Is Everyone Called Overseas?
What happens when you want to be an overseas missionary but the kingdom work God wants from you is at home? Karena faced the disappointment and guilt of staying behind when others were going overseas.
6 Minute Read
By Karena Bost
As a child who was raised in the 80s, Indiana Jones was the hero of choice for many, but not for me. Being a pastor’s kid, I was raised on missionary biographies and could think of no greater role model than the likes of Hudson Taylor and Amy Carmichael. Sure, Indiana Jones had adventure and treasure, but Amy Carmichael’s work was making an eternal difference in the lives of so many (plus she had plenty of adventure, and far better treasure).
I was amazed by the impact of a single willing soul, and I could not wait to be one of them. From those early moments, I relentlessly pleaded with my parents to sell all we owned and move overseas to be missionaries. My persistence paid off. When I was 18 my parents did move overseas, just without me. I was confused and hurt. How could I have been so wrong? Wasn’t God calling me to go to the unreached?
Eventually, I did find myself investing in God’s kingdom work in unreached areas of the world; it just didn’t look anything like I thought it would. As I look back, I see God’s hand in my journey and can attest that the story God writes for us is far better than anything we could write for ourselves.
Discovering the World
The summer before I started the 7th grade I had the opportunity to take a trip with Teen Missions International to New Zealand and Australia to help paint a church and do local outreach. I recognize now that the physical work we did was not the true value of that trip. The real value was being exposed to the world God created, the kingdom work that needs to be done and gaining a heart for the lost.
Having grown up with such amazing missionary biographies, I knew there was a big world with a lot of unreached people. Yet I didn’t understand the challenges, the spiritual warfare, the resistance and ultimately the need. But there I was, a geeky 12-year-old experiencing part of the world that God had created and meeting people who desperately needed to know the love of the Father. For the first time in my life I began to understand the weight of the task at hand.
Waiting (Impatiently) For the call
I came back from that trip, and I was hooked. Two summers later, I was on another placement with Teen Missions International, and that desire to sell everything and move overseas only intensified. So it was hard when I neared the end of high school and watched my parents move overseas. I felt like they were living out my calling, but I reassured myself, knowing that I had to be next.
Those first years of adulthood were discouraging. I found myself impatiently waiting for that call to go. At one point, I even tried to force my way overseas. Shortly after that I began to feel that not only was that door closed, it was slammed shut. Disappointment soon took over, and I convinced myself that missions was not for me.
It wasn’t until I started working for OMF in Denver, Colorado, in 2014 (12 long years after my parents moved overseas) that God began to reveal his plan for me.
My Lightbulb Moment
As the OMF (U.S.) Administrative Assistant for Serve Asia, my days were filled with talking to people interested in overseas opportunities, working out logistics for our trainings and other tasks that helped our short-term workers make it to East Asia. One day, I was given the chance to share my missions journey with a coworker. In response to the part about my begging my parents to go overseas, she smiled at me and said, “Look at that; you were mobilizing your parents to go before you even knew what mobilizing was.”
That simple comment turned on a light that I had turned off a long time ago.
Was it possible that the desire and urgency I had to reach the lost had not actually been a calling to go, but to send? As I processed this, I felt several puzzle pieces fall into place.
In that moment I realized that God had indeed equipped me for reaching non-Christians, just not in the way I had assumed. I can see how God had orchestrated the path of my life and heart to be a mobilizer, but it took a few simple words from someone else to open my eyes.
Surrendering My Own Desires
There was no question that I had surrendered my life to God, but had I surrendered my desires? As I reflected on the journey that God had uniquely laid out for me, I was surprised at how easily I had dismissed it by inserting my own expectations.
For example, I knew God was calling me overseas and that my life would be lived in some remote village sharing the love of Christ with the lost. But I was wrong. I had put my ideas and visions of how we reach the lost into this pretty little box labeled GO, and failed to explore God’s desires for how I should live out the burden he placed on my heart.
I wanted to be part of the work of God, but I had made the work of God about what I wanted–and not about what He wanted. I saw firsthand how easily we can be blinded or distracted by our own eagerness such that we fail to surrender our desires, even if they are good.
God’s Calling On Our Lives
We need to remember that God is calling us to follow him in his pursuit of the lost. Yes, sometimes this looks like lifelong service in a remote village overseas, but sometimes it looks like staying where you are and using the skillset God has given you.
Sometimes it looks like praying with dedication and conviction for a specific unreached people group. Or using the finances God has blessed you with to support those on the field. Sometimes it looks like connecting with the neighbor who is a refugee, listening to their stories, and becoming their friend. For me, it was relying on God as he challenged me outside of what I was expecting and moving me forward eagerly to mobilize and disciple short-term workers.
Each one of us is on a unique journey with God. My journey started with a few missionary biographies and a short-term placement that opened my eyes to the desperate need of the lost. Do you know what God is calling you to in your journey?
“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can then hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”” -Romans 10:14-15
Karena served as the Serve Asia Administrative Assistant for OMF (U.S.). She lives in Littleton, CO, with her husband and three kids. She can often be found on the sidelines of youth sporting events cheering on her kids or in the mountains soaking up God’s creation.