When I applied to go to Darwin on Moore College mission, I did so on a whim. My interest was real, but vague. Missionaries I have loved have ministered in the Territory and I was eager to get a taste and see if it was something to put on my bucket list. Long-term. Unformed.
Something I am learning about my life is that God knows infinitely better than I do. He did not share my whim or my vagueness. His is not the plan of someone unsure about the future.
From the moment I arrived in Darwin, with friends, at 2am, I loved it. It sounds too easy, naïve even, but I loved it in a way I have had trouble explaining since. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t love the heat, mild in May, but warm enough to warrant cold showers before bed and dripping wet hair. In the tropics, everything is kept in the fridge, and books don’t last, and vanity (mine at least) is put on hold. In spite of these facts, the place tugged immediately at my heart.
Mission can be utterly romantic, especially when you’re far from home. You worry that it is removed from all reality, meetings in swimming pools and operas in the park. When I left, I waited for it to wear off. I waited for the ache to subside, the ache of missing a place – and people – I barely knew, despite them feeling familiar from the first moments.
It didn’t subside. Those 10 days in tropical paradise were like jumping into a frigid lake, except with heat. Because it’s hot there, didya know? They shocked me awake, changed my course. And it wasn’t the palm trees or the star fruit or the night markets, but the song that my heart started to sing amongst a church family far away from my own. We spent 2 Sundays at St Pete’s, and the thought of getting to be a part of what God is doing there was thrilling from the first moment. At the time, there was no avenue for that to be anything more than a dream, but I couldn’t get it out of my head.
A lot has happened since stepping off a plane on a freezing Sydney morning, brandishing a thunder drum and peppering my conversations with ‘Darwin’ like a high-school girl with a new crush. Over the past few months there have been lots of prayers, lots of conversations, and one very exciting job ad. And throughout, an inability to shake what had taken hold in me. Banner ads in my email account, spruiking property in the NT. Walking with a friend in my year group, my roomie on college mission, as she found her path winding toward Darwin and AFES work on the uni campus there. Weekly newsletters from Josh at St Pete’s, and real talk about the challenges, about the opportunities, about the need for Jesus to be known. Last Friday, 15 minutes before college chapel, I found out what it had all been building to. In 5 months this distant dream has become my future, and I’m so grateful to God it feels as though my heart might burst.
The first person I ran into after hearing the news was my college chaplain, Ed. This is fitting, because he led the team to Darwin, and is maybe the same amount of excited I am about how this has all worked out. He is claiming the victory for Moore College Mission, under God, and so it is. I am so grateful for this precious place which presents gospel need and equips us to go and serve.
Sitting in chapel, reeling and trying not to cry from relief and joy, the sermon was about the genealogy that begins the gospel account by Matthew. I am grateful too, for these constant reminders of what this is all about. Life and college, study, love and shared meals, sore brains and possessions bundled up in storage. The truth of the gospel changes everything, radically re-orients our lives. Jesus bids broken people, ordinary people, desperate sinners to come, follow, find forgiveness. His death for my sin, and his life for my life. I am so grateful to know him. His is the name I hope to make much of, all my days.
It’s in his name I go, and it can only be. There are goodbyes which would be in danger of breaking my heart, if it weren’t for the knowledge that He is worth it. Goodbyes to my beloved Clovelly and toddlers I will never have in my Sunday School class. A limited number of Sundays left, and Tuesday nights and Friday afternoons. The fact that every part of this Sydney life is limited edition, makes me no end of nostalgic. Instead of turning inward, I am casting it on the One who cares for me. Trying to. There are goodbyes to family, those around whom my soul breathes out, in my default happy places. I don’t know how to be without them near, but I cannot doubt that God would have me go. His leading has been so kind, and so clear. And I cannot doubt that he will be my comfort and my hiding place. I don’t expect this to be easy, but I can’t wait to learn to trust him more as I am stripped of things I am tempted to close my fist around. He is so good to me, and has always been.
I am excited about this next chapter. To find my place in a new church family. To build a life and make friends and share Jesus with kids and their parents. Thank you for praying, if you have been, and I would value your prayers in an ongoing sense. Please pray that this move would be one that brings glory to God, not to me. Please pray that He will work mightily to draw people into his kingdom, and that he might see fit to find work for my hands to do, to that end. Though this is a sweet season, I do not doubt there will be difficult ones to follow. Pray I will trust him always, and love him more with each passing year, and never stop pointing people to Him.
2 Cor 5: 14-15: “For Christ’s love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If One died for all, then all died. And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised.”
Pray I might do this, under God. Alone, I am selfish and proud and I want too-small things. Praise be to God that I am not alone, and He is teaching me what it means to love him, best of all.