Pioneering sounds like adventure. And these days it feels like every millennial has at one point had a clothing item, decor print-out, or Instagram description that says “Adventure Awaits” or “Wander Lust.” That might be a bit exaggerated, but it’s also a no judgement statement because I have both quotes hanging in my living room.
A few nibbles of my journey
I was a shy, socially awkward 14-year-old when I saw a promo video for a mission trip my church youth group was taking to Jamaica. It captured my attention, and though I didn’t really like church at the time, I knew I had to go on this trip. In Jamaica, I encountered God and the spiritual world in a way I never had before, and I loved being around people and in a culture that was so different than my own, exotic and beautiful. Ever since then I’ve taken almost every opportunity I could to travel to the nations.
In 2011, I did an internship at Gateway House of Prayer and one of the reasons I did that internship was because God was speaking to me “it’s a narrow path that leads to life.” I had a lot of sin and compromise in my life at the time, and I knew God was telling me that I couldn’t keep living a double life. I couldn’t have the pleasures of sin and the fullness of life in Christ. If I was going to claim Jesus, I needed to let go of those compromises, lay aside my own ambitions, and be all in. I wanted to choose that narrow path but I didn’t know how, so I did the Gateway House of Prayer internship and ended up staying there for the next 6 years.
During the internship there was an album I listened to all the time by Rick Pino. It caught my attention because the title was “The Narrow Road.” I listened to this album over and over, even though some of it felt weird to me because of it’s intensity. At the time I wasn’t very familiar with prophetic music, so I didn’t know that prophetic singing is what Rick Pino is known for. All I knew was I felt connected to the songs, and I felt like the words were being sung over me.
The two songs I listened to most on the album were “The Narrow Road,” and “Pioneer.” “The Narrow Road,” was the perfect song for the season I was in, as I was stepping through the narrow gate. It was a reminder of the choice I’d made to walk with Jesus, and to lay down my life and pick up his, everyday. Later that year I got my first tattoo as a reminder of this word from God, it simply says “Narrow is the path.” My blog is called Narrow Path Joys, because I hope to relay the joyous revelations Jesus has gifted me as I continue to walk with him on the narrow path.
The song “Pioneer” was also somewhat relatable in that season. Spending the required 10 hours in the prayer room every week felt like a new frontier to me. At the time I really didn’t know anyone that we doing that, so it seemed pretty radical. But on a deeper level, when I listened to “Pioneer” I just felt the sense of “this is who I am.”
But honestly, I look at my life up until this point and I don’t see a lot of pioneering. I think that’s because I don’t like doing almost anything alone. I’ve travelled to over 18 nations, but I’ve rarely gone alone and when I have I don’t like it.
I’m an out of the box type of person, meaning I don’t fit most norms (no matter how hard I try). So sometimes I end up leading and/or simply doing life differently than the people around me, because…well because that’s how I’m wired I guess. But underneath my shows of strength and outward independence, what I most desire is to be deeply connected with people. Really I think that’s what we all want because God has wired us for deep connection, with himself and the people he’s made in his image. So feeling alone and unknown is like kryptonite for me, nothing will send me down a spiral of depression and hopelessness like the feeling that I am unknown.
A year before the Lord opened the door to the Middle East, he reminded me that I told him I would go anywhere he asked me to go. And then he showed me a piece of his heart concerning the terrible injustices happening to children in some of the hardest places on earth. I cried, actually I sobbed, and recommitted myself to going and loving those children with his love. When I did that I had to face some of the fears that had been holding me back. I had to face losing some of the most precious relationships in my life, especially my precious young nephews and niece. I had to face the fear of being single forever, and becoming that far out, old maid, missionary woman that wears weird pants. I had to face the fear of loneliness.
The day after the Lord started speaking to me about serving in the Middle East, before I had told anyone, a dear friend gave me a prophetic word for my birthday. He said he kept hearing “Pioneer! Pioneer! Pioneer!” and then with the adjective “driven.” “Driven Pioneer!” He also saw that I was about to cross a skinny one-person bridge and in a childlike way I was fearful to do so. This word touched my heart deeply as it so accurately described my situation. The Lord shouting destiny over me, “Pioneer! Pioneer! Driven Pioneer!” encouraging me to step out on the narrow bridge, and me feeling a bit fearful to do so. Not paralyzed with fear, but nervous like a young child is when they want to slide down the slide or go across the monkey bars, but they hold back a little. Meanwhile their parent is there coaxing them with affirmation and a loving smiling, promising that they will catch them. This word strengthened my determination to say yes to the Lord, and to go even if that meant going alone. I realized he was promising that his presence would be my provision.
The Lord is so good, and I’m thankful that I’m not moving to the Middle East completely alone. In fact he’s given me such an amazing gift, he’s sending my best friend, Melanie, along with me. I’ll also be joining a small but mighty team that has already been working in this conflict zone for the past few months. Still, the work I’m will be joining is very much in the pioneer phase. There’s so much need, and very few hands.
I believe that very soon there will be a large wave of lovers of Jesus going to the Middle East, and to every other hard place. I believe that because there is more prayer happening around the world than ever before in history. And like Samuel Zwemer said, “The history of missions is the history of answered prayer.” That said, there’s this window of time right now where we know that’s going to happening, but we aren’t yet seeing it. I believe this is the time for the pioneers. Those of us who jump in now, before the wave, and go to these hard places. In weakness, but in faith, we say yes we will go even if that means going alone, at least for now.
I believe that pioneering is part of the redemption of a generation that is infatuated with travel and adventure. We call it wanderlust, but maybe it’s the Lord calling us to the harvest fields. We say “adventure awaits,” but do we realize the very definition of adventure is to risk or participate in a potentially hazardous activity? Yet pioneering is not just adventuring. It’s not risk for the sake of risk or thrill. Pioneering has purpose. It’s forging those lightly trodden, dimly lit paths because the people along, and at the end, of those paths need the light you’re carrying. And because there are people who will come after you that will be able to run farther and faster because you went first. Pioneering is a call to count the cost, to face the possibility of being misunderstood, because not many people have travelled the path you’re embarking on.
I have big dreams. I’ve been told those dreams aren’t based in reality. But I’m ok with that, because revival and reformation has never fit into the current system. God’s ways are higher than ours, and his promises force us into faith and to stop faking it. I dream of the day when every follower of Christ is taking seriously the call to make disciples of all nations. When the 3 billion people in unreached nations see an army of Jesus ambassadors heading their way. An army carrying within them the light of the world, bearing the name of Jesus, on a mission to set every captive free.