By Ann Chen
For most of my life, the thought of going overseas as a missionary was practically non-existent. While I admired those that were “doing God’s work” in foreign lands, it just seemed a little too much out of my comfort zone.
I was a person that liked to play it safe. Decisions that I made about my life, including school choices, career, relationships and ministry roles were driven by my need to take care of myself. I was willing to try new things, but only if I knew that in failing, there was something to fall back on.
Despite having grown up as a Christian, the reality was that I didn’t trust God and I was uncertain of His love for me. As a young child, I went through some experiences that left me wounded and hurt emotionally. I made a decision in my young age that I needed to take care of myself, since those that were supposed to take care of me and protect me didn’t do so. This applied not just to those in authority, but to God as well. What I deemed as independence was really self-protection because I was afraid that if I lost control, nobody would be there to catch me.
In my twenties, as I began to travel to Asia on some short-term trips, I began to find my heart being awakened to the nations. Something was stirring, but I still resisted. The idea of moving to another country and living there was daunting. Fear, and even guilt, gripped me. I didn’t feel I had enough in me to sacrifice like that. I wasn’t strong enough, and there wasn’t enough safety in that choice.
But God was ever so gentle in His calling. He never ever asked me to do more than I could handle, and invited me just one little step at a time. In the beginning, rather than asking me all at once to sell everything and move overseas, He would challenge me to take a class or to meet up with people to pray. And as I stepped out to risk, God was there. I didn’t fall, so the next step became even easier. Each risk I took, I discovered a deeper level of God’s healing and His love for me. I finally began to know that God was dependable, and that God loved me.
When the invitation came from God to move to Malawi, there was no more hesitation in my heart, and no more fear. Also, there was no doubt that God would take care of me, even though I had nothing else to back me up. Because of his faithfulness with me in each step, I had come to know that God only has good for me on the other side of stepping out.
It was in God’s invitation to proclaim the gospel to the nations that I experienced the gospel myself. I used to think that those who went overseas were the ones brave and faithful enough to sacrifice everything to go. As I’ve gone through the journey, however, I realize now that God has been using this journey to woo me with His love. All along, it has never been about me being faithful to God, but rather about Him being faithful to me.
I realize now that the invitation God gives us is never one of fear and risk, but of love and safety. It is worth it to step out and trust Him. I’m so grateful that it has taken this journey towards becoming an overseas missionary to realize that God is good and that I am truly safest when I’m following Him.
Ann Chen is an International Staff member with Epicentre Church and a student at Fuller Theological Seminary finishing up her degree in Intercultural Studies. She will be serving in Malawi beginning in May, doing church planting amongst the Yao. Ann has a BA in Urban Studies & Planning from UCSD, a Master’s in Education, and six years’ experience teaching middle school.