The plane took off and, full of nervous energy, trepidation and excitement, I felt like I was flying to Neverland.
For the first time in my life I was headed somewhere totally foreign. Four weeks before, I hadn’t even heard of this country, tucked deep in Central Asia. But that’s how God works sometimes – He brings surprises, a turn of events, the intercession of His children, to break our focus on the earthly, refocus on the eternal and point the way to something unknown. When the seatbelt light turned off, it signified a break from the safety of my culture and my lifestyle.
An email telling me of an American couple’s prayer for a music therapist to train their orphanage employees had instigated this departure from the norm. What’s a music therapist, you might be thinking. Exactly. Not many people know it’s a real job. The prayer of this couple was so specific that, when I heard of it, my interest was immediately sparked. I’m a music therapist, I thought. I work with kids with disabilities. I can do that.
But the greater reason for my going was that God had shaped me for this. In Ephesians 2:10 we read: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”. It was God who created me and moulded my life to be on such a search – He built in me a deep-seated compassion for those in need, an interest in learning about other cultures, and a desire to use my skills and experience to be a blessing to others and a witness of God’s grace and mercy. I had been inspired and challenged by the stories of many other Christians who had served cross-culturally, and I wanted to see if this could be for me too.
On my connecting flight to Central Asia, I knew I was in foreign territory when, as soon as the “fasten seat belts” sign turned off, the duty free vodka started flowing freely. I felt as if I had gate-crashed a family reunion. We landed in freezing conditions and my senses were assaulted – there was nothing familiar to grab on to. Already, my trust in God was rising exponentially; I prayed and prayed! When I finally passed through Immigration and Tom and Kara*, the American couple I had been expecting, were there waiting, I sighed with relief, ready to follow them, to listen and to learn.
During the next three weeks I participated in Tom and Kara’s everyday life. I encountered many stories of how God was using them to change the orphanage from a place of hopelessness to one of life, with love and mercy penetrating its hard walls. In all they said and did, they beautifully intertwined word and deed as they played their role in God’s great story of salvation. I also met people like Zara*, a local believer who lost her husband in a terrible “hack job” surgical operation. She worked for Tom and Kara and exemplified compassion, gentleness and faith. And while I was able to share some of my knowledge and experience, I’m sure I took away the greater share.
So it was that in that country God fanned a spark of interest into a greater desire to explore cross-cultural service. It was those experiences that would influence my future decisions and where I am today, serving God with my husband and young children in South East Asia. Through all this I can see God’s hand, His call to “Follow Me”.
Amy* is a music therapist serving in South East Asia.
*Names have been changed.