Last weekend was Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) here in Korea, which meant we all got a four-day weekend. Most Koreans visit their family during this time, most foreigners relax/go on vacation. I decided to volunteer to serve on the support crew for a group of bikers biking from Busan to Seoul––550km in four days––in order to raise awareness and money for the plight of orphans and sex-trafficking victims in this country.
I thought getting away from my normal routine and doing something different would be nice. See the countryside of Korea, meet some new people, be part of a worthy cause. Little did I know what was in store.
The past few weeks, I’ve been wrestling with a lot of questions and thoughts about my purpose. What are my gifts and passions? Where is my life headed? For the first time in a long time, I was shaken to the core in my identity, and I felt a need to reevaluate everything I thought I knew about myself.
One night I asked God if I could just go up to heaven and be with Him right now, because my deepest desire, which always comes into focus during these times of wrestling, is simply to know Him and be with Him. I kind of meant it as a rhetorical question, but He immediately answered.
“I still have an assignment for you on this earth.”
I gasped. “What is it?”
This past weekend, I finally heard His answer.
A Missionary Heart
It started with a simple conversation I had with a pastor I met on the trip. As I was helping him watch his boys on the playground one evening, he started asking about my background. I told him about my Master’s in piano performance. I mentioned that I used to wonder if I could be a missionary, but thought I couldn’t because I would never be able to give up piano. Yet, lo and behold, I have.
“Do you still have a heart to be a missionary?” he asked. For some reason, the question took me by surprise.
It brought me back to a high school missions trip to Romania. To the feeling of being fully alive. To the satisfaction of knowing that what I was doing really mattered. To observing a young missionary and wondering if one day that could be me. To thoughts I had completely forgotten about.
I shrugged and told him what has become an almost automatic answer for me, “Yes, I want to go to North Korea.” But inwardly I wondered what it meant to have a missionary heart. How was being a missionary different than what I was already doing, living in a foreign country serving the church?
The last night of the trip during our time of corporate prayer, I was crying for the orphans of Korea, thinking of a particular boy in Seoul to whom I used to teach piano. I cried, remembering the rejection he had experienced from his mother, the way he had hurt and withdrawn because of it, the loneliness and hopelessness I had sensed in him.
Then the pastor got up and asked us all a simple question:
“Are you willing to lay down your dreams for your life and receive the dream God has for you?”
I cried even harder. Because I realized that lately, thinking about the trajectory of my life, I had only been thinking about myself. I was considering my musical gifts, my spiritual insight, my potential as a leader, my potential as a writer. What I could become. What I could accomplish. But God had something else in mind.
Mother of nations
A few years back, the identity Mother of Nations was spoken over me a number of times, and it was something I gradually accepted. I had never gravitated toward kids or felt particularly excited about the idea of being a mother, but God began to give me the heart of a mother. He revealed that this was one of my key callings in life: To be a spiritual mother.
But I had forgotten.
Are you willing to lay down the desire for recognition and accomplishment? Are you willing to instead take hold of this dream I have for you: Being a mother to those in need?
I had already given up so much. Piano. Performing. Classical music. My family. America. I had already left it all behind.
But I realized there was a deeper level of surrender I had not yet given that He was asking for. Even the idea of advancement and recognition in the church. Even the accomplishment of spiritual goals. Was I willing to lay down even holy ambitions to simply love people? To sit with them when they were sick? To listen when they were hurting? To be patient when they pushed me away? To persist in loving the hardest to love so they would come to know His heart?
I said yes.
And I suddenly understood what having a heart to be a missionary meant. Being a missionary isn’t just living in a foreign land (which I’ve been doing for 4 years now), it’s about giving up personal comforts and ambitions to serve others. It’s about laying down your life in order to love the most difficult to love, in order to bring light into darkness.
And deep down, that is my greatest desire.
I remembered that feeling in Romania so many years ago of being fully alive. I remembered the wonder of watching children get hit with joy through my prayers in Cambodia. I remembered the satisfaction of sacrificing comforts for something better.
And I knew: This life God has for me is going to be better than I could imagine.