I am moving to Costa Rica. I have been given the opportunity to do the exact work that I have dreamed about since my teenage years, the work that was a distant “someday” dream which inspired me to go to art school, the work that I began to pursue a few years ago but abruptly had to give up. This opportunity—telling the amazing story, through image and word, of what God is doing among the nations, — is a testimony of God’s grace, and I’m taking it.
I thought my chance at this dream had come and gone.
This week, this particular week is significant to me. On January 25th, 2014, I was raped while working in Kigali, Rwanda, teaching art to children and pursuing some work as a photographer/videographer to help local ministries. Rwanda was supposed to be the launching point of my big dreams, the open door that would lead to more open doors and a lifetime of photographing these stories and going on adventures to search out the untold tales of God’s kingdom. The attack felt more like a sucker punch than anything. It felt like a man took my big dreams right out of my hands and stomped on them in the mud. I spent months reeling, wondering “What happened? What did I do?” The wounds weren’t even as deeply about the abuse as they were about my disappointment and disillusionment, about purpose and career.
It was in this state that I moved up to Alaska, to be near to missionary friends of mine. I have talked much over the past 18 months of the profound love of these people I am surrounded with. I love them. They embody Christ, and are therefore a home, and a place of refuge and safety for those who are hurting. It has been in Alaska that I have learned one of the most difficult lessons of my short life: I was created to belong to Him; for relationship. If nothing else comes out of my life besides relationship, with Him and with other people, my life is not wasted. So, I arrived feeling like my dreams had been snatched and shattered, and I kept scratching my head and holding up my aching heart and asking God “why?”. Then I let them go. I came to a point of realizing that God Himself is far more important than my dreams, and if at the end of the day, they were never restored to me, it would be actually be alright. My life would not be wasted for knowing Him more.
And then, He surprised me. Completely took me off guard. Not only did He heal the wounds of my heart, replacing disappointment with peace, fear with safety and confidence, resentment with forgiveness, but He restored the dreams. The dreams that I knew I had to let go and completely lay down were placed back in my lap as a good and perfect gift from a good and perfect Father.
Back in July, I started feeling the twinge in my heart that it would be time to change scenes soon, that my time in Alaska was meant for healing but not forever. A friend of mine who works for Reach Global, the missions agency of the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA), asked me to consider working with them in Latin America as their media person—a visual storyteller. I was hesitant to even consider this as an option, but eventually came around. The past several months have been the long process of applying for the position and seeing if we would be a good fit for each other. I visited Costa Rica in December/early January to help me decide that this is the next step in the story that God has let me be part of.
I will be a fully supported missionary and will not be on the field until all of the funds are raised. This will not be a comfortable process but will be part of a new season of learning. I have loved this season of life in Alaska and the profound changes that have come during it. Now, I anticipate with great joy the next adventure. I cannot wait to write about and photograph the people I met on my initial trip, and meet many more who are working for the Kingdom in Latin American countries. I will live in San Jose, Costa Rica, and it will be my job to travel around to the different Reach Global teams to help them with their specific media needs; to fill in some pretty big gaps and use my passion and giftings to benefit the ministries of other missionaries and local churches.
Let me TESTIFY of the goodness of this Father. He is kind. He is generous. He can redeem even the worst of situations, the most horrible plot twists. He can take what is shattered beyond repair and restore it to twice the glory of it’s original state. He has done it with my heart, with my life, with my story. It was on Monday of this week that I called the Reach Global home office to officially accept the position. Monday, January 25th. A day that should be a bitter one in my memory. A day that God has fully redeemed and restored, one that I can celebrate. I am beyond honored to testify to this, and cannot wait to tell the endless stories of others who can do the same.