Equipped Part 1: Called to Cambodia

Equipped is a new three-part series of blog posts from our media intern, Dan, looking at how God shapes and equips us to do his will, using ordinary people to share the good news of Jesus at home and overseas.

Joelle Kenny thought she wasn’t good enough to be a Christian, let alone a missionary.

Like many of us, she didn’t feel like she had it all together and was struggling to work out what to do with her life.

Eventually Joelle did become a Christian, but instead of waiting around for God to reveal what he wanted her to do, she picked something she liked to do and did it.

She started out as an art teacher, pursuing this passion first to India and then to Cambodia.

During this time, she grew in her faith and God’s calling for the next phase of her life became clear.

Discovering the call

Initially intending to teach for a year in Cambodia, Joelle ended up staying for three years. Whilst there, she made good friends at a local Cambodian church and saw a whole family come to faith through a weekly Bible study she led with a translator.

Through that Bible study Joelle had discovered a new passion: ‘I just remember thinking, do you know what, I can’t think of anything better to do with the rest of my life than teach the Bible to Cambodians,’ she told us on episode one of the Serve Asia podcast.

Joelle returned to the UK and shared the idea of serving long-term in Cambodia with her church. They were supportive and so she spent the next three years at Bible college preparing to return.

Following the call

God’s will had become clear and been confirmed. She was all set to go. Exciting, right? This is the kind of clear calling we’re all dreaming of.

Except it wasn’t all straightforward. In her new book, The Life I Now Live, Joelle writes that she suddenly got ‘cold feet’ and started to question whether returning to Cambodia was ‘a huge mistake’ (p. 43). She was settled in the UK again, with good friends and family around her.

Ultimately, she saw ‘God had miraculously provided all that [she] had needed to return to Cambodia as a missionary’ (43). It wasn’t easy to follow the call, but it was clearly right.

Following God’s call doesn’t look like only doing a narrow set of things we want to do either. Some of the things Joelle’s done have been unexpected.

For her first two years in the Ratanakiri province, she ‘had the unexpected privilege of sharing [her] house with a radio project called “Source of Life”’ (61). This show is broadcast in three local languages and has reached some of the most remote tribes in the area with the gospel, who would otherwise be hard to go and share Jesus with.

This isn’t necessarily what Joelle set out to do, but she was willing to adapt and be flexible. She wasn’t in the limelight, taking the lead as a missionary. Much better than that, she was supporting local Christians sharing the good news themselves.

The most important thing was that supporting this ministry was another way of following her passion – and God’s call – to share the gospel with Cambodians.

Resisting the call

Following that call hasn’t always been so convenient though. Like Jonah in the Bible, and perhaps like some of us, Joelle’s sometimes found herself resisting God’s call.

She didn’t initially see herself serving in a remote place like Ratanakiri, nor becoming a youth worker as she did once she was there. She was resistant to both ideas.

When she was asked to give her house as a dormitory for schoolgirls, she went to God with her list of objections. ‘Do you really mean for me to surrender everything?’ she asked him (83).

After some gentle reminders from God about what serving him means, she agreed to host the dorm and rely on his strength for the challenges it would bring.

Equipped for the call

If you’re anything like me, you might sit around waiting for a sudden revelation of God’s will. You hope it will conveniently align with your dreams and life from that point will be easy.

Joelle’s story shows us something different.

We don’t need to sit around waiting – we can get on with doing what we enjoy and are good at. God has made us all with specific skills, interests, and dreams that he can use for his purposes.

But over time we also need to be listening out for God’s leading. Joelle first realised his call because she’d found something new she enjoyed: teaching the Bible to Cambodians.

Our call can be confirmed in pretty ordinary ways, although following it won’t always be fun or easy.

Yet if we’re willing to obey God’s call, we’ll look back and see how he has uniquely shaped and equipped us for what he leads us to do.

‘Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.’ (Proverbs 19:21)

What next?

Discover more

See where you could use your skills to serve God overseas:

Hear more

Listen to Joelle’s interview on the Serve Asia podcast:

Read more

Joelle’s new book, The Life I Now Live, is just £2.99 from 10ofThose:

Look out for part 2 in the Equipped series, where we’ll take a look at a calling we all have in common no matter where in the world we are.

Dan graduated with a Liberal Arts degree in 2020, and will spend the rest of his days explaining what Liberal Arts is (‘humanities pick and mix’ is his favoured description). He came to OMF (UK) for a media internship in September 2021. He loves tennis, books and caramel, and hopes to find work in publishing or writing in the future.

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