I John 4:12 “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
30,000…what a huge number! Does it pertain to the cost of a car, the cost of a year of college, the cost of a daughter’s wedding? Does it have anything to do with money? Not with money…not at all; rather, it’s lives…the lives of precious children around the world who are starving or suffering from treatable diseases. 30,000…the number of children who die daily. This is staggering and yes, oh so very costly. What can we do? What should we do? Most assuredly, get started at something. “The problem is too big.” or “I can’t comprehend that” are merely unacceptable excuses. As Christians, the love and compassion we have for all mankind is the place to start. Call up that love and compassion, focus on others, hop out of the box of personal security and step into the unknown where you will find ample opportunity to serve others. In doing so, you will experience abundant joy and fulfillment.
But be especially cautious of the “abundant joy and fulfillment” part. I constantly remind myself that my life is not about me. Honestly, it’s not! I am here to fulfill God’s purpose for my life. I am here to serve others. That is my mission. Planning is vital, but do not overthink the planning. Often, when we put too much thought into planning, those plans become our plans instead of God’s plans. Rather, meditate on His word and pray that He lead you to what He would have you do and where He would have you go. Be open and receptive; be attentive and watch as God’s plans unfold. Then, step out and go wherever He leads to do whatever He would have you do. Single-handedly providing what is needed daily for 30,000 suffering children is unrealistic, but you can serve as an integral part of the process if that is where He is leading you.
Here’s how it happened for me. My mission experience until recently was very limited…one short-term trip to Buffalo, NY with my church’s youth. That was it! I have always been in service in various capacities within my faith community, but that was the only time I stepped out of the proverbial box. So, I approach this rather sheepishly, I have to admit. Three years ago, at age 60, I mentioned to a dear friend and close sister in Christ that I felt I would be interested in a mission trip. Through her encouragement, her willingness to be involved and through the words of David Platt in his “bring-me-to-my-knees” book Radical, after prayer and meditation…I stepped off the plane in Nome, Alaska, in January no less, with my “good-to-40-below” Baffin boots in hand to serve with Alaska Missions and Retreats at the Tundra Fire Women’s Conference. I had opened my heart to God’s call….Isaiah 6:8….”Whom shall I send?” And I responded, “Send me.”
At the women’s conference I attended I was awestruck by the depth of character, wisdom, and intensity of these beautiful native Alaskan women. I listened as they shared their stories of tremendous suffering, abuse, and heartache often within their own families and villages. These encounters, both in a conference setting and in one-on-one conversations brought out in me a true compassion for their plights and a desire to reach out with a hand of comfort and encouragement and prayers. I loved being there, and soon returned for my second experience.
During the second women’s conference Harriet, an elder from Savoonga, and I reconnected and talked for nearly an hour. She told me of her family and her position in her village. She shared occasions where she had delivered babies and doctored the sick and wounded. She even invited me to come to her village. Those are the types of connections that AKMR strives to make with people in the most remote areas of the state.
Before leaving the second conference it was asked if I would consider coming to Anchorage in the summer of 2014 to serve on the cooking staff for AKMR’s summer programs. Though this would be a different experience for me I returned home from the conference, prayed, meditated, and watched as God continued to unfold his plan for me.
Alaska is such a beautiful place to be in the summer! The high temperatures were around 70 degrees, the air was crisp, the foliage was lush, the flowers, brilliant. About a month either way from the summer solstice, I enjoyed daylight well past midnight. It never really was dark, only dusky. Many friends and family would ask of my experience, “Where have you been? What have you seen?” My response was “The inside of AK Missions headquarters and their kitchens!” People are funny. When they hear “Alaska” they think vacation. Not so…this was demanding work.
Duties started at 8:00 a.m., and I was back in the apartment around 7:00 in the evening. Wednesday and Thursday evenings were time off and all day Saturday. That is if adequate preparations had been made for the next meals. I was not in the neighborhood parks giving out lunches to hungry children, entertaining them and teaching them about Jesus. I was not working on projects around the city and at the headquarters. But I helped fuel those who did. That was my role and through which God was choosing to do a work in me. This is where I discovered my joy and fulfillment.
I did venture over a few times to the Native Alaskan Medical Consortium, just so I could be among the people I have grown to love. I wanted to reach out to them in some way…as they sat in waiting rooms or wandered through the halls. Perhaps that’s a place the Lord will lead me another time. But, for this time, it was back to the kitchen.
Did everything run like clockwork with no glitches along the way? Ha…absolutely not! It was hard, tiring work but I was reminded over and over again…it’s not about me. I told myself, I am here to serve. My joy, my fulfillment, will perhaps come in the confidence that I feel when I think that with the Lord watching over me and by doing what He has called me to do, I will pull this together. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
As the summer of 2014 came to close and in preparing for departure, I reflected upon the experience..the Alaskan Adventure…not knowing what God’s plans were for my future. I shared on social media some thoughts that I’d like to include here…
“As I think about leaving The Last Frontier in just a few days, I want you to know that there are some things I am truly going to miss. One is the reason I am here…the Mission. I came to cook, to fuel the missionaries who work with Mission: Anchorage. So much has happened beyond the cooking—developing relationships with the college students and staff, making frequent trips to buy supplies, laundry, shuttling short term visitors to/from the airport and receiving whoever came through the door. I served as I was called to serve, and it wasn’t always about lunch and dinner. I am convicted that as long as the Lord opens doors for me here at Alaska Missions, I will come.”
As I reflect on the words of 1 John 4:12, I am reminded once again that when we serve as we are called to serve, the Lord will allow us to implement our unique gifts to accomplish the tasks and achieve the goals that He, in His infinite wisdom, has planned. The result will be a beautiful harmony of hearts in common. We need only to be quiet and attentive to His direction for our lives. His plans are perfect and his love will be “made complete” in us as we seek to serve him through loving others.
…a side note: I am in the process of making arrangements to return to Alaska this summer to serve again with AKMR. Please pray for all those involved, especially the children in the neighborhood parks that their lives may be touched by their experience with Mission:Anchorage and their hearts be moved by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Alaska Mission: http://akmissions.com
Kathy Miller is a retired high school English teacher from Ohio. Living in Alabama, she has served in children’s, women’s, and music ministries in her church. Mother of 3 daughters and one son, she enjoys spending time with family, especially her nine grandchildren.Image courtesy of Ian Rose/ Flickr.com