Katie Roukes, 2016 graduate serving in Tanzania
I don’t know when my fascination with Africa started. Maybe it was the Born Free re-runs that my grandparents recorded on VHS tapes or the colorful missionary presentations at church. Maybe God put it in my heart long before then.
Regardless, ever since I can remember, I’ve felt drawn to Africa. I hesitated to label it “a call” because I was so young – and I’d never stepped foot on the continent – but I wondered how God would use that desire in the future. Coming to Bob Jones as a nursing student in 2012, I investigated the summer missions teams. There it was! The Africa team. This was my chance! Interview with Dr. Olinger? Check. Draft of support letter? Check.
To my chagrin, however, God closed the door on Africa that summer. Instead, He sent me to Arequipa, Peru on a whirlwind medical missions trip that sparked my love for medical work in the international arena.
Skipping ahead to the following summer, I remember praying for an opportunity to spend the summer in Africa, preferably in some type of medical work. Through a series of details that included everything from a poster in my dorm to my roommate’s fiancé, God paved the way to Cameroon, West Africa, where I shadowed veteran missionary nurse Ellen Doyle for three whole months.
With stunning tropical scenery, flamboyant styles of dress, intriguing languages, and vibrant people, I was enthralled with all the delights of a brief exposure trip. Below the superficial fascination, however, a peace flooded my soul saying, “This is exactly where you’re supposed to be.”
Over and over again in those three months, through conversations and experiences, God confirmed in my heart that (a) I wanted to work in medical missions, and (b) Africa was where I wanted to serve in the future. When? How? In what capacity? I had no idea. But I knew I would come back someday.
After completing my nursing degree at Bob Jones University in 2016, I worked on a Medical/Surgical floor in Greenville for a year, gaining experience and intending to pursue graduate school before once again exploring international options. But, in late July 2017, a text from a dear friend changed everything: “What do you think about going to Africa on a short-term trip?” An orphanage had a need for a temporary position that was undefined in length and needed to be filled ASAP.
Although I initially hesitated because it was not a nursing position, the more I prayed about it, the more I realized how perfectly timed it was. Everything fell into place. The leases on my apartment and car were ending in the next two months. I was finishing my first year at my current job and wondering what was best to pursue next. There was nothing holding me back. I could literally pick up and go. A couple weeks, some phone calls, and multiple emails later, I was preparing to leave the country to work at Tumaini Children’s Home in Tanzania, East Africa for up to a year.
And that’s the story of how God brought me here to Tumaini! Here I am, five months later, living with fifty-five rough-and-tumble kiddos/teenagers aged six to twenty and the wonderful staff that cares for them. My role is generally defined as a volunteer (because Assistant-to-the-Assistant Director, Self-appointed Librarian/Book-Binder, Bandager of Boo-boos, and Professional Child Wrangler sounds too pretentious).
Daily life includes everything from housework and office projects during the day to helping with homework and reprimanding hooligans in the evening. No, I’m not working as a nurse. But I’m learning to speak Swahili, to assimilate into a completely different culture, to build relationships across cultural barriers, and to live day-to-day village life in Africa. I’m learning about the diseases/health challenges faced on a daily basis as well as the medical tactics and resources available in third world settings. I don’t know exactly how God will use all of those skills in the future, but I am confident that He will.
So, what about you? Maybe you’re praying about short-term opportunities over the summer. Maybe you’re about to graduate and are wondering what’s next. Maybe you’re heading into a full-time job and haven’t really given missions much thought before. Whatever the case, don’t be afraid to step out in faith.
Has God given you a burden for a specific place? People? Work? Pursue opportunities to act on it! Whether teaching missionary kids in Cambodia, managing a preschool in Iraq, or volunteering at a medical clinic in Togo, the opportunities to serve are as diverse as the people who pursue them.
Ask God where He wants you, explore all the possibilities, and follow Him as He opens the doors for you to serve – wherever in the world that may be.
Katie Roukes is a 2016 graduate of Bob Jones University with a nursing degree. She currently serves at Tumaini Children's Home outside Mwanza, Tanzania.
Jennifer McPhail, Cambodia
I was a small-town girl happy serving in a quiet, country church with my family, and that is how I envisioned my starry future. But what inspired me? Daring acts of faith or testimonies of miraculous provision for a need gave me chills. I could not hold back tears when I heard stories of lives redeemed and transformed by saving grace. I was a young woman clinging with one hand to a picturesque life like I had grown up with, yet longing to reach for the unknown, the uncertain, where God’s hand is clearly seen.
Little by little, finger by finger, God gave grace to open my hand and “let goods and kindred go” to move halfway around the world with my husband and baby. That was more than seventeen years ago, and I have to say there have been many times that I realized I was holding on to some temporal, transient thing I did not want God to take.
Maybe you have the same inner war, yearning to risk it all to serve the Savior you are learning to love more and more, but still clinging to the safe and certain. Maybe your passion for Christ and the Gospel has spurred you to look at your global opportunities.
Maybe when you read Christ’s words calling for denying self, taking up your cross, and following Him, you tremble like you are scared or excited, or both. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it,” our Lord continues in Mark 8:35. In strange paradox, He calls us to let go of this life so we can have something far better, the life He gives.
But how do we relax our often white-knuckled grasp? Or how do we even know when what we are holding on to is a weight we need to set aside? What can we do to be ready to reach out for the adventure He wants us to have, whether at home or on foreign soil?
It is true that at times God will wrestle a treasure out of our childish fist, and then we tearfully bring our grief and our loss to Him in surrender. Today, though, let’s simply consider how to loosen our grip in three areas so we can let go as He leads us to.
Loosening my grip on my “likes”
Our individualistic culture encourages us to define ourselves by what we like, as well as by how many “likes” we get for what we like. From the time we were tiny tots, we’ve been asked,
“What is your favorite color?”
“What do you want for your birthday?”
“What’s on your bucket list?”
“Do you collect anything?”
“What music group or actor do you follow?”
“What is your favorite hobby? Sport?”
We learned to answer the questions in a way that declares who we are by what we enjoy. But what are the things that should determine our identity? Can I be too narrow and even confined in a box by my likes and dislikes? Perhaps our self-life has been promoted by the world around us and needs a demotion. We could expand our likes to include the whole color spectrum or every wholesome thing that comes our way. It can change the way we look at food. People. Events.
In this case, loosening my grip on what I like to do and have has helped me enjoy so much more of God’s world, like Cambodian cuisine. I don’t have to carry a bunch of stuff around with me, because there is more to enjoy everywhere God takes me. I have freedom to grow and change as new opportunities develop, because I am not who I am because of a defined set of preferences set in stone.
Loosening my grip on my security
Let’s face it. Most of us girls are not daredevils. I loved depending on my dad, and I love depending on my husband. I am also an introvert, loving those “me times.” So when I tell you that I get up most mornings and drive a moped in nonsensical traffic to the market to buy the day’s food and talk to the women there, you must understand that there has been a big letting go to get to this point.
Right now, you may feel insecure just giving a testimony in a group or sharing Christ on your summer job. I don’t know what terrifies you, but often we have something we find security in that we don’t want to let go of. Privacy, finances, relationships, or even phobias can all be things that hold us back from considering a Gospel-focused direction of life.
Loosening my grip on my dreams
What do you aspire to do and be? We all have dreams, and the world around us is constantly whispering its mantra, “Dream big. You can do anything you believe you can. Believe in yourself. Follow your heart.”
When we step out on faith, we lay aside many of our own plans and designs for life. Peter probably wanted to be the best fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus called him to feed His lambs and fish for men. Did Peter lose his dreams?
I envisioned myself changing the world through writing books. I had my husband and my life planned out. During my college years, the Lord challenged me to lay aside every plan I had made in pride and ambition. Since then, He has given more than He ever took away. His plans are breathtaking!
After the rich young man sadly walked away from Jesus, Peter remarks,
“Well, we left everything to follow you.”
When Jesus answers him in Mark 10:29-31, every question you may have about what will happen when you loosen your grip is answered. Sisters, this is not asceticism! We are reaching forward to a fuller enjoyment of the greatest adventure, following Christ.
Dr. Joy Anglea, medical missionary with Baptist Mid-Missions
What first comes to your mind when you hear the phrase “single missionary”? Is it Amy Carmichael, David Brainerd, Mary Slessor, Wilfred Grenfell, Gladys Aylward, Henry Martyn, or maybe even the Apostle Paul? I’d guess not. All too often our first thoughts might be challenges, loneliness, solo support-raising, tough decision-making, traveling alone, or even a very hard life.
Think about it for a minute. We rarely put the word “single” in front of other work titles, like “single nurse,” “single teacher,” “single accountant,” or “single businessman.” But adding “single” to “missionary” seems to conjure up something different in our minds—as if serving the Lord single is much more difficult than, say, serving married with several children.
The Apostle Paul didn’t seem to think that. Nor did Hudson Taylor, since he recruited both single and married volunteers for his early work, penetrating the unreached regions of China for Christ. He apparently realized that singles could be sent into regions with less educational resources and health care for children, and with fewer support dollars from home. Not that this made them any whit better, of course, but it did validate their usefulness on the mission field.
When Christ asks us to follow Him, He asks us to lay it all on the line, to be “all in” for Him. The invitation is not based on gender or marital status, academic prowess, personality, or talent. In fact, Jesus told His disciples that he rewards those who leave “house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for [His] sake, and the gospel’s…” (Mark 10:29-30) Relationships, including a marital one, may be part of the package of sacrifices we’re asked to accept in order to serve the Lord as a single missionary, but all missionaries make sacrifices—just the packages are different.
While none of us deserve it, the benefit package more than makes up for those sacrifices. The same passage states that Christ gives back by one hundred times. We sacrifice for love of Him, and He gives back for love of us.
So when I think of “single missionary,” I think mostly of one word: opportunities!
Opportunities to make the most of your life, to give your all to Him, and to see how He can—and will—use you. His goal and passionate desire is to reach as many people as possible with His love and truth, and marriage is (thankfully) not a prerequisite for engaging in that magnificent endeavor. If you’re single, you shouldn’t make marriage a prerequisite, either.
In fact, some of the most content and fulfilled people I know are veteran single missionaries. They didn’t specifically seek contentment and fulfillment, but they found it on the path of obedience and service. They invested their lives in something much bigger than themselves, and God used and blessed them.
The psalmist says that He opens His hand and satisfies our desires (Psalm 145: 16). If He calls you into missions, don’t let fear stop you. Don’t let anything stop you. He will meet your needs and satisfy your desires. Give your singleness to Him, and He’ll take care of it. After all, Christ really does understand singleness.
The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.