Becoming a missionary with a Family
As I was sitting in church one Sunday morning my heart was anxious and my mind was wandering. Normally, I paid close attention to the sermon but this particular Sunday was different as I was strongly sensing the call to move to Guatemala as a missionary.
How could I leave when the ministry was thriving here? I was thriving here! My gifts and skills were needed in this community. My heart had been settled. I could stay here in North Philly for the rest of my days on earth.
Yet, I couldn’t shake the images in my mind that I had captured just a week before. I had spent a week in Guatemala City among the poorest of society. Another missionary had taken me to visit different areas and instantly I felt drawn to the people and the culture. Looking back, I know it was more than that. The Spirit was moving.
Suddenly, the pastor’s voice broke through my thoughts. He had been walking through the whole process with me and knew I was struggling. I don’t remember if he actually spoke my name that Sunday during the sermon, but I know he was looking straight at me up in that balcony when he recited this passage that has stuck with me through the years:
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21
It was another step towards confirming the call.
We’ve gotten to know Jennifer a bit and how she experienced her calling as a missionary in Part 1 of this series. Today, we’ll go a bit further into her story and find out how God is working in her life and unique ministry. In her own words:
Doubting God’s Call as a Missionary
When my husband realized that God was calling us to go to Cambodia as missionaries, it was now my turn to doubt and fear and drag my feet. You see, I had heard God’s calling to be a missionary from the age of ten years old, and all I had ever dreamed of doing was being a missionary. As a child, a teenager and a young adult, I had no fears or doubts. I was excited to serve God as a missionary, and it was all I wanted to do.
However, by the time my husband heard God calling us to Cambodia, I was a mom with three young children. The only stories I had heard about Cambodia were of war, death, torture, genocide, starvation, and suffering. By this time the war was over and Cambodia was recovering from the devastation, but I could not imagine taking my three little children into that type of situation; neither could my husband as he had escaped from that horror and could not imagine returning. Yet, God’s calling is stronger than our fears and doubts.
God’s calling is stronger than our fears and doubts.
My husband needed to see for himself if he could return to Cambodia safely before dragging his young family into it. So, he travelled to Cambodia by himself for two weeks to see the country, visit various missionaries, scout out what type of ministry he could do there, and, most of all, see if we could raise our family there.
Preparing for Missionary Life
He returned to us saying that he was sure that God was calling us to move to Cambodia. I was scared to death! But I decided to walk in that direction, trusting God, knowing that I had promised Him that I would be a missionary and that now He was holding me to it.
The next two years was a busy time of transition out of the ministry in California, joining a mission organization, traveling, speaking at churches, raising funds, etc. During this time, our mission board advised us to visit Cambodia as a family to meet the team we would be joining. For me, this would be an opportunity to see if I could really live there and raise a young family there.
I was so worried about so many things. What if the kids get sick? Are there doctors? Is there medicine? What about transportation…the team there told us not to bring car seats because there are no seatbelts in the cars to strap in car seats, and most people travel by motorcycle anyways. No seatbelts! No car seats for my three little children! I was beyond frantic with fears and doubts.
Were we really doing the right thing? Was God really calling us? Would my children suffer because of my foolish decisions? Yet, I kept walking in that direction and trusting God.
Then God blessed me with His confirmation.
As our plane touched down in Cambodia for the very first time, an overwhelming sense of peace and joy came over me. As I looked out the window with tears blurring me vision, I felt God whisper in that still, small voice, “Welcome home.”
Then I knew that we were following Him, that we had heard correctly, and that He was holding us in His hand and preparing the way before us. Now, 18 years later, I can say for sure that He has called us and walked with us and provided for us all the way.
I felt God whisper in that still, small voice, “Welcome home.”
Missionary Life: Ministering to The Cursed
In Cambodia, it is widely believed that those born with disabilities are cursed because of sins in their past life. “Many disabled children are hidden away as an embarrassment to the family, and some children are abused, forced to beg, or allowed to starve to death. Our purpose is to proclaim the value of every human being in the eyes of the Creator and to bring HOPE and opportunity to disabled children and young adults in Cambodia.” A statement by Heap and Jennifer Him.
Lina’s Hope is a school and therapy center for disabled children and young adults in Cambodia. “The therapy at Lina’s Hope is holistic, natural therapy that identifies the child’s abilities and answers the question, ‘What is the next step in the child’s development and how do we get there?’ ” Jennifer and her husband are the founders and directors of Lina’s Hope.
In addition to the Him’s four biological children, over the last few years they have legally adopted three children with brain injuries. Caring for these children with special needs has become a family affair.
In a recent letter to supporters, Jennifer writes, “Some children and young adults live at our home for evenings and weekends because they have been truly abandoned by parents who can not be found or because they were severely abused or because their lives we threatened by their own parents who believe that their children are cursed and were in process of killing their child. For these kids and young adults, Lina’s Hope is not just a school, but also home.”
In another letter she explains: “We have been trying to find a doctor in Cambodia who can diagnose and treat muscular dystrophy. Sreymeeun, a lovely young lady who we have served at Lina’s Hope for many years, has been growing weaker, which brought the possibility of muscular dystrophy to our attention. However, I have called or visited every hospital in the capital city, and there are no doctors who can diagnose and treat muscular dystrophy. Most of the doctors who I spoke with do not even know what muscular dystrophy is!” Just one of the challenges they have to face.
For nearly 18 years, Jennifer and her family have been providing care for dozens of children and young adults who had nowhere else to go. Lina’s Hope was their last hope in a country that sees no value in their lives. Now they know love and joy and compassion.
It takes a heart of both compassion and commitment. It started with a call in the heart of a little girl many years ago. And now Jennifer and her husband are living out that call every single day.
Reconfirming the Missionary Call
I recall something my pastor said to me years ago. I’ll paraphrase since I don’t remember the exact words: “When you’re in ministry and circumstances become overwhelming and emotions cause confusion and doubt, you may be tempted to walk away. Look back to when God first called you. Stay put until you hear God’s call to move on.”
The missionary’s call is more important than the work. The missionary’s call keeps you close to the One who called. When God invites someone to join him in his work it is imperative to understand that the nature of that call is to be one with Christ as you walk out that ministry every moment.
I know it’s a lot to take in. Jennifer’s story is a unique one. So is mine. So is yours. You may be sensing God’s call on your own life. I pray that you hear His voice above all others.
If you are interested in learning more about the Him family and Lina’s hope I have several PDF brochures I can send to you. Just write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’d like to contact Heap and Jennifer directly feel free to contact them at email@example.com
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