In my early 20s, I took several mission trips with like-minded friends. The very first one, we were given two destinations to choose—- Thailand or Kazakstan. Our leader told us upfront that we can pray about it and make a choice. However, taking consideration of the size of the teams, our preferences couldn’t be guaranteed. I gladly chose Thailand—-not that I had a particular burden for the Thai people, but because as a girl growing up in an inland city, I’d been eager to see the ocean for the first time. And I thought the Thailand trip would be the chance to make my dream come true. On the other hand, Kazakstan, to me, felt remote and backward that wasn’t interesting at all (I’ve no idea why I thought that way).
Several days after we handed over our choices, the final arrangement of the teams came out. To my surprise, my name was on the Kazakhstan team. I was distraught. My leader, in all his gentleness, explained to me that the Thailand team got more people, and they had to adjust. They prayed about it and felt led to switch me.
Having left that conversation, I held up my disappointment to God and asked him, “why me?”. Nothing seemed to make any sense.
The following days of the preparation for the trip, I was half-hearted. I wasn’t excited nor looking forward to it. I was so caught up in my preconceived idea of the place we were going to and unwilling to let go of my preference.
The girl of little faith, the girl preferred to be served than to give herself to serve, ended up being captivated by the beauty of the places on that trip and humbled by the people she met along the way. The trip she didn’t want to have anything business with, turned out to be one of the best trips she ever took.
I had the fondest memories walking on the streets of Almaty and praying for the people we met, sharing our faith with university students over homemade meals, worshiping the Lord in the big old house we stayed with our host and other guests, and of course, savoring the most delicious Kebab and lamb stew. My friendship with my teammates had taken deep roots and continued blossom until today. Kazakhstan was nothing like I had imagined. The city Almaty was casual and sophisticated, with many Russian- European look architectures and city parks, which I love. It’s also fun to hear the sound of Kazakh and Russian around me, the two official languages of the country.
I loved our time in Kazakhstan. If it had been up to me, I would have missed all these. Like a child demands candies, I had held onto my little desire for seeing the ocean as if it’s the only chance for me. But God knew better. What if the naive, half-hearted girl had known that she would live by the Mediterranean Sea in a coastal town in Spain for two years later in life, and had countless opportunities to immerse herself in her dream ocean? She would have been cheered up, be more present, and engaging. She would have been a more useful team player for the Kazakhstan trip.
However, she didn’t know it. She didn’t know what the future held. But she did know that it’s not a random thing she got left out her dream team. It’s a God thing. She didn’t immediately surrender to what God’s doing, for she didn’t quickly understand. Now she knows it would have been wiser if she had just chosen to yield to God’s way without understanding why. Surrender, trusting God’s goodness and His leading, with a sweet attitude.
Years after the first glancing of the European styled architectures and streets view in Almaty, I moved to the land of Europe, whose history, culture, and beauty I deeply admire. I have lived in Spain for two years and Switzerland for six, improved my English and learned French, married and become a mom to two littles. The near future looks somewhat uncertain. My husband may find a job in another country, and we might leave Switzerland. I have a mixed feeling about this. However, I remembered the Kazakhstan trip story I just shared with you, and the lesson I learned. Upon the coming future, no matter what it will look like, I have made my decision—- surrender to God’s way.
Dear reader, do you feel upset or anxious about something today? Chances are there may be something that you still hold on to yourself. You think it should be a certain way, but it might not be the best way through God’s eyes. His way is always loving and better. May I suggest that you lay it down before the Lord, and take the heart gesture of trusting and surrender? Let me assure you— you will find more life in surrender.
Jesus said to all of his followers, “If you truly desire to be my disciple, you must disown your life completely, embrace my ‘cross’ as your own, and surrender to my ways. For if you choose self-sacrifice, giving up your lives for my glory, you will embark on a discovery of more and more of true life. But if you choose to keep your lives for yourselves, you will lose what you try to keep. (Luke 9: 23-24 TPT)