Tuesday, 11 September 2012

A Wild Ride and a Worthy Cause

Serving God is crazy. When people tell you about Jesus and ask if you want to follow him, they don't ever tell you what He Himself says following Him will actually be like. 

He actually tells us we'll have to give up everything. He says that we'll have to leave everything behind. He says that people are going to mock and persecute us, that they won't understand... He says it pretty straight up: This is going to be HARD. 

And it is. 

I've been walking out Lordship for almost a year now. That is, I've been giving God every aspect of my life: My right to being at home with my family, my right to earn money and be self-reliant, my education, my lifestyle, my friendships, my pass-times. Obviously, it's a process. And some days, it's harder than others. As I walk into the giant task of leading this outreach team, I've found it becoming more and more of a very real choice to keep going. I miss my family, I am believing for $2500 and two visas in 11 days, I keep asking God to add hours to the day so i can fit everything in.  I love what I do, but the process can be overwhelming at times. There are moments when I consider how much simpler it would be to go home.

But here's the thing:  He also says it's worth it.

In those moments where I've gone home in my heart (and there have been those moments) I come face-to-face with a man who was willing to give up everything for me. And I look at my life, and see where my pursuit of God has brought me, and I realize that there is in fact, even in the midst of crazy hard chaos, no place I'd rather be than right here, serving Him. 

My name is Natalie Richards. I am a 20-year-old missionary who grew up going to Trinity Anglican Church in Saint-Bruno. I have spent the last three months at the University of the Nations in Kona Hawaii training a team of young people in discipleship and media advocacy, readying them for a three-month mission trip to the West African nations of Ghana and Togo. 

My journey as a young missionary began one year ago when I moved to Australia to be trained in Mercy Ministries with Youth With A Mission. After ten weeks of intensive training, I went with a team to Cambodia for two months. There, I witnessed the daily struggle of extreme poverty, the ugliness of child sex trafficking, the destitution of broken families. In a slum outside the city of Phnom Penh, I met a ten-year-old boy named Som. He and I spent every day together for two weeks. He’d take me by the hand and show me around the dirty streets of his makeshift neighborhood. Even though we didn’t speak the same language, he became like a little brother to me. Som’s mum works 16-hour days in the near-by factory, earning less that two dollars a day. He has eight younger siblings, whom he takes care of as his dad drinks the days away.  On our last day with that particular ministry, I watched my little brother run after our dusty old van as we drove away. He was crying because he knew I wasn’t coming back. With tears on my face and my heart in pieces, I made a promise: I’m going to make the rest of my life about doing everything I can to change the circumstances that people, especially children, are up against in developing nations. 

Som, and all the other beautiful people I met, are the reason why three months ago, I chose to become part of Voice for the Voiceless. We use media to expose justice issues around the world. My journey has now taken me into leading a team to the beautiful continent of Africa. I am leading five media-savvy individuals into Ghana and Togo where we’ll spend a total of three months. Our vision is to produce short documentaries on HIV/Aids and on the issue of unclean water, as well as helping practically with health education seminars and the building of rainwater tanks that provide 150 people with clean water every day.  We will also spend a month in the northern region of Ghana living and helping at an orphanage that serves about 35 children and is run by one man.  Our goal is to set up a website with individual biographies of each child, that will facilitate the adoption process as there is currently no system in place. 

All in a year, my life has taken on greater purpose. I live right in the middle of a crazy adventure. I get to tell incredible stories. I get to know the most amazing people. I learn from the best, and I have the chance to make a very real, very tangible difference. I'm walking in the things i used to dream about. 

My friend Cookie said "It will cost you your life... but is there anything you'd rather die for?"  and the answer is no. Everyone gives their life to something, and I'm giving mine for this.  

"Whoever clings to his life will lose it. Whoever loses his life will find it." [Matt 10.39]

And when they do, it will be incredible. 

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