Even now, three months later, I remember the moment like it was yesterday. I stood at the entrance to my flight departure gate at LAX airport, backpack slung over my shoulder, passport in hand. I waved goodbye to my parents and turned around, just in time to hide the tears forming in my eyes. They weren’t tears of sadness as much as tears of change. I knew I’d made the right decision, and was confident God would take care of me, but I also knew this moment marked a drastic change in my life. I say so because this moment signaled the death of my old life in this world and the start of my new life in Christ. And here's why. The plane I boarded was bound for Hildesheim, Germany, where I would spend three months working as a youth intern for a Church of Christ. My job responsibilities included investing in the middle school and high school aged youth group members, planning events, attending summer camp, and helping fill any of the church’s needs. And while I felt extremely fulfilled and content with my work, I also felt extremely uncomfortable at times. Living in another country is a lot of things, but comfortable is certainly not one of them.
Going into the experience, I spoke hardly any German, was unfamiliar with the cultural subtleties, and knew a total of two people. The first few weeks were full of doubts, fears and frustration. I constantly found myself in awkward situations, such as accidentally buying sour creme instead of whipped creme, or calling someone pregnant instead of beautiful! In my defense, the words sound incredibly similar.
But slowly God began the process of melting me down and reforming me to be stronger than ever. He led me outside my comfort zone and used my discomfort to shape and retrain me to be fully reliant on Him. I often fought the process kicking and screaming, as I tried to lean on my own understanding and failed. Previously trivial tasks like grocery shopping or holding a conversation with someone in German, became huge victories that I had no choice but to give God the credit for. In this reshaping process, God also revealed to me that I have a serious lack of self confidence, and showed me that the only lasting source of self confidence I will ever find flows from the cross.
With time, I started to notice that the further outside my comfort zone He led me, the more confident I felt. He blessed me with deep friendships, wise female mentors, and travel experiences I will never forget. He showed me how capable and worthy I am to do the work laid before me.
Jesus too had to die to this world in order to live again. In John chapter 12, he enters Jerusalem on a donkey to celebrate passover, and is greeted triumphantly with palm branches and praises from the adoring crowd. A short while later, Jesus predicts his fast approaching death and ultimate glorification in front of the people, saying, "The hour has come for the son of man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My father will honor the one who serves me” (verse 23-26).
Before my experience abroad, I was only a single seed, serving no one but myself. I had to fall to the ground by saying goodbye to my southern California life and everything I knew, in order to produce more seeds. The conversations I’ve had with the youth group members here are not more than seeds at this point, but I’m confident they will one day grow and bloom into beautiful plants.
If we claim to follow Jesus, then we are obliged to actually follow Him, whether that be to another country or right next door. The statement, "Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be” has never rung truer. I was called to follow Him half way across the globe because, contrary to what I sometimes believe, Jesus is not American. He is universal, and is actively working in every heart, in every country.
Friends, I encourage you to examine your life today. Is Jesus calling you to follow Him in some new direction? Does it make you uncomfortable? Thats probably a good sign you’re headed down the right path! Jesus does his best work when you are completely and totally reliant on Him. Maybe that looks like asking someone you usually don’t converse with out to coffee, or signing up for that mission trip you’ve been thinking about. Perhaps you need to die to part of yourself in order to bring glory to Christ, and that death is precisely the place you will find new life.
Micah Lambert Student - Pepperdine University