Eight months ago I posted this picture on Instagram:
I posted about turning twenty five and how I had fulfilled my biggest dream; I lived in an area of the world where people didn’t know who Jesus was and why he came to die. I also wrote this to encourage those reading who had not yet fulfilled their dreams:
“I’ve come to see that wherever you are is where God most wants to sanctify you. Life is not about chasing your ideals or finding them but being open to what is set before you and committing to pursuing Godly character over perfection of your dreams. “
Little did I know that this post would be a foreshadow of changing those big dreams of mine in the coming months. I am not heading back to The Middle East early 2016 anymore but I am not done chasing my dreams, in fact, dreams can be chased in a lot of places. My dreams will be chased by college students I hope to mobilize to care about the world, like I have learned to.
When I sent in my application to move to Lebanon long term, it was with every intention (and the only for that matter) to be placed Internationally in the Middle East, since I had loved my study abroad year so much. I had my interview towards the end of May and found out 3 weeks before leaving the country that I was being recommended without other option to be placed on a stateside campus for development. As you can imagine, I was heartbroken and not very thrilled about having to leave in 20 days without a return date to the life and community I had spent the last 10 months building.
After about a week of coming to terms with my placement at some university in the Mid-South region of the US (NC,SC, KY, TN, WV) I was given a job opportunity from Pastor Charlie to stay in Lebanon instead of solely spending time with university students. Pastor Charlie is very convincing, and incredible at casting vision. I was almost set for the next week and a half to take his offer to work for RBBC (Ras Beirut Baptist church) as one of his assistants; running all the social media for church and being sort of a blogger/reporter on the different ministries that are apart of RBBC and its sister churches in Spain, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and South Sudan while still getting to spend about 1/2 my time on campus and working with Athletes In Action (AIA, the soccer ministry).
I had multiple conversations with different people and all of them pointed me to taking this new job because its everything I’ve ever dreamed of doing; soccer ministry, working with the orphanage, discipleship on campus, writing, traveling, taking pictures, and living among the unreached. I was so excited to be apart of a new way to testify to God’s faithfulness to His kingdom in multiple parts of the Middle East. I don’t have a deep sense of loyalty to this university program and don’t love all of its attics for fruitfulness and thus, this job at RBBC seemed to be much more up my alley.
I still wasn’t sure about it and feeling anxious about trying to pack with a decision not yet made but after church on Sunday, (the day before I was leaving) I went to talk with Nicolas and his wife Jen (the Life Agape National Director) which helped make my decision. He asked me earlier in the Spring when I told him I wanted to stay long term if I had a confirmation from God’s word about this decision. I sheepishly quoted “make disciples of all nations?” and he chuckled and encouraged me to spend time in God’s word until I was sure.
When I went over to their apartment for lunch he asked permission to give his opinion already seeing the tears running down my cheeks at the stress I was internally battling. I had told him I was afraid of being judged for not taking counsel to be developed and afraid for not being healthy overseas in the future. He said,
“Samm, if you don’t pursue your holiness, no matter where you are, you aren’t going to be fruitful.”
We talked more about what it looks like to put God first.
I went to be alone after that and thought “If you love me, you will obey my commandments” like it says in John 14:15 and if thats true in God’s word and the greatest commandment is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30) then it’s more important for me to pursue holiness right now than my dream job. If this job Pastor Charlie is offering is meant for me, it will still be there after the 2016-17′ school year. I know that he won’t run out of vision, money or ideas so it can wait. I get the opportunity to be poured into for a whole year and still get to mobilize American college students to care about the world.
I intended to write sooner, anxious about what to do next but as you know, moving is busy and I never got around to it. I decided to accept my placement at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia (they are the Mid-South Lebanese partnership) and when I am done raising support (hopefully by New Year’s Eve) I will go to New Staff Training in January and then move to WV after.
Like I said, I was heartbroken to leave Lebanon but hope to return as soon as the Lord provides a way. I am not the same person I was when I left for Lebanon and I’m not even the same as I was 2 months ago when my plans were my own. The Lord has shown me so much, humbling me and giving me new wisdom about what its like to hold my hands open and for that I am thankful for each day I get to see my life is not my own.
This is not the first time my heart has been shaken by my plans being taken from me but thus, I have learned that when life starts to feel comfortable, I shall expect something to change. Life really isn’t about chasing your dreams but about being sanctified; being made like that of Christ.
“The Lord gives and the lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” –Job 1:21