When I became a Christian almost 30 years ago, I was as enthusiastic as a new puppy, jumping on everyone who crossed my threshold, eager to tell them about Jesus. I soon met two missionaries on furlough who were even more excited about sharing the gospel than I was, and my future flashed before me: I, too, would become a missionary to Indonesia!
I figured if I threw myself at the mercy of a missionary board, they'd happily take me, right? After all, look at what I had to offer:
- I'd been a Christian six whole months, after a wild and woolly decade as a Bad Girl.
- I knew three verses of Scripture (and even had them memorized by heart!).
- I had no husband, no college degree at the time, and no clue where Indonesia was on the map. But my new friends had been there. Surely I could go, too.
Herb, the director of the missionary board, was very kind. He listened, nodded, smiled. And then he said the last thing I expected: "I'm sorry, Liz. But no."
"No?!" I was crushed. I thought if you offered to live in a jungle hut and eat beetles, they'd say, "Yes, yes! Sign here." But not Herb.
"Liz, for that particular mission field, we prefer to send married couples rather than single women for security reasons," he explained. "Plus, you'd need to finish your college degree and take extensive Bible and missions classes as well."
"I see " The hurdles were stacking up quickly.
"Then there's language school," he cautioned, "and months of learning the Indonesian culture." He paused, seeing my crestfallen expression. "The thing is, Liz, you're already well versed in a culture most Christians know little about."
I gulped. "Are we talkin' sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll?"
"Bingo. Remember what happened when the woman at the well met Jesus? She went back to the town where everyone knew her sordid story and shared the Good News. That's what you need to do, Liz."
"You mean go back to the people I work with, in my own city?" My cheeks grew hot even thinking about it. "The people I partied with those people?" I could feel Indonesia slipping away from me, as the faces of people I knewpeople who knew waaay too much about mequickly came to mind. People as lost and confused as I'd once been. People who needed to know about Jesus.
"God will take care of Indonesia," Herb assured me, placing a gentle hand on my shoulder as he escorted me to the door. "Go back home and tell your story, Liz."
I wrapped my dreams of Indonesia in imaginary tissue paper and tucked them in a corner of my heart, then returned to my workplacea secular radio stationand told my story with joy and abandon. No jungle, no hut, no beetles, yet a mission field for which I was already well trained and highly qualified, simply because I spoke their language. And because I loved them.
Soon one coworker came to know Jesus. Then another. Then a third.
Who knew? Herb knew. So did God.
But here's the rest of the story, the proof that no heartfelt desire goes unnoticed by our loving Lord. One summer, 20 years after my no-go with the missionary board, I was standing in my publisher's booth at the Christian Booksellers Association International Convention. Rob, the fella in charge of selling international rights, pulled me aside and said, "Liz, please meet Yani with World Harvest."
Before me stood a tiny woman with thick, black hair and a huge smile. "Hello, Liz," she said with a lilting accent. "I'm in the process of translating your three Bad Girls of the Bible books."
"How wonderful!" I beamed back at her. "And what language might that be?"
Oh, Lord. You're too good for words.
Liz Curtis Higgs is the author of numerous books, including Mine Is the Night (WaterBrook Press). She lives with her family in Kentucky.