ASI Conventions

Keynote: Maria Kennedy

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript



Series Code: ASIC

Program Code: ASIC180008A

00:01 Music...
00:19 It is my honor to introduce to you this morning the Speaker.
00:23 Maria Kennedy was born and raised
00:26 in the United States of America
00:28 and yet finds herself as a missionary, a wife and a mother
00:31 in the country of Thailand.
00:33 Just like us, she hasn't gone through this life
00:36 without receiving some knocks and stabs and wounds
00:40 which has led her on an unusual journey
00:42 and her testimony this morning is to uplift our great God
00:46 and give Him all praise and glory
00:48 for being in the unusual business
00:50 of being in hot pursuit of us to heal and bind up our wounds.
00:55 Please give an open ear and an open heart
00:59 to hear what the Spirit of God has to say to you this morning.
01:01 Thank you.
01:05 Pause...
01:14 Music...
01:24 When I am weak,
01:27 You carried every burden
01:31 When I'm alone,
01:34 You're just a breath away
01:39 When I am restless,
01:43 You're the One who stills me
01:47 And when I fail,
01:49 You always stay the same.
01:54 In You alone,
01:57 I'm lifted up to heaven
02:02 In You alone,
02:05 I soar on borrowed wings
02:09 When I reach the end,
02:13 You are just beginning
02:17 In You alone,
02:21 I have all that I need.
02:25 When I am lost,
02:29 You rescue me from danger
02:34 And when I fail,
02:37 You pick me up again
02:41 When I resist,
02:44 You love past my defenses
02:49 And though I stray,
02:52 You're faithful to the end.
02:56 In You alone,
03:00 I'm lifted up to heaven
03:04 In You alone,
03:07 I soar on borrowed wings
03:11 When I reach the end,
03:15 You are just beginning
03:20 In You alone,
03:23 I have all that I need.
03:28 In You alone
03:35 I soar on borrowed wings
03:42 When I reach the end,
03:50 You are just beginning
03:58 In You alone,
04:05 In You alone.
04:12 Piano.
04:18 Pause.
04:24 Today, I want to share with you about how God has shaped my life
04:30 through mission work.
04:31 This is a story you probably
04:35 don't often hear,
04:36 it probably sounds a little self-centered right?
04:38 I think for the most part,
04:41 we think of mission work as something that...
04:44 is supposed to be all about the impact we have on other people
04:48 rather than about us usually
04:51 but I fully believe that God does ordain and command us
04:56 to serve and share the gospel with others
04:59 and by His grace, we will have an impact on their lives,
05:02 but really what I've seen again and again is that
05:07 doing God's work usually has a far greater impact on us
05:12 than any measurable impacts that we can see in others
05:17 and in my life, things happened a little bit backwards.
05:22 God graciously planted me in the mission field
05:26 and then worked on the "willing-heart" part
05:29 so, I realize that most of you
05:33 won't fully relate to my story today
05:34 but hopefully by God's grace,
05:37 you will relate to the heart struggles
05:38 and the points of surrender that God has brought me through.
05:42 Will you please join me in praying?
05:45 "Dear Father Lord,
05:49 I pray today this this won't be about me but will honor you
05:56 and the people will be able to see
05:59 the way that You have pursued me and Your faithfulness in my life
06:03 pause...
06:05 I pray that You'll give me the courage
06:08 and the clarity to share the thoughts...
06:10 that You've given me...
06:12 Your thoughts today and thank You, amen. "
06:16 Pause.
06:23 It all started the year that I was 17
06:26 and I thought I was ready to begin my life.
06:31 I was going to be an Alaskan Bush Pilot
06:35 and I had anticipated this for years
06:39 and I had spent at least the last couple of years
06:42 ironing out all of the details of how I would accomplish this
06:46 so that as soon as I hit the magical age of 17,
06:51 when I would actually be able to get my pilot's license,
06:53 that I could begin flight lessons
06:57 and be well on the way to achieving my dreams
07:03 but something happened not too far into that year
07:06 that put a little bit of a kink into my plans.
07:10 My family started talking about Mission work.
07:12 They wanted our family to have a mission experience
07:15 before us kids left home
07:19 and they decided we were going to Thailand.
07:22 Now obviously, this was pretty disappointing for me.
07:27 I argued and pled with them about it a lot
07:30 pause
07:32 but it was all to no avail,
07:36 they really felt that this would be a good thing
07:37 for our family.
07:39 So, Thailand... it was...
07:41 so the other thing was that we were calling this a mission trip
07:46 but we had only purchased one-way tickets
07:49 so, you can probably put two and two together
07:52 in what my family was hoping for here
07:55 but in order for you to understand
07:59 how this was affecting me
08:00 and where I was spiritually at this point in my life,
08:03 I'm going to go back a little bit further
08:05 and without going into too much detail,
08:08 I... I'm going to mention some of the things that happened
08:12 through my growing-up years that had impacted my view of God.
08:16 Pause.
08:18 I was born to a wonderful Adventist mom
08:20 and I have three lovely siblings.
08:22 My father was not a Christian and when I was five years old,
08:26 he chose to step out of our lives due to our faith.
08:29 A couple of years later, my mom met and married
08:33 a wonderful Adventist man that soon won my heart
08:36 and in my eyes, he was my dad
08:39 but our happiness came to an abrupt halt
08:43 when he was diagnosed with brain cancer
08:46 and died 18 months later
08:49 and this was where the course of my life really began to shift
08:54 from a girl who loved God and followed all the rules
08:58 and spent time studying the Bible,
09:00 to the new me.
09:01 I still followed all the rules but I was angry and bitter.
09:04 You see, I had grown up to really think of God
09:08 as a God of miracles.
09:09 Through the unique circumstances of my...
09:12 that I had experienced growing up,
09:16 we were often extremely poor,
09:17 often, we didn't know where our next food would come from,
09:22 or... and I had seen God work again and again
09:26 pretty much like the stories that you read about in books
09:29 and I think, sometimes we think...
09:33 we feel like God doesn't really work that way anymore
09:35 and that's like the way God used to work
09:37 but I had seen it firsthand often
09:41 and so, I fully believed that God was a God
09:45 that did work miracles but He hadn't healed my father,
09:49 and I didn't understand that
09:52 and I became very bitter.
09:56 I remember lying in bed late at night as a young teenager
10:00 and I would have tears streaming down my face
10:04 and just silently mouthing the words,
10:06 "I hate you God" again and again.
10:08 I quickly spiraled down from that to the point of saying,
10:14 "I'm not sure I really believe in God"
10:17 and it was kind of easier that way
10:20 rather than feeling hate and bitterness towards God,
10:22 I could just be like, "I don't believe in God. "
10:25 Now, I wasn't really your typically rebellious teen,
10:30 I did a pretty solid job at hiding what I was experiencing
10:33 from my family...
10:34 it was really important to me that I didn't hurt them
10:36 through my struggles or unbelief
10:39 but things weren't going very well for me at this point.
10:42 I was still attending the Adventist Church with my family
10:45 and I was still pretty compliant to family rules and standards
10:49 but I was deeply depressed and even suicidal at this point.
10:52 I remember spiraling down to the place where it felt
10:56 like life was just completely dark.
10:59 I had extreme struggles with social anxiety
11:02 and thoughts of ending my own life.
11:05 I remember reaching this...
11:10 I remember this one night where finally I was at this point
11:14 where I felt completely hopeless,
11:17 there didn't seem like there was any point in going on
11:19 and at that point,
11:24 I could look back and recognize that the only times in my life
11:27 I'd ever been happy
11:29 was when God was in my life
11:30 and... so I was like,
11:33 "I can't do this anymore, I don't want to live like this,
11:35 I guess I'll give the 'God thing' another chance. "
11:38 And this was pretty much just what it sounds like,
11:41 it wasn't a recommitment or a decision to follow Christ,
11:45 I was simply just saying, "I wouldn't deny God any longer
11:48 and I was pretty much just figuring out...
11:52 'give Him another chance to prove Himself to me. '"
11:54 This... all of this probably took place about two months
11:58 before our departure date for Thailand
12:00 so, that was where I was at spiritually.
12:03 On October 13 of that year,
12:06 we boarded our plane for Thailand
12:08 and I was... I was really devastated.
12:10 It wasn't just that we were going to Thailand,
12:12 a three-week mission trip
12:14 would have been a grand adventure for me,
12:16 but I'd lost control of my life.
12:18 I no longer knew what my future would look like.
12:21 Pause.
12:22 I remember those first few days in Thailand
12:25 and being completely set in my mind to dislike everything.
12:28 A few weeks into our stay though
12:30 something changed things up for me.
12:33 I met Jesus through the eyes of little refugee kids.
12:36 Pause...
12:39 more pause.
12:42 We were invited to visit a small bamboo boarding school
12:45 which was actually located right across the river
12:47 from the... which is the border between Burma and Thailand.
12:51 and if you're not familiar with the Karen and Burmese situation
12:56 look it up later,
12:58 I don't have time to share details about that today,
13:01 but this school is mostly filled with displaced refugee kids
13:05 and while there wasn't currently any fighting going on,
13:08 it wasn't really a secure situation
13:10 as it was always under the threat of attack.
13:13 We arrived that first evening
13:17 and the little kids immediately ran up and grabbed our hands
13:20 and led us into our first bamboo hut.
13:23 Before long they taught us to wear bathing sarongs
13:26 and taken us to take our baths down in a little creek
13:28 and they had served us an amazing feast
13:32 of rice and vegetables
13:33 which we were expected to eat with our hands.
13:35 Long story short,
13:38 when we were about to leave three days later,
13:41 they asked if I'd be willing to stay and teach
13:43 and something made me say, "Yes. "
13:47 These kids and their situation really captured my heart.
13:49 Pause.
13:52 But it was really watching these kids worship
13:55 that began to change things on a deeper level for me.
13:59 Every morning and evening, we would...
14:02 they would have worship in the hut
14:04 that I was currently staying in
14:07 and it just really impacted me
14:11 to watch the way that they worshiped God.
14:13 They would throw their little heads back and close their eyes
14:15 and totally sing their hearts out.
14:18 There was no self-consciousness or worries
14:21 about what anybody else thought about them
14:24 and I would sit there and watch them
14:25 and puzzle over the things that I knew had happened
14:27 in their lives.
14:29 Pause.
14:30 Many of their stories were absolutely horrific.
14:33 They had watched their homes being burned down,
14:36 they had seen their parents brutally murdered,
14:39 they had run for their lives...
14:41 not all of them but many of them
14:43 and they had grown up with
14:44 maybe rice and chili paste to eat if they were lucky,
14:47 so, here I was refusing to commit my life to God
14:52 because I wanted to nurse my hurts
14:54 and hang on to my anger with God
14:56 for something I perceived was obviously His fault
14:59 and here were these little ones,
15:02 who had experienced so much more evil
15:04 and pain than I ever had
15:06 and they were adoringly worshiping God.
15:08 Pause.
15:10 I wanted a faith in God that I saw in these kids.
15:14 I wanted that joy that wasn't dependent on my circumstances.
15:18 Through the months...
15:20 through the few months that I spent at this school,
15:23 God did a large work in my life,
15:24 my heart began to soften and open up to a plan
15:28 other than the ones I had made for myself
15:30 and I began to for the first time in years
15:33 actually seek after God.
15:35 Pause.
15:36 But the struggle wasn't finished yet,
15:38 I had a long ways to go
15:39 for God to break down the barriers in my heart.
15:42 The time I spent at this little school
15:46 in just observing the whole area and the huge need,
15:51 really gave me a desire to be able to serve them
15:56 through medical work
15:57 and so, at this point,
15:59 I eventually chose to return to the States
16:01 to pursue MT training.
16:02 I thought that would be the first step in...
16:07 and... so, when I got back to the States,
16:11 I really started strong.
16:12 I was on fire for God at this point
16:15 and so excited for this opportunity
16:17 to finally receive some training.
16:18 I was excited to share
16:20 what I had experienced in the Mission Field,
16:21 but unfortunately, it didn't take long
16:25 for my old doubts to start creeping back in,
16:28 and I slowly began sliding back down the slippery slope
16:32 of rebellion and unbelief.
16:33 Pause.
16:36 I completely threw myself into whole EMS work scene
16:40 which for me wasn't very conducive
16:42 to a growing relationship with Christ
16:43 and on top of that, within a relatively short timeframe,
16:48 I attended a number of quite horrific accident scenes...
16:53 I was kind of known as
16:54 our ambulance services' "black cloud. "
16:57 But what it really brought back up for me was
17:00 all my doubts and questions about why God allowed this.
17:02 So, this took place probably over the course
17:06 of about nine to ten months
17:07 and towards the end of that time,
17:09 I was once again in this really dark spot,
17:15 I was depressed and I...
17:19 I... I remember at that point...
17:25 I remember once again
17:28 I found myself comparing my life right now
17:30 to what I'd experienced a few months ago
17:33 and that fresh experience
17:34 where I had had joy and hope in my life
17:39 and I realized that once again
17:41 that there was nothing in life for me without God in my life.
17:44 So, at this point, once again, I told God...
17:48 "Okay... " and I... I gave my life back to him.
17:52 But this wasn't the end of my struggle,
17:55 by this point, EMS has had...
17:59 had become a huge passion for me.
18:01 I was hooked on the adrenaline rush
18:03 and being there for people in their emergencies
18:08 and I wanted to continue my education and I did...
18:11 some day I wanted to return to the mission field
18:14 but I wanted to do my stuff first
18:17 and get the education that I felt would make me more usable.
18:23 But there was an issue
18:27 and that was that when I had left Thailand,
18:29 I had made a promise to both my family and the Karen people
18:34 that as soon as I was done with my EMT training,
18:36 I would return to the States...
18:39 sorry... return to Thailand.
18:41 So, at this point, my mom called me up
18:44 and she reminded me of that promise I'd made
18:48 that I would come back and I was really...
18:53 I was frustrated about it, I didn't want to listen,
18:55 but I... I agreed I'd return.
18:59 So, here I was back in Thailand
19:02 as an unwilling missionary for the second time.
19:05 I really was glad to be back in many ways
19:09 but as I said, part of me was still grudgingly present.
19:11 There was still this inner wrestling in me
19:14 over my abandoned dreams.
19:15 Over time, the doors opened for me
19:18 to shadow a dear nurse friend who had started working...
19:20 started a front-porch clinic.
19:22 Every morning the patients would pack that little front porch
19:26 and it wasn't long till I found myself in positions
19:29 where I had to use the little training I had to help out.
19:32 As I became more and more involved the work there,
19:36 I did grow to really enjoy it
19:38 and found a lot of fulfillment in it.
19:39 But where we were at the time, there was still a hospital
19:44 that was accessible... a small hospital that was accessible
19:48 within about 45 minutes' drive
19:50 and I soon became more and more aware that there were lots of...
19:53 100s of mountain villages around us
19:57 in the surrounding mountains
19:58 that had no access to medical care whatsoever.
20:00 So, within a few months,
20:03 I moved out to a remote village up in the mountains
20:06 to start a little clinic up there.
20:09 My first day in the village of Monika,
20:11 I sat in the hut of new friends
20:13 and I watched them roast this pile of fluffy dead rats,
20:18 and the next house I went to, they offered me betel nut
20:22 which you may or may not have heard of...
20:25 and I innocently took it and chewed it...
20:27 I didn't even know what it was.
20:29 The second day, I knocked down some boards from a house
20:34 with my bike...
20:35 much to the amusement of some of the village men
20:37 and then I fell down to my knees in the mud
20:39 and slid my way down the slippery trail back to my house
20:44 while the villagers roared with laughter at me
20:46 and the third day, I had 42 patients
20:49 and I got a crash course in living with no privacy.
20:53 There wasn't even a bathroom without large holes in it.
20:57 But the bond of friendship I found up there was very special.
21:00 I sat around their fires at night
21:02 and every day their kids descended on my house
21:07 to ate all my leftover food.
21:08 I was obviously way out of my depth with medical cases
21:12 but I was the best that they had at that point.
21:15 I remember many times climbing the hill
21:17 to where there was a phone reception
21:19 to call my nurse friend for advice.
21:21 But as I bonded with these people
21:24 and grew my role as a medical worker for their village,
21:26 my heart was still really at war.
21:28 I loved it here and I loved these people
21:30 but this wasn't what I wanted right now.
21:33 Right now I wanted schooling.
21:35 I wanted to feel qualified...
21:37 I wanted to go complete my plans
21:39 and know that I had made something of myself
21:41 while I was young.
21:43 But God and I didn't seem to be on the same page with this.
21:47 I had no money at the time and the $1,000... around that
21:50 that I would need to get my ticket to fly back to the States
21:53 might as well have been a million for me at that point
21:56 and I realized that I was stuck
22:00 and at that point, I began to feel like...
22:03 not just an unwilling missionary
22:05 but like I was actually a captive missionary.
22:07 Audience: Slight laughter.
22:09 It didn't seem fair,
22:11 it seemed like all my friends
22:13 got to make plans and complete them...
22:14 and I felt like I was the only one
22:16 that didn't get a choice in my life.
22:17 Pause.
22:19 As ridiculous as I know this sounds,
22:22 at that point, I was really... a half-devoted missionary
22:25 and a half rebel often all in in the same day.
22:27 and at this point, mission work was completely in my heart
22:32 but preferably after I had the opportunity
22:35 to go do my own thing.
22:36 In the summer of 2010,
22:40 I attended a month-long Bible and medical ministry training
22:43 that was held by one of the pastors in northern Thailand
22:45 and this is where the struggles really came to a head for me.
22:49 I couldn't listen to the Bible being read all day
22:52 and hear this about surrender, surrender, surrender.
22:54 While I knew that these things in my heart...
22:57 that I had these thing in my heart
22:58 that I was stubbornly refusing to give up.
23:00 Pause.
23:06 At this point, I was tired of being good...
23:08 tired of trying to surrender and follow God...
23:10 I just wanted the permission to go do my own thing for a while.
23:13 About half way through this month-long program,
23:18 I came to a point
23:19 where I distinctly heard God speak to me and say
23:25 that it was time that I made a decision.
23:28 I couldn't continue to do this half-way thing anymore.
23:31 I couldn't be holding back on God
23:33 while still claiming to be a Christ-Follower.
23:35 I couldn't be arguing with Him
23:38 about the way I wanted to run my life
23:40 pause...
23:42 and as I realized that God had told me to make...
23:44 I needed to make this decision,
23:46 I actually became quite angry
23:48 because I knew I couldn't walk away from God completely,
23:50 that wasn't an option for me,
23:52 I knew my own weakness,
23:53 I knew what happened with God out of my life,
23:56 so, I wanted God in my life
23:59 but I wanted Him in my life on my terms.
24:01 I wanted Him to give His approval and blessing
24:04 for my plans for my future,
24:05 I was like a small child that puts their hand in a vase
24:11 and, you know, to grab a treasure
24:12 and refuses to let go of it
24:15 in order to not need to break the vase.
24:17 So, there was this period of about three days
24:20 where I really wrestled with this.
24:23 I refused to give up these dreams I held,
24:26 I couldn't picture my life without them
24:29 but as I bonded with these people and grew in my...
24:32 I'm sorry... I lost my place...
24:37 I remember reaching a point of complete misery at this point,
24:41 I couldn't rest or think about anything else
24:43 other than this surrender God was asking me to make
24:45 and finally, I gave up,
24:47 it's really exhausting to argue with God
24:51 and in that moment... so I made this...
24:55 so, I finally I said, "God, you can have my plans,
24:58 you can have my dreams, you can have my future,
25:01 and I'll do whatever you want me to do
25:03 and right then I really thought that my life was completely over
25:08 but the peace I felt was indescribable.
25:13 While I wrestled...
25:15 while I was wrestling through this with God,
25:17 unbeknownst to me... I... there... just a few hours away,
25:21 there were these two tiny little twin boys that had been born
25:26 probably more than two months premature in their village hut
25:30 pause...
25:33 and they wouldn't receive any more medical care
25:35 for the next six weeks.
25:36 Meanwhile, I returned down to the border area
25:39 where I'd been living before
25:41 and I just got to say that for the first time ever,
25:45 I experienced so much joy
25:47 and fulfillment in the work I was doing.
25:50 For the first time, this was actually my spot
25:54 that one I had chosen to work for God in.
25:57 Pause.
26:00 So, about six weeks later, these two little twin boys
26:03 were finally placed in my arms.
26:05 They were tiny at probably less than two pounds each
26:09 and extremely malnourished
26:11 as they'd been given sugar water in place of milk.
26:14 Their little bones were poking out...
26:17 they looked barely more than just skin covered skeletons
26:22 and they had sores covering their tiny bodies
26:25 so we took them to the ER that was closest to us
26:28 and as we sat in that little ER with them,
26:32 the doctor told me, "We have to have a mother's name on record
26:35 to be able to care for them"
26:36 and at that point, I didn't know what the mother's name was
26:39 so the doctor finally said,
26:41 "Could we please put your name down?"
26:43 And I didn't feel like there was anything else to say
26:47 so I said, "Yes. "
26:49 In Thailand they require a caregiver
26:51 to stay with any patient that's been admitted
26:53 and they pretty much do the work that a nurse would do
26:57 here in the States.
26:59 So, I stayed with them there in a hospital ward
27:01 on a little cot between their incubators
27:03 for the next week or so.
27:05 I remember looking at their tiny wrist bands
27:09 and they said on them, "Maria's Baby Number 1"
27:12 and "Maria's Baby Number 2"
27:13 and the realization really hit me
27:17 that these were now my babies.
27:20 Audience: Happy laughter.
27:22 To begin with, we didn't think that Jabez... the older twin...
27:26 I named them Jabez and Isaac
27:28 and we didn't think that Jabez the older twin would make it
27:30 as he was initially the less alert one
27:33 and he also had a very large pressure sore on his back
27:36 that reached almost into the back bone
27:38 and it had been packed with feces
27:40 so he was at huge risk for infection
27:42 but he held his ground and...
27:45 but Isaac was a different story.
27:48 Initially he seemed to be doing good
27:50 but his condition slowly deteriorated
27:53 Eventually they had to transfer us to a larger hospital
27:57 that had a "PICU" Unit.
27:58 Once we arrived,
28:00 I was told that Isaac had both pneumonia and sepsis
28:02 and that his only hope was pretty much
28:07 if he would make it through the next 24 hours.
28:09 Pause.
28:12 That day, I prayed like I had never prayed before.
28:16 By that point I'd completely fallen in love
28:18 with both of these babies,
28:19 and I really believed that God would heal Isaac.
28:23 Honestly, I think I pretty much felt
28:25 that I had a right to his healing.
28:28 I knew that God could work miracles
28:31 and I pretty much thought
28:32 that this was His chance to not let me down again
28:34 but as that day dragged on
28:39 I watched his vitals drop lower and lower
28:42 and late that night his heart rate kept dropping
28:46 and the nurses finally began CPR
28:48 and that was the most agonizing 30 minutes of my life.
28:51 I kept saying, "God, I know you can save him"
28:54 I actually didn't have any doubt at that point,
28:57 I was like... even after they declared him dead
28:59 I... I just... I was just telling God like,
29:01 "I know you can still save him, bring him back to life. "
29:05 Finally, they shoved the papers under my nose
29:08 and said, "We need you to sign the papers
29:11 for your son's body. "
29:13 At that point, I felt completely broken and betrayed.
29:16 I had completely given my heart away to these two babies
29:20 and I had 100 percent belief that God would make a miracle
29:24 out of their lives.
29:26 They were already a total miracle,
29:29 they was no human explanation for how two completely...
29:33 very premature babies had survived
29:36 with no proper care at all for six weeks.
29:39 Pause.
29:41 So, I really didn't understand what God could be doing.
29:44 I went outside at that point
29:47 and I think I paced in the dark for probably another hour
29:51 and I came really, really close to running away.
29:54 Everything in me wanted to run the other direction
29:57 and forget about loving anyone.
30:00 The only thing I knew right then was that love hurt.
30:03 But there was still another tiny baby lying in the ward
30:07 on the other end of the hospital
30:09 and I knew that there was no way
30:11 that someone else could abandon him as well.
30:13 Pause.
30:15 I didn't open my Bible or even pray
30:18 for probably a week after Isaac's death
30:22 and late one night about a week later,
30:26 I remember sitting in the hospital ward
30:29 that was packed full of patients
30:31 and I was sitting beside Jabez
30:35 and once again, I felt God's voice really clearly speak to me
30:41 and say that I needed to make my decision that I needed to decide
30:47 if I was going to go back to the bitterness and doubt
30:49 that I had come from
30:51 or whether I was going to choose to trust God
30:53 and what He was doing in my life
30:55 regardless of the pain I experienced.
30:58 Pause.
31:03 So, at that point,
31:06 I told God that I would trust Him
31:11 and regardless of what happened in my life,
31:15 and I really look back at that
31:17 as one of the most pivotal moments in my life.
31:20 At this point, although I'd surrendered my future
31:23 and many other things to God I was still in many ways
31:25 grieving for my father who had died
31:27 and it was definitely still a lot of bitterness
31:29 and questions in my heart that I hadn't dealt with yet.
31:31 It was all just kind of pushed under the rug
31:34 while I tried to about God's business and serve Him anyways,
31:37 but when I finally made this...
31:41 when I finally said, "Okay, God, I choose you,
31:44 I'll trust you in Your plan regardless of the things I face
31:47 or the pain I experience
31:49 and that decision made a big impact on me.
31:55 This is something that God has brought me through
31:58 several more times.
32:00 Nine months later,
32:01 Jabez was again fighting for his life.
32:03 This time he was battling Stevens-Johnson's syndrome
32:06 and I again had to let go of my fears and questions
32:10 and God really challenged me through this time
32:14 when he was so sick that I would...
32:18 regardless of the outcome, that I would...
32:21 choose ahead of time to make the decision
32:23 that I would trust Him.
32:25 Then, later again,
32:28 I'd lost another baby girl who had been abandoned
32:31 and given to me...
32:33 and in that same "PICU" that Isaac died
32:37 and most recently I've lost two babies through miscarriage...
32:40 miscarriages... and each time
32:42 God has challenged me with that same choice.
32:45 Each time I've had the temptation
32:48 to turn away in bitterness and question God's goodness
32:50 but thankfully as a choice I already made
32:55 and each time, during that difficult time
32:59 it's almost been like...
33:00 it's been a little pillar between me and the Lord.
33:03 A sweet reminder of the commitment that I made
33:06 to trust in God's goodness
33:07 regardless of the circumstances in my life.
33:10 So each time, it's almost been like
33:12 it's been a reaffirmation of my faith
33:15 and strengthen the commitment that I made before
33:17 and I pray that by God's grace
33:20 I'll continue to break this cycle of bitterness
33:23 and resentment toward the God who loves me.
33:25 Pause.
33:30 So oft...
33:34 I just want to say that it's easy, I think,
33:40 for some of us to look back...
33:41 we hear testimonies
33:42 and it often seems like a one-and-done deal,
33:45 you hear about how the dark place people were in before
33:49 and, you know, how God worked a miracle in their lives
33:53 and then, everything seems perfect after that
33:55 and in my life that hasn't been the case
33:58 there's very much been a lot of ups and downs
34:00 and I'm not sharing most of that today
34:04 but
34:09 I do want to express the fact that I definitely still have...
34:13 I definitely still struggle and am very much a real person.
34:16 I wish I had more time to share
34:20 about the following three years of motherhood
34:22 but I don't have that much time today.
34:26 Motherhood totally took me by surprise,
34:29 one day I was a single 19-year-old traipsing around...
34:33 the next... people were calling these little guys my sons.
34:36 Being a mom was nothing I had envisioned in my future
34:39 or even desired... but here I was.
34:42 Jabez changed everything I lived for,
34:45 the first few weeks with him were incredibly difficult
34:49 but over time, he did grow into a strong beautiful baby.
34:52 When I took Jabez as my son,
34:57 life changed from Thailand being my "surrender"
35:00 to Thailand being my country for the future
35:03 as far as I could see.
35:04 As legal adoption is extremely complicated
35:08 and even potentially impossible.
35:10 About two years after this,
35:14 a young man walked into my life
35:16 who was sold on God and medical work in the mission field
35:19 and he didn't so much as blink as... at my kid
35:23 or a "girl who came with a country. "
35:25 We actually got to know each other
35:28 through our trips to do medical work together up in Meniki
35:31 and, of course you already know where this is going
35:34 but we fell in love.
35:36 In the summer of 2013, Jordan got down on one knee
35:40 and on a mountain near the village where we were working
35:45 and he asked me to marry him.
35:46 I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.
35:49 My vision of "happily ever after"
35:50 at that point was that
35:52 we would be living in a little bamboo hut,
35:54 trekking around the mountains giving medical care together
35:57 for the rest of our lives.
35:59 That was both of our vision
36:00 that we'd always be together working for God
36:05 so about a couple of months before our wedding,
36:10 we heard of another little baby
36:13 that had been born about nine weeks premature,
36:16 he was born at one pound twelve ounces
36:20 and God really put him in our hearts...
36:24 I remember talking to Jordan about...
36:28 we were long distance at this point
36:30 I was talking to him on the phone
36:32 and I would keep...
36:34 we decided to pray and think about this for a few days
36:37 and I would keep bringing up the fact
36:40 that this was un-ideal circumstances
36:42 and it was... it was a month before our wedding
36:45 not really the greatest time to take in a premature baby
36:49 and... but finally after we prayed about it
36:53 for a couple of days, Jordan just said,
36:54 "I don't care about any of that, I just want him"
36:57 and that was really where it stood for us,
36:59 he was... God put him in our hearts and he was wanted.
37:03 We named him Jesse Asher
37:07 which means: our gift of happiness
37:10 and he's really been a gift of happiness in our lives.
37:12 Since then, God has added two more little ones through birth
37:18 and we're a family of six.
37:19 I have to be honest right now and say
37:22 that life looks a 100% different for us
37:25 from anything we ever pictured.
37:26 We're not living in a village the way we dreamed of,
37:30 pause...
37:34 more pause...
37:38 just... just a couple of months ago,
37:40 the story of our lives took another turn
37:42 when God led Jordan to full-time employment in Thailand.
37:45 Pause.
37:48 More pause.
37:52 Pause.
37:55 The point... the point I really want to bring out here
37:58 is the fact that... how God has again and again led my life
38:02 in a way that's way different from what I wanted
38:05 but always better than what I would have chosen for myself.
38:10 Pause.
38:12 So, Jordan is currently employed in Thailand in a regular job
38:17 and God's plan for us... for me the last few years
38:22 has not been medical evangelism the way I had envisioned it.
38:24 It's been raising four precious little ones
38:27 and it has been home schooling and pursuing legal adoption
38:32 in a country that makes it very difficult.
38:35 It's been supporting my wonderful husband
38:37 as he pursues a tentmaker role
38:39 and we still value our village medical ministry
38:43 but now that looks like day or overnight trips
38:48 up to the village every few weeks.
38:49 This time, the surrender has really been switched up from me,
38:54 instead of being bitter about doing medical work instead
38:58 and fighting to be out of the mission field,
39:03 I struggle with wishing we could be more involved
39:05 and missing my friends and life in the village setting
39:07 as we currently live outside of a city
39:09 in a more suburban setting of Thailand.
39:11 Through the last years,
39:14 both Jordan and I have many times talked wishfully
39:18 about some of our dear friends
39:20 who have started amazing projects
39:21 in different areas of Thailand
39:23 and many times we both expressed
39:25 that we wished we could be doing that.
39:27 We all want to do something we perceive as big for God
39:33 but despite willing hearts,
39:35 God has made it clear that it's not our time right now,
39:37 pause...
39:40 I found that it's really easy to start to feel discouraged
39:44 like my life is just in a holding pattern
39:46 and that we just got to stick it out a year or two
39:49 from now till when God sends us again to the front lines
39:53 of His work.
39:54 But the thing I'm realizing more and more
39:57 is that I'm not in a holding pattern at all
39:59 and I'm not on the sidelines of His work.
40:02 I'm right in the middle of the mission work
40:04 that God's given me right now.
40:05 Today, I get to share my story with all of you
40:09 but when I arrive home in a couple of days,
40:13 life will be hugs and kisses from my family
40:17 and it will be really special to be together again
40:20 but there'll also be crying and few tantrums from my kids
40:24 and I'll be horrifically jet lagged
40:26 and there's always a house that I can never quite keep up with
40:30 and trying to figure out what to make for supper.
40:32 Slowly God is impressing in my heart
40:35 that this is my greatest form of mission work
40:37 right now in this season of my life.
40:39 Audience: Amen.
40:41 A month or so ago,
40:43 when I was preparing to share with you here...
40:45 I was struggling with our current circumstances
40:47 and wondering if I really had a message to share
40:48 especially here at ASI
40:51 and I spoke with a friend who said some words
40:54 that really encouraged me.
40:55 She called it the Watchman on the Wall.
40:57 She said that everyone hears the "go-tell-the-world" message
41:00 but who is left there as the watchman on the wall
41:02 to see the weeds growing in our own backyard?
41:05 And that mind-picture has really stuck with me.
41:07 Who will be there as the watchman on the wall
41:10 for our own families if we don't?
41:11 Pause.
41:16 But today, I'm not really here to share just about motherhood
41:20 or any one picture of what service to God might look like.
41:23 Pause.
41:26 I'm just sharing what giving my future to God
41:28 has meant in my own life.
41:29 In the theme of ASI this year,
41:34 I want to challenge you to make an unusual surrender.
41:37 Not just to giving your heart to Christ,
41:40 I'm sure the majority of us here have
41:43 but the unusual surrender of giving not just our heart
41:47 but our lives to God... our plans... our dreams...
41:51 our jobs and family... our future as we see it.
41:54 Pause.
41:56 Somehow trusting God with our heart seems easier
42:00 but our future... we really want to keep a grasp on it
42:04 and I do believe when you pray a prayer
42:07 surrendering your life and your future to God,
42:11 that God will call you to mission work.
42:13 When you pray that prayer,
42:15 you're all of a sudden God's commissary.
42:17 But I also believe that no matter where else God sends you
42:21 mission work will likely start in your home.
42:23 Pause.
42:26 More pause.
42:29 There is a text in Ephesians 2:10,
42:31 it says, "We are God's handiwork,
42:33 crafted in Christ Jesus to do good work,
42:35 which God prepared in advance for us to do. "
42:37 And I want you to think about that,
42:41 how could you refuse a plan that...
42:44 the God who loves you has prepared for you in advance.
42:48 Pause.
42:51 Let's live like God... God does have a plan for our lives
42:57 and don't let the fear
42:59 of what you're afraid God might call you to...
43:01 hold you back...
43:03 whatever God calls us to, He enables us for.
43:06 Pause.
43:10 I know it's a very popular verse and we all know it by heart
43:13 but I always think of the... of the verse,
43:16 "For I know the plans I think of you," says the Lord,
43:18 "plans to prosper you and to give you a hope and a future. "
43:21 And I do believe that it's not always about the way
43:25 you can serve others,
43:26 but about the way God can transform your heart
43:28 through that service.
43:30 Remember how I said earlier
43:32 that I felt like a captive missionary.
43:34 I honestly still feel like a captive missionary
43:38 but this time, I don't want to be free.
43:40 I'm held captive by God's grace in my life.
43:43 Pause.
43:46 God has been absolutely faithful in my life
43:49 from beginning to end.
43:50 Please trust Him to be faithful in your life
43:52 and give Him the things you're holding on to.
43:55 Trust Him for your happiness...
43:57 trust Him to make something great out of your life
44:01 even if it's in small places.
44:03 Pause.
44:06 I want to close with a Bible text that God has brought to me
44:10 repeatedly through my life many times
44:12 at various critical points.
44:14 "He who started the work will be faithful
44:17 to complete it in you. "
44:18 Audience: Amen.
44:21 Pause.
44:23 "Dear Father, Lord thank you so much for the work
44:26 that you have done in my life.
44:28 I'm so thankful for it.
44:29 I pray that you would continue that work in my life
44:33 and that you would be with all of us here.
44:35 Don't let us go until we've made
44:40 a full surrender of our lives to you
44:42 and made that complete commitment...
44:44 please make us useable for you,
44:47 thank you, in Jesus' name, amen. "


Revised 2019-01-21