“Calling” is a word that we throw around often within circles of Jesus followers. I think every person probably has a different idea or understanding of what this word means, both on a broad scale as well as what it means in their own, personal life. For me, the idea of a “call” is like an invitation. I think about getting a phone call, and how the phone rings but we have the choice to pick it up or not. Being “called” by God means He is inviting us to be part of what He is doing in the world. There is a multitude of things God could be inviting us into: being a light in our workplace, reaching people that don’t know of His love, or displaying His heart to our children as a stay-at-home parent. For me, a calling doesn’t necessarily have to be set in stone and unchangeable. As God keeps opening doors and showing us new opportunities He wants to bring us into, we can follow Him with confidence into the ultimate calling: following His lead.
Chris and I had a great opportunity to reflect this week on the invitation we have individually and collectively chosen to accept. Three hundred and fifty staff members of the organisation we volunteer with (Youth With a Mission in Perth, Australia) took a week-long retreat to have relaxed family time as well as to praise and learn from God. Much of our time together was spent hearing stories about the beginnings and growth of our YWAM base.
One of the story sessions that touched us the most was a time of our founder speaking on the cost and commitment of the call to YWAM Perth. It is not always easy and not always our ideal picture of life to be full-time missionaries, but the cost is worth the commitment. I think again about the imagery of a phone call – often, we are eager to pick up when we know and trust the person on the other end. For both of us, following the path God has led us on in life is worth every step because of our love for the One leading us. We wanted to take you on a quick journey outlining how we both received an invitation from God to be part of YWAM Perth, and why we are committed despite the costs.
For Chris, the invitation to be part of YWAM Perth full-time came on his six-month Discipleship Training School with the base. Many students are with us for a short time of training, learning and practising a missional mindset in everyday life before going back to university, work, and family. This program is also an introductory course that opens numerous doors within YWAM internationally, to continue studying or to become a volunteer with the organisation. Chris had been wrestling between those two options, feeling the sense of expectation to continue his degree but also feeling the pull to be part of the amazing things He saw God doing through YWAM Perth.
A few weeks into his school, Chris’ class went for a camping trip on the beach. It was on the beach that Chris had another internal conversation with God about what to do once the school ended. A thought came to his mind about the reason he was studying. Only one semester away from graduating, Chris had been pursuing an engineering degree, hoping to land a job with a racing team – to “travel the world and make cars go fast” as he describes it. As he sat on the beach that day, he realised that it was really the world travel part of the plan that got him the most excited. With that, Chris felt a challenge from God – he could either continue to fulfil his dreams how he wanted to, or he could allow God to fulfil them His way.
That was how Chris knew in his heart that God was inviting him to return to YWAM Perth. Chris also knew in that moment that this would be the plan until God presented a new invitation. After that day, he watched God orchestrate every detail – from being placed in the perfect ministry team to receiving a good reaction from his mom when telling her he would come back.
Like with most things, our stories of being called by God are vastly different from each other. I didn’t know much about YWAM before I committed to come here. I had a few friends – including Chris – that were or had been part of it, but it was not on my radar whatsoever as I was asking God what He had for my future.
I did start out in a similar place as Chris: asking God about His plans for my life. I was also torn between two options but in a very different way. For me, I was wondering about my role in organised religion. I had grown up going to church, but I found God outside of that structure in a beautiful way. (Maybe a story for another blog post!) Despite living day-to-day life with God and loving it, I still enjoyed worshipping with many people, hearing and learning about truth, and helping out with church functions. My question to God was simply asking if I had a place in some sort of organisation – should I start working for or volunteering with a church, or should I continue with the less organised style of intentional relationships and home gatherings?
The answer came to me one night in a dream. Like I said, YWAM wasn’t on my radar, and neither was Chris. All hope for being with him had gone when he left to follow God’s call back to Australia. (Another story we might have to share soon…) However, in this dream, God showed me a picture of my future very clearly. The dream showed that I would be working with an organisation and that I would be dating someone within that organisation. I saw in the dream that we would have two different roles there, but we would still be part of one main goal. I began to see that this was a sort of place that focused on sending people out. It was less like a church and more like a hub for people who were going all over the world. I saw this building from a high vantage point with a freeway below me. Until I arrived in Perth and walked on an overpass, seeing the exact image I had in my dream, I thought I was floating in the dream!
There were a few other details God showed me in that dream, but the main point I got out of it was YES – I would be part of some sort of organisation. I had no idea where, how, or when, but I trusted God to open the right doors at the right time… and He did. Only weeks later, Chris and I talked on the phone and the idea of me coming to YWAM first came up. At first I thought the idea was ridiculous, but the more I thought and prayed about it, the more I remembered details of the dream God had given me. Like with Chris, God orchestrated every detail perfectly and I soon saw the fulfilment of God’s invitation to me.
The cost & the commitment
Like I mentioned earlier, accepting the invitation hasn’t come without sacrifice. For Chris, it meant letting go of the reputation, legitimacy, and opportunities that come with having a degree. For both of us, it meant saying goodbye to our friends and family. It meant sacrificing the comforts of familiar surroundings, supporting ourselves financially, and knowing where in the world we will be most of the time.
For us, the cost has also meant laying aside any plans we have for the future. We are committed to being here until God opens another door and moves us on. We’ve talked about all sorts of dreams since we’ve been together – starting a coffee shop, having a project car, going to Europe. It’s not at all that God doesn’t care about those dreams. He does. But what I’ve come to see is that His way of fulfilling our dreams is so much better than what we could think up. There’s a reason we both eagerly walked through the doors God had opened to us, despite the consequences. God knows us and loves us more than we could ever imagine. He Himself has sacrificed immensely to restore relationship with His people. His invitation to us is one piece of that restorative puzzle, and we are honoured to be part of it. It’s like what I mentioned before – we’re more likely to answer a phone call when we know who is on the other end. It’s the same when God calls us.