Last summer my church took a trip to Thailand to host a conference for missionaries in Asia. I haven’t been able to go on many mission trips in the last few years (hello small children!), but I finally had a window where I could go, and I felt like I could uniquely serve. The trip needed a few musicians to lead worship for the conference, and I hoped that God could use my specific skill set to truly serve on the trip. The trip was very expensive, but I took a leap of faith and by generous support of my family and church was able to afford the plane tickets.
Everything was good to go until God seemed to open another door for an opportunity that was happening at the exact same time. I had won a singing/songwriting competition in Nashville, and because of that I was offered a spot at a songwriting retreat where I would get to meet and work with many talented professionals. For years I had been struggling to “get my foot in the door” and make connections with musical professionals. This was a big break I’d long been praying for God to provide.
But the trip to Thailand and the songwriting retreat were happening at the exact same time.
So here was my dilemma: how do you know what to do when you feel like God has provided you two unique opportunities and you have to pick one?
This is a struggle we all must face time and time again in our Christian walks. How do you know where God is leading? Which path is the one that He wants you to follow, and how do you sort out what’s from Him and what’s giving into your own desires?
I tackled the problem by gathering wisdom from trusted advisers. I talked to my husband, my father, my Thailand trip leaders and the leaders of the songwriting retreat. I searched the Word for wisdom. I just wanted to do the right thing.
In the end, I went to Thailand. I felt like being able to serve missionaries I may never encounter again on this earth and being able to serve my church as it went out to make change for the gospel around the globe was where I wanted to be. Honestly, it was a very difficult decision for me. Turning down an opportunity I had prayed about for years was hard to do, but I went forward with no regrets, trusting that God would use me how He wanted.
My time in Thailand was amazing but very exhausting. The flight there was almost a complete 24 hours, and I never fully recovered from the jet lag. I didn’t sleep but more than a few hours a night, and the changes in temperature and humidity were very hard on my voice. By day three (of seven) of the trip, my singing voice was almost completely gone because of how hard the trip had been on my body.
At first, I was very frustrated with my situation. Why would God allow me to travel around the world with the goal of singing and sharing music only to lose my voice? I had to remind myself that when I’m striving to follow God’s will, I’ve got to be willing to let Him use me however He will (and often it’s not exactly what I would have imagined.)
It turned out that I was also uniquely gifted to be on this trip in another way. A majority of the work our church group did was to provide childcare for the missionaries who attended the conference. There were dozens and dozens of children, many of which were preschool age—and it just so happens that at the time I had a three-year-old and a one-year-old back at home in Texas.
I came for the music but truly got to serve by holding small kiddos, which had recently become a passion and talent of mine. Perhaps I wasn’t needed on the mission trip in the way I wanted to be needed, but I was used in the way God wanted me to be used.
As you consider mission trips, my prayer for you is the same one I pray for others from my church and for myself: that God would uniquely equip each one of us for the specific journey we are on, and that He would keep our hearts open and ready to serve Him in whatever way He chooses.
“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless” (1 Corinthians 15:58).