It’s crazy to think that a year ago today, I was in the middle of my senior year- stressed out about pretty much everything in my life. I was planning for college, applying for scholarships, and working, all while trying to keep my grades up. I had just returned from a one-week mission trip to El Salvador a couple of months beforehand, and had started feeling that God wanted me to be a medical missionary. I had this plan that I would go to Southeastern University in the Fall of 2015, major in Pre-Med/Biology with a minor in Missions, and become a medical missionary after I graduated.

12003152_884075198351238_5878437353166769309_n

As I sit here today and look back on my old plans, I think how much different my life would be if I hadn’t asked, “What if this plan I have isn’t the plan that God has?” I’ve learned that is one of the most important questions you should ask yourself. It can change your life forever.

I was born in Naperville, IL where my father was a pastor on staff at Calvary Church. It was a great place to live and the people of the church were absolutely wonderful to my family and me. We lived there until I was four years old and moved to Lakeland, FL where my father was the spiritual formation pastor at Victory Church. After that, we moved a few more times and ended up in Wisconsin where my father was one of the campus pastors for Crossroads Community Church.

Being a pastor’s kid my entire life definitely had it’s perks, but there were a lot of struggles that came along with it too. I always felt the need to be perfect and to always do the right thing. I can’t even tell you how many times I heard, “but you’re a pastor’s kid” after I did something wrong. This constant feeling of not being good enough really gave me a distasteful opinion of ministry, and I told myself that I would never be involved in a ministerial position in my life.

During my sophomore year in high school, I was in a place where I felt like I didn’t need God. I had tons of friends, a boyfriend, I was on my high school’s dance team, I had really good grades. Everything seemed to be working out for me and I felt like I could handle everything on my own. Halfway through the year, God decided that it was time for a reality check.

My dad called me into his office one day and told me about a mission trip to El Salvador that a team from our church was planning to go on. He had taken my older sister on her first mission trip and wanted to take me on mine too. He was wondering how I felt about going. I’ll be honest, I was a little less than enthused and I really didn’t even know anything about El Salvador, other than the fact that it was in Central America. Even though I had no real desire to go, I felt this tug on my heart telling me it was something I needed to do. At the time, I didn’t know who that tug was coming from, but I later discovered that it was God.

My first trip to El Salvador was a life-changer.

I never understood that not everyone lived the way I did (food on the table for every meal, a nice roof over my head, etc). I had always lived in my own little world that revolved around none other than me. God used that mission trip to wake me up and help me realize that He had a purpose for me and it didn’t involve things that the world viewed as admirable.

After I returned home from the trip, I knew I needed to change. I got rid of a lot of the things in my life that I knew God didn’t want me to be a part of and I started trying to live for Him more than myself. The very next August (before my senior year), I returned to El Salvador again for another one-week mission trip. During that trip, the mother of the little girl I sponsor asked me if I could come back and help her and the people of her country. With tears in my eyes, I said, “of course.” It was at that moment that I knew God was calling me to be a missionary.

As I stated earlier, I had a plan to attend Southeastern University in the Fall of 2015 and to become a medical missionary after I graduated. It wasn’t until this past summer that God told me He had a different plan. On July 5, 2015, I was at church in a time of prayer and worship when God put El Salvador on my heart with an even stronger passion than I had felt from my first two trips. I felt Him asking me to go back sooner rather than later. I was so confused because I thought college was what He wanted for me, but I soon discovered that that wasn’t the case.

I got home from church and my dad and I immediately researched different options for an individual mission trip. My dad came across Christ for the City International. We saw that they had a base in El Salvador, and so I emailed them requesting more information. They emailed back right away and the process began.

The thought of going against the norm and not attending college after high school was something I really struggled with. After constant prayer and waiting, I knew that going to El Salvador was what God was asking of me. Of course, I still had my doubts, but I knew that God was testing my faith in Him and that I needed to go through with what I was being asked.

I applied to CFCI as a short-term missionary, got accepted, and bought the plane ticket to El Salvador three and a half weeks before I was set to arrive there. I still needed support funds and I was pretty nervous that I wouldn’t receive enough money in time for my trip, but God came through. Within three days of posting a gofundme site, a family that I’m very close to sent me the exact amount that I needed to have before I would need the rest of the money. When I thanked them, they said, “It was the amount God asked us to give to you.” If that isn’t confirmation, I don’t know what is.

Even with that sure sign of confirmation, I was still completely terrified to actually travel alone to another country and live and work with people I had never met. I tried so hard to be strong, but couldn’t. It wasn’t until I admitted that I couldn’t do it by myself that God stepped in and told me He was there to help me.

September 1, 2015 finally rolled around and it was travelling day. It was my first international flight alone and I can honestly say that I never actually felt alone. God kept His promise and was with me the whole time – not only for the travelling day, but for every day after that.

I was in El Salvador for one month (even though it only felt like six days) and it was the best month of my life. I was able to see what the life of a missionary is really like, and my eyes were opened to the reality of El Salvador. Every day I got to work with the most incredible people I’ve ever known and it truly was amazing. I helped the teachers with their classes (including the English classes where the other short-termer and I got to teach twice a week), I helped Mama Betty in the kitchen, and I got to help one of the missionaries with these amazing youth kids at one of the youth centers. It was so amazing to get to work with the same people day after day, because it allowed me to build relationships with the people of El Salvador, which is a huge part of what missions is about. If I could change one thing about my trip to El Salvador through CFCI it would be the duration (I would’ve stayed longer!!).

12034186_896282613797163_439276199121390207_o 11990461_884103925015032_8987215644791701735_n 11947729_883310508427707_1319319751635759403_o

I can’t even begin to express how thankful I am to God and CFCI for that trip. God showed me that He is indeed calling me to missions and I am so excited. I no longer feel called to be a medical missionary, however, I am 100% positive that missions is my calling.

Looking back, I’m beyond amazed by God and how He works things out. I had originally planned to be in college this year, and now I’ve just gotten back from the most amazing experience of my life, and I’m in the beginning stages of applying to become a long-term missionary. How amazing is that?

If you are feeling a tug on your heart to go to another country and try out the mission field, I strongly encourage you to do it. That tug is from God and it is something that should not be ignored. Christ for the City International is an absolutely wonderful organization and they would be happy to help you in finding your calling and discovering your purpose in God’s kingdom. Whether God is calling you for a week or for a lifetime, you can play a huge part in what God is doing if you just say “Here I am, send me.” Who knows, maybe a year from now you’ll look back on this exact day and thank God for the change He made in your life.

Thanks so much for reading! I pray that God gives you the courage to follow after His dreams for your life.

Blessings in Christ,

Kristen

12046933_896282593797165_2800801503677734765_n