it seems like i am asked the question often – how did you, a middle aged white woman who lived in stilettos and bling, who didn’t like camping/outdoors or being dirty – how did you end up in africa? how do you know you are being called? many people are at points in their lives, searching for meaning, purpose and ‘what’s next’. the last few days, i have felt God suggesting that i share this ….it is the basis of what my presentation to the salem lutheran church last sunday and i have shared it in various other ways through the past few years. perhaps my story will speak to you and that God will speak to someone through these words. for those new to my blog and journey, it will help simply explain a bit more.
what in your life is calling you? when all the noise is silenced, the meetings adjourned, the lists laid aside, and the wild iris blooms by itself in the dark forest, what still pulls on your soul?….. in the silence between your heartbeats hides a summons, do you hear it? name it, if you must, or leave it forever nameless, but why pretend it is not there? (terma collective)
what does it mean to be ‘called’? how do you recognize it? what happens? i believe being called may occur in unique special ways to each of us, but this is how it happened for me in the fall of 2010…when this middle aged white woman who considered herself pretty boring and not specifically qualified ended up called to go to Africa to share her gifts and talents, to walk in love with women and children in poverty. selling all her stuff, leaving her job, family, friends and comforts of home.
it was the fall of 2010 when life started changing in a radical way for me. i had a fairly successful life that externally looked pretty good. at that point i was working in economic development near Tulsa Oklahoma , making a decent salary, having a nice apartment and car, many friends and family. what’s not to love about all that? but i continued to feel unfilled, and life was sucking the sparkle out of me. i realized that i had to make some changes but i didn’t really know what. i explored other jobs, volunteering opportunities, etc,but soon i realized that i needed to get SERIOUS about this and that’s when it started.
i started SEEKING. i had been a Christian since i was about 8, so i understood seeking but this time it was SERIOUS seeking. i had stepped away from organized religion for a variety of reasons but that didn’t mean i stepped away from God. but admittedly i wasn’t paying attention. i was just living in the matrix and doing my work and thinking it was all okay. i guess it wasn’t, for me. i figured out pretty quickly that i needed to be STILL. to stop the noise, the distraction. all the blah blah in my head (YOU know what i mean!) i went on a retreat along to be ‘quiet’. i began to stumble on clues and ideas – one of which was volunteering abroad . i read a book about a woman who went abroad for a year to seek and find. it was at that point that something clicked and i began thinking ‘what if’ i went somewhere for 3-4 months – where would i go, what would i do? now. at this point, this was just a ‘what if’ process in my mind. which i think freed my mind from coming up with excuses of why not.
so , yes i prayed over this and then i began meditating. in fact the quote i read at the beginning was helpful to me – to get my focus to my heart and to be silent – between heart beats. i need to explain, to me – prayer is talking to God with a walkie talkie with the button pressed. God, hear me, i need help, i promise, please protect, thank you, etc. but meditation to me is the LISTENING – back to the walkie talkie, with the button off. it’s really really hard in our busy noisy world to be still. to listen. to go within. to get out of our head and into our heart.
and then it started happening. first of all i heard God speaking to me – the word Africa. it was AFRICA (boom) AFRICA (boom) AFRICA. i kid you not. and the next day, i picked up a women’s magazine to find an article about a woman who left her job and started an organization in Africa. hmmmm. ok,God – so in my what if story, i’m going to Africa? where? now – i knew nothing about Africa, i never dreamed of Africa. but i continued my prayer, meditation and researching Africa. soon i found an opportunity in Moshi Tanzania and i FELT the click. at that moment i thought – ok- am going to Tanzania wherever that is. and within a few days, THAT was validated through a comic strip – a little girl asked her mother what the capital of Tanzania was! in that moment, the light bulb went ON and i recognized that my ‘what if’ story was a ‘being called’ story. and long story short – within 6 months i had my immunizations, quit my job, sold my stuff, left family and friends and left for Tanzania on my own. and it is also how God spoke to me through a comic strip (which was cool because sometimes my sense of humor is a bit on the quirky side, so He GETS me, ya know? lol)
that was just over 3 years ago. since then the calling has evolved and been refined but i still KNOW that i was called to Tanzania. i wasn’t called to preach. but i was called to use my abilities, my knowledge, my heart to work hand in hand with women and widows, vulnerable children and orphans. to help them know they are loved. to empower them with education and ideas and opportunities. to let the love of Jesus shine through me in various ways.
and even though i KNOW i’m called – its not always a simple easy path. oh. my. i have insecurities, questions and doubts a lot. right now, i will return to Tanzania on june 2 but my mission expenses are not yet covered, nor have i succeeded in raising enough education sponsorships for the children at the school that i am working with. it scares me to pieces but i fall back into the faith and trust that if this is what i am called to do, all other things will be provided for. the path is dark right in front of me, i stumble over rocks and rough road, and i call out ” are you sure?” and He responds with YES KEEP GOING. so i do. even though i don’t know HOW it will all work. WHERE the money will come from. and i’m like any of you – i WANT to know more specifically, i would like to have that money in the bank, the certainty of a plan but….i guess i’m learning a really big walk of faith here.
i have plans of what i would like to accomplish – plans that are overwhelming to be honest. and while i believe those plans were given to me by God, i also am reminded from time to time that a calling doesn’t always have to be HUGE or HARD or COMPLICATED. sometimes – it’s very simple. He reminded me of this once when i was working with an HIV women’s group. i met with them, visited their homes, helped them with a few projects – but honestly nothing very major in my opinion. but one day, mama sarah touched me on the arm, looked me in the eyes and said: Debora, we see Jesus in you. that moment not only confirmed that i was indeed on the right path but sometimes i make things too hard and that God was using me in ways that i had no idea of.
seeking. being still. listening carefully. answering the call. accepting the call. keep walking even when the path is full of rocks and it’s dark ahead. that’s how it is for me. and while my detailed plans may or may not work, i know that HIS plans are always better than mine.
oh wow! thanks for all that you have done, what you are doing, and what you will do. i am grateful for my family, friends and those that love me, and whom i love. i am grateful for the many unexpected blessings and surprises in my life. please continue to provide, love, protect and guide me as i travel on my journey. i really want you to break my heart….for what breaks Your heart. get my attention. communicate with me clearly so that i don’t miss any important guidance! sometimes, really, i wish You would lay it all out in a defined roadmap for me but i guess that’s part of the growth, trust and lessons that i am to learn. will you allow me to be in the homes, hospitals, orphanages, schools and villages that need Your love and use me as a conduit for Your light, to shine through me? i am here to be a vessel of your love and light.
i wish for each of you a sense of clarity, a knowing and the will to be still and know. your call probably won’t take you around the world or ask you to give up everything, but it will be just as important and necessary. if you have that niggling in the back of your head – your HEART – maybe it’s time to let go, and let God speak. and maybe it’s time to listen.
you are so very much loved.