Coming to Medellin
By Julia R. | Long term volunteer
In elementary school I remember my teacher passing out small notecards and asking us all to jot down what our dream profession would be as adults. I remember looking down at the paper, fiddling with my pencil, and scanning the classroom full of young faces scribbling away with ease. I thought for a while, and not genuinely comprehending what I wrote, I copied, “missionary” between bright blue lines.
I had the privilege of being introduced to Jesus at a young age. I was taught that there existed a God who created the world, and this God loved the world that he created. My spirit came alive at the concept, and by the time I could spell my own name, I decided that this was a God I would pursue knowing. This pure view of God became adulterated with wrong teaching and difficult life experiences, and my desire to simply know him became slowly replaced with a burden of performing, as would a flawless piece of machinery. Yet even in the midst of my misconceptions and worthless striving, God was pursuing me. When I was 16, at a turning point in my life, He met me.
During my senior year of high school, as I neared college application deadlines, God reminded me of that commitment I had made to him a couple years prior: a promise that my life would be His; if He would be willing to lead, then I would follow. The institution, Summit International School of Ministry would not leave my mind for the life of me. I grew up attending the official church of this ministry school, Times Square Church, and I had vowed to myself and everyone I was able to communicate to that I would not be “one of those people who go to Summit.” Yet, I couldn’t deny the unshakeable drawing I had to the place. I applied, only to ease my conscious. I prayed to receive a rejection letter, but to my dismay, I was accepted. Sensing the leading of God, I prepared myself to go, and to let go of my own idea of my future. The summer before that first fall semester, everything I had done to prepare myself financially for Summit fell through my fingers. As August approached, I had no plan for how I would pay my tuition, and I was unable to make more money. As a type of confirmation that this was indeed the leading of God, I incidentally received a donation that covered all of my needs for that upcoming semester. Each semester would prove the same; I would be in need, and in some unbelievable way, I would be provided for.
During my second year, I needed to make a decision as to what my next step after Summit would be. My entire worldview of life had drastically changed through the biblical teaching at Summit; I didn’t think in the same way as I did prior to coming. I cared much less about social stigmas or people’s opinion on my life decisions; I solely wanted to know Jesus. As I began praying about my next step, the idea of taking on an internship became more and more attractive. Reigniting that childhood passion, God had begun putting foreign missions heavily on my heart, and I felt God calling me into missions work. As part of a work-study program, I had spent some time tutoring a handful of foreign students, helping them with the English language. Writing had long been a passion of mine, but it was through this job in which I discovered that teaching English was something I loved doing. My inclination towards missions and my desire to teach English seemed to go hand-in-hand, and I had an idea of the general area of what I was looking to go into post-graduation.
Going home on weekends, I came to realize that if I were to make a decision that wasn’t approved of at home, I would have to suffer great consequences. God began to show me areas that were unhealthy in my household, and he began to heal me through separating his character from some of the wrong things I had been through. I started to sense God’s leading me out of my house, and into something new, but I wasn’t exactly sure into what yet. One thing was evident, that if I wanted to be able to be free to move as I knew God was leading me, I needed to separate from devoting myself towards primarily pleasing the people I cared a lot about (like family), and instead devote myself to pleasing God primarily. Meaning, if God led me to do something that wasn’t approved by my parents, I had to realize that my life was not lived for them, but for Him first.
After class one afternoon, I plopped myself down in the fold-out chair parallel to the office desk of Pastor Ryan Seaborn (a guidance counselor of types at Summit). The weeks prior my mind had been at odds with itself, sensing the call of God yet wrestling with how to reconcile faith with practicality. I explained my frustrations with him, and my aspirations for the future. As I anxiously went through detail by detail, Pastor Ryan nodded and remained almost irritatingly calm. Once I finally stopped to take a breath, Pastor Ryan turned towards his desktop, pulled up a video, and rotated the screen towards me. He then told me that recently an internship opportunity overseas opened up in a church organization called City of Refuge; the internship would be concentrated in the foundation’s school, teaching English as a second language. I sat there dumbfounded, as I couldn’t have described a more perfect position if I had wanted to. Then he pressed play. I fell in love with the ministry’s heart and vision; it was almost exactly what God had been pressing on my own heart for months. I remember immediately holding myself back from attaching myself to the idea of coming to Medellin; it seemed absolutely impossible. Yet, how could I want to be anywhere else?
The next couple weeks, I prayed and thought on Medellin constantly. I felt as though God was calling me into the impossible, to take a step out into the unknown, but I feared. Even after every way God had revealed his unchanging, faithful character to me, after he had proven his presence in my life over and over again, something in me was scared. Another opportunity had become available to me; an internship that would have been much more comfortable, much more doable, and much more financially beneficial. Yet, I felt that in this season of my life God wasn’t calling me to independence, or into a sensical, prosperous progression in life, but rather, into an absolute dependence on him. That is not to say that having money or working in a secular field is disbelief in God, but in that moment I knew that God was calling me out of my comfort. So, I moved forward with taking on the internship.
Things didn’t become very easy following that decision. There was some conflict in my house, and I decided to go to live with my sister. My plans didn’t pan out exactly as I had originally hoped; my arrival in Medellin was a couple months after my initial intention, but through it all, God was in control. I am able to understand more now how perfectly he prepares us and orchestrates the seasons of our lives. He is a good Father, and He knows what He’s doing. It’s easy to serve God when you’re emotionally well and life is smooth; but it is in the strain, and difficulties that we are able to understand him in a deeper, more intimate way. If it weren’t for my wounds, I wouldn’t know personally that my God is a Healer. If it weren’t for my lack, I wouldn’t trust in him as my Provider. God cares for us, and sometimes in his caring for us he allows us to be without some momentary pleasures so that we can gain a more eternal truth.
Every one of my needs have been provided for. Not only financially, but my soul has been cared for. I went through a lot of emotional strain during that year leading up to my coming to Medellin, as God had begun healing and reconciliation in many areas, and it didn’t come without pain. Yet, when I was feeling the sting of loss, when I felt the most unworthy, when I was in the lowest possible state, God continued to meet me. He did not approach me expecting me to be more put together, less of a mess, or more spiritual during my difficulties. He met me, and whispered to me his love; he convicted me, but drew me closer in my repentance; he reopened some wounds that had healed wrongly, and piece by piece he sewed me back together. As he is continuing to do so. I am not here in Medellin because I am some super-Christian extremist who has a natural desire to do good in and of myself. I am here by the grace of God, aware of how absolutely degenerate I am without my Savior. I am trusting him to continuing being in my life who he has been for eternity, and his faithfulness can be the same for you if you decide to trust in it. Depend on him. With money, without money; if you have a family, or if you don’t; no matter what your circumstance is, realize your need for him, and find the most satisfying joy by placing every ounce of hope you can muster into his hands. There is no safer place.