This is me at 25 years of age September 1999. The tree behind me was a an amazing ficus tree that was thought to be over 1,000 years old in Catania, Sicily. My mom was awesome enough to take this picture for me when she came to visit.
The year was 1998 and I was a student, still, at Southern Nazarene University. And while I was no longer required to attend chapel, I still enjoying going anyway. The semester was coming to a close and 1999 was coming very soon. I already had all of my next semester classes chosen, but that day in November (shortly before Thanksgiving to be exact), I was happy. I owned my car, finally, I no longer had a huge insurmountable amount of money I owed the school and I was with my friends. I remember as Dr. Culbertson got up to speak being excited. I loved to hear missionaries speak about other countries, I had since I was a young girl. My mom's older sister, Aunt Christine and her husband my Uncle Frank had been missionaries since I could remember. It was always so exciting when they came home after four years to visit and live in the States for their year long furlough.
As Dr. Culbertson began speaking about a need for Nazarene's in Volunteer Service or NIVS - and the need for Croatia, I felt God tugging at my heart. I had felt that desire and tug before, but financially it was not possible. While I know all things are possible with God, at the time it seemed like I would never have my finances in order so I could do a year of NIVS. But as God would have it in 1998, I had paid off my car, I no longer had huge financial debts hanging over my head - it all fell perfectly into place. The last obstacle I would need to hurdle would be gaining the money to go. Somehow though I wasn't very concerned with that. So after chapel I went to Dr. Culbertson and spoke with him, and while I couldn't go to Croatia, they did need someone in Catania, Sicily. It was decided I would go there. I had a few videos I needed to watch and they really were very helpful. They talked about the need to be flexible. I had Volunteer Assessment Training to attend and a few other things that needed to fall into place.
But I was excited and I knew I was going.
Have you ever tried telling your family that you dropped out of the next semester and you were going to go live overseas as a missionary for a year? Yeah, it was a little daunting, but true to form, I just dove in and dealt with what was coming. They all looked at me like I was nuts. Especially, since my goal was to be in Sicily by the end of February. I figured if you are turning 25 and you are going to a new country why not aim for before your 25th birthday. My Aunt Chris and Uncle Frank pledged some money and several friends made pledges and once college was done for the semester I began speaking at churches. Let me tell you speaking at one church in the morning and one church in the evening gave me a whole new respect for the job a pastor does every Sunday and once on Wednesday.
As time moved on and kept going, I began to worry a bit. I needed at least 10,000 or so to go to Sicily and be able to live. January came and was almost over and I was still woefully shy of my goal. My family was even suggesting that maybe I needed to consider pushing back my timeline, but when I would pray about it, I knew I needed to wait, because God had a plan. But as it got closer and closer to the time I needed to be leaving, I realize something, if the money didn't come soon, I would need to push it back. Interestingly enough the same day I was walking in the yard of the place I was renting, I began to pray. It went a little like this, "God, I know you have a plan here, but even my missionary aunt is becoming skeptical - I kind of need a little something here. I need you to please move and soon, because I'm starting to get a little nervous myself." Shortly after that, the phone rang. One of the women from church was calling to let me know that the rest of the money I needed had come in. Mom was able to call Aunt Chris and give her good news when she'd just learned some very sad news about some fellow missionaries they knew in India. A few weeks later, I was on a plane and heading towards Catania, Sicily. It sounds crazy I know, but yes, it really happened and it was amazing to live there and meet and learn to love the people there. It's an experience I will never forget, but it was also an amazing journey in learning to trust in God and his plans for my life.
I hope you all have a good week. I am still on a journey of faith and I look forward to more journeys and watching God work amazingly in this crazy life.
Love in Christ,