, but until that first time setting foot on international soil, I’m not sure I ever walked in the story God had for me. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I can’t imagine giving my life to anything other than bringing the gospel to those who don’t have it. I’m in love with nations, and because God knew that long before I did, he determined my steps. I can’t wait to see the opportunities the future holds for me. You’re going to have some great opportunities too, because God has designed you and written your story. A story that I’m sure will be bold, bright and beautiful; and a little too difficult for you on some days. A story full of the Holy Spirit, showing up again and again and again. I hope you get the opportunity to be so radically confronted with the gospel that you need to take action. I hope your hands become tools of righteousness, that get a little bit rough laying bricks in a better kingdom. I hope you meet Jesus, and introduce him to everyone you know…because they are not just statistics; and they need him.