It has been 1 year since we set out to pioneer a church testimony in Raleigh, North Carolina. In reflecting over this year, I realized most people don’t know how it all began for me.
In February of 2020 I was serving in full-time Christian ministry with about 10 of my companions. We were having regular fellowship meetings with our mentor, Titus Chu, and other brothers who had been serving in full time ministry for a long time. During one particular meeting, Titus brought up the thought of pioneering a church testimony in Raleigh. He fellowshipped with us about the idea but wasn’t clear yet if this was a leading from the Lord Jesus.
The next time we all met for fellowship, it seemed the brothers were clearer about the possibility of sending saints to pioneer. Titus asked our young full-timer group to pray together for the Lord Jesus’ direction. So that week the 10 of us spent time praying together for the NC migration. We asked the Lord if this was in His will. We asked Him to make Titus and the brothers clear. Then we prayed for the families that might go
I remember my heart while we were praying. Even as I was asking the Lord Jesus to prepare the right people to go, in my heart I knew I wouldn’t volunteer to go. I had no desire to leave Cleveland. Why should I? I had everything I wanted. I was surrounded by my family, close friends, and a church family I loved. There was no shortage of serving opportunities, of shepherding opportunities, of saints to fellowship and pursue Jesus together with. I was happy, connected, and growing in my faith. Even 3 years prior to this point, I heard a clear word from Jesus, “Just stay in Cleveland.” That was fine with me. No part of me that wanted to leave. On top of that, Titus had mentioned about possibly sending 3 couples or families. I was not a part of a couple or a family unit. Not even close. I was safe.
I was not prepared for what happened at our group’s next fellowship time with Titus and the brothers. We were fellowshipping about the pioneering. Then, Titus turned his attention to me. In one shocking moment, my life changed.
“Sarah, can you go?”
Like a flood gate bursting open, internally I was bombarded with thoughts and emotions as my brain tried to process what happened. Did I hear him right? Why, when I’m not even a couple/family unit?! I can’t leave Cleveland! What about all the people I’m taking care of? What about all my responsibilities in the church here? Shock, panic, disbelief. I had thought I was safe.
I’m not sure what happened after that. I don’t know what was fellowshipped for the rest of the time. My brain couldn’t focus on what was being said to anyone else. All it could do was furiously try to find a way out.
Two days later, our group had another fellowship time. The NC migration came up again. Again, I was asked if I could go. I couldn’t give a definitive yes. It was too big of a life change to agree to in a small matter of time. Especially a life change I didn’t want. Even though I didn’t want to say ‘yes,’ in my heart I also didn’t have the peace to say, ‘no.’ Because, if this really was the direction the Lord Jesus had planned for my life, then how could I refuse?
In order to become clear, I spent time in prayer, wrestling with the conflicts in my heart. I was unable to find an equilibrium. I had a time to talk and pray with Mark, who was leading our group of young full-timers. I shared the news with my parents and we prayed together. I prayed with others about it. If I was going to agree to such a life-changing proposal, I needed a large amount of clarity to combat the anxieties that had been multiplying within me. Lord Jesus, if this is from You, then You have to change my heart. Because I don’t want this, not even 1%.
As I was processing and praying by myself, a song I had learned in children’s service came to my heart.
I may never march in the infantry,
Ride in the calvary,
Shoot the artillery,
I may never soar over the enemy,
But I’m in the Lord’s army (yes sir!)
“I’m in the Lord’s army.” For probably the first time in my life, I really considered what that meant. It was more than just marching around and enjoying the song’s motions. I am a soldier. My life does not belong to me. My choices are not mine to make. I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to be a soldier. Yet, I had been enlisted long ago. Whatever my Lord commands, I must do. When the Lord Jesus says, “Go,” then my response must be, “Yes sir.”
It took a week to process enough for me to begin to really believe that this was my new reality. I had been asked to migrate to NC, away from my family, home, the Christians that had raised me up, everything comfortable and known, to a place where all was unknown to me.
As I was coming to grips with the reality of the nuclear bomb in my life, the U.S. was about to get hit with one of their own. I was just beginning to tell people that I may be moving, when we got news of our first cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. In-person gatherings all over the country were put to a halt.
For the next month, adjusting to Covid-19 became the focus and the NC migration took a backseat. During this time, Titus asked us to write reports on what our plans were for the next 2.5 months. In addition to that, I sent another report detailing all the things I was involved in: the people I was shepherding, the groups I was leading, personal spiritual projects, and other ways I was serving the church.
About 6 weeks from the first time I was asked to be part of the NC migration, we had our first fellowship with Titus and the brothers over Zoom. Titus had a chance to read only 2 reports by this meeting – mine and one other. After making some comments about the other report, he began to talk about mine. I’m not sure of the exact words, but the essence was this, “I never realized you were involved in so much. After reading your report I had the feeling that I almost regret asking you to go to North Carolina.”
Yes, that is exactly what I wanted to hear 6 weeks ago! That I was so needed in Cleveland, how could they afford to ask me to leave?! But also, horror. No! Please don’t regret it! Please don’t ask me not to go! I felt such sadness and loss at the thought of being asked not to go.
At that moment, I got what I wanted, only it was 6 weeks too late. I also realized with surprise – I actually wanted to go. I was no longer just “voluntold.” I was no longer just a soldier in the Lord’s army, obeying Him as my commanding officer. I was going because the Lord Jesus had answered my prayers – He really had changed my heart.