by Nancy Friesen
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).
What is God’s calling for my life? This question is a source of mystery, frustration and confusion. Does God really have a detailed plan for each one of us, or is God’s call more general, with the details left up to us?
There is no clear answer, but one thing we know is that God the Creator has called us all to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to others.
Sometimes God just says “Go, and I will lead you and be with you.” Often, we hear these words, but we fail to move. We wait and wait for God to tell us how many miles we should travel. We want step-by-step instructions before we take one step outside of our little bubble. Leaving is often the greatest obstacle, the hardest thing we will face in our journey. It is also the greatest faith builder, trusting in God while we walk a path we cannot see.
Here is my story of God’s call: There I was, in my very own comfortable little bubble. I had a promising career as a financial advisor in a local bank. I had my little home, a loving family, wonderful friends and a church that I loved. I had a comfortable lifestyle and took every opportunity to travel. I started working with MCC and took several short-term mission trips oversees. Life was great, but I started to question whether this was where I needed to be. What was God’s calling for my life?
In 2015, I had the opportunity to go to Bolivia as part of a work team. The Lord spoke to me during my time there. When I returned home, I decided to serve longer term. There was a one-year position available in Bolivia for an English (ESL) Teacher. This was a very scary idea. Why would I want to jeopardize my career and leave everything, and go? Bolivia was not a country I had ever wanted to live in; too hot, too many creepy crawlers. After spending much time in God’s Word and in prayer, I knew clearly what the Lord wanted me to do. I asked for a leave of absence from my workplace and, after some consideration, was given a one-year sabbatical.
Off I went to Bolivia. I can’t say that the year was easy or without struggles and challenges. Actually, it was the hardest year of my life. Everything was new, I didn’t know anyone in my community, it was too hot and humid, too many lizards, snakes and scorpions. I worked in a school that didn’t even have fans in the classrooms where the temperatures often passed 40C. The language barrier was such a struggle. Even the Plautdietsch language, and the customs of the Low German Mennonites were so different than what I knew.
Through all this, I learned to lean on the Lord more than ever and felt him right there by my side. It was a year of spiritual growth and maturity in my Christian walk.
As my year was drawing to a close, I was planning on returning to Canada, but the Lord had other plans. I was offered a long-term position with MEM as the team administrator. This meant looking after the finances, accounting, visas, and legal paperwork. This was what I was trained to do, but in Bolivia?
Making the decision to serve long term was the hardest and most difficult decision of my life. This meant leaving behind everything. When I resigned at the bank, my bosses told me I was crazy for throwing my career away to go work in a third world country.
Serving in Bolivia for the past four years has not been easy, but it has been rewarding. Working with children has been my joy; whether in school, with the teens group, or just hanging out with the local youth girls. I have felt blessed and have experienced God’s presence everywhere I go.
“Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord” (Proverbs 16:20).
Lord, help each one of us to embrace your calling for our lives with enthusiasm, wisdom, and humility.
Nancy Friesen (Picture Butte Mennonite Church) serves with MEM in Bolivia as team administrator, an English teacher and a youth worker.