Four years ago, during my last semester at Tennessee Tech University, I heard God say a very simple word: “Go.” At this time, I had no idea what this meant. Go where? Go when? All I felt was confusion. I had no idea what was about to come.
Every summer, the ministry I was involved in (Chi Alpha) goes on an international mission trip for about a month. They call it Project 222 based on the scripture 2 Timothy 2:2, “Be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” They chose this verse because when we go overseas, it isn’t just to preach and then come back home. The point is to teach, train, and raise up disciples who can raise up many more. That is how we reach the nations.
For the summer 2019 trip, Chi Alpha was going to take seven students for a month to Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan. When our campus pastor started discussing this upcoming trip, I felt a tugging on my heart and heard God once again say, “Go”. To a college student, that trip was a lot of money; so, immediately, I was discouraged. I thought to myself, “How am I going to raise all of this money in just four months?” Just as quickly as those fears and doubts crept in, a wave of peace washed over me, and I was sure I was going. That fear turned to excitement, and that excitement remained for the next four months.
The month of our trip finally arrived, and our team met to discuss finances and final details. After all the hard work for months, this became the day I dreaded. I had not raised the full amount of money to go and was still about $1,000 short. When our campus pastor called me in to discuss my final total, I began to cry. I told him that he didn’t have to say anything because I knew I wasn’t going. He looked at me with this sweet smile and said, “Did I say you weren’t going? You are going because God is faithful. You are going because your team collectively raised, not just enough for everyone to go, but an extra $10,000 to give to the missionaries.” I began to cry even harder, and all I could do was fall to my knees. That was the moment I knew that this trip would be life-changing.
Our first layover was in Doha, Qatar. It was about 16 hours so we were able to go out, walk the streets, and talk to locals. While we were out, I just remember feeling overwhelmed and so at peace at the same time. It was the oddest thing I had ever experienced. We continued to walk the streets and just prayed for the people of that nation. As we prayed, I began to weep uncontrollably. I had no idea why, but hesitantly, let it happen because I knew God was at work.
Later, we got a hotel so we could rest a couple hours before we flew to Azerbaijan the next morning. My friend, Katelyn, and I shared a room that overlooked the whole city of Doha. I sat by the window for a long time just gazing at the beauty of this city and its people. I think that is the first time I can remember having no thoughts and just embracing the moment. Then, an audible voice broke me out of this state. I heard God clearly say to me, “This is just one of the many nations I will take you to. Feel my heart for the lost people.” Immediately, my chest began to hurt. It truly felt as if my heart was breaking in half. All I knew to do was to cry out to God for these people, to intercede for people that didn’t even know they needed it. That was the first time my heart broke for a nation that I didn’t even know.
We finally made it to Azerbaijan, and part of our morning routine was to go to the English school the missionaries managed and have group abiding time for two hours. During abiding time, on the second day in this country, God gave me a vision that just looked like an outline. So, I drew it without having any idea what it was or what it meant. I asked the Lord what it was, but I didn’t get an answer right away. Instead, a friend of mine saw this drawing later in the day and immediately knew what it was. She told me it was a drawing of the country we were in. I thought okay, well that makes sense, right? The rest of that day, I wrestled with the thought of this drawing.
That night, I was sitting on the balcony of the apartment we were staying in singing over the city of Sumqayit. When I stopped, it became quiet and so still. In that moment, I was posed with a question from the Lord, “Even if you don’t know what it will look like, even if I simply give you a bare drawing, will you say yes? Are you willing to follow me to the earth's ends and be my hands and feet to unreached people?” His words broke me down until I was on my knees with arms stretched out saying, “Yes God!” My heart began to break even more as I cried out for people I had never met. I knew this is what God was calling me to. He was calling me to a life of sacrifice, of intercession, and of humility to love His people in the darkest places of the world.
I heard a quote recently that perfectly sums up my heart: "There is no success without sacrifice. If I succeed without sacrifice, then it is because someone who went before me made the sacrifice. If I sacrifice and do not see success, then someone who follows me will reap success from my sacrifice." I want to see God’s people touched and for them to have encounters with Jesus that radically changes their lives. Every day, I say “Yes. Father, continue to teach me how to live a life of sacrifice.”