By Mandi Burgess
Be still and know. These are words I have heard often in my life.
Growing up in the church, I was reminded on a regular basis that I need to be quiet to hear God’s words, to hear what He is saying to me. But I know for a fact that you don’t always have to be so still.
I have had a couple of instances where God has spoken very loudly to me and made His wishes known, even when I tried to run away. The first time, I was a little bit like Jonah; I did not want to comply, so I ran. The thing I found about God is He knows all the hiding spots. So, when I heard Him call out to me the second time, I immediately did His bidding.
More recently, I was ready to lace up my running shoes again when God called me; this time to the mission field in Guatemala.
Please, try not to judge me when I tell you how I used to feel about missions. I won’t use the word “hate,” but I have very, very strongly disliked mission work most of my life. Because of how mission work had always been presented to me, I saw it as trying to save the world by passing out tracts to unsuspecting people. Not only did the thought seem overwhelming and unhelpful, it seemed incredibly unappealing. I disliked it so much that, when I moved to a new city years ago, I purposely made the decision to not join any church I thought was too “mission oriented.” I simply didn’t want to hear about all their “good works.”
So, when I was working hard, sweating all my troubles away on an elliptical machine, listening to my secular music and singing as loudly as possible in my head one day in 2013, you can imagine my surprise when, out of nowhere, everything got eerily quiet and I heard a voice say, “Mandi, it’s time for you to do some mission work…in another country.”
Have I mentioned that God works in mysterious ways?
It still amazes me that I didn’t fall off the machine right then and there. I was shocked. Talk about stepping out of my comfort zone. Not only was I just told to do mission work, but I was told to go and do it in another country where I would not know the language.
I thought that, maybe, my workout had been so awesome that I had entered into another dimension and just hallucinated the whole thing. But, God reinforced His message to me a few days later when my pastor stood up that Sunday and said he was building a team to do mission work in Guatemala.
I was terrified; but, in the coming days and months, I would know the peace God speaks of when He says, “Be still and know.” I had immediate peace the moment I made my first financial commitment. I had immediate peace when I met my team members who would be going with me. I had immediate peace while serving God in Guatemala.
It was a time that has forever changed me. God opened my eyes to what mission work is truly about. It’s not just about sharing God with our neighbors, but showing who God is by helping and loving as God has asked us to do. It’s not one-sided and just about me giving to another; it’s also about me receiving what the other person has to give. It’s about opening our hearts to see God through these people in need, which helps us grow closer to Him.
I encountered such kind hearts on my journey to understanding what missions are all about. The children truly opened my eyes to kindness and love. They gave and shared without a thought to their own comfort or hunger. They loved their neighbors unconditionally and looked out for them. I found great peace on that trip. It opened my eyes and my heart. It also showed me that I don’t have to go far to love my neighbor.
I will forever be grateful for the eye-opening and educational trip. I will always have a special place in my heart for my team members who allowed me to grow within a place that was out of all of our comfort zones. I now sing a different tune about mission work. I think it’s pretty great, and I look forward to finding different ways I can share God’s love, whether here or 1,000 miles away from here.
I have also learned that, while it is good to be still and know, God finds a way to make His presence known and to get His message across, whether I am running and tuned in to my iPod or sitting and tuned in to Him.