"...I have an amazing family, awesome friends, I go to a Christian school, and I live in a country where (for now) I can publicly proclaim my faith in Christ without being persecuted. Honestly, I am incredibly lucky! Right now, I am sitting in a chair, watching football on a TV, typing this email on my MacBook Pro, all warm and cozy in my pajamas and sweatshirt. And these kids have absolutely nothing. Nothing!"What prompted this? I could say it started with an episode of a game show called "Minute To Win It" that our family was watching one evening a couple of nights ago. It's a game show in which contestants have to complete a task (for example, bounce 10 pencils into a cup) within 60 seconds to win a specific amount of money. With each task you complete, you make it to the next level of money. On this particular episode, there was a team of two girls. One of them had founded an organization after she had gone on a mission trip to India, an organization that builds homes for children to keep them from having to live/survive on the streets of India. She was on the show to win money for her organization to be able to build more homes for children in India. I could see Ashlee's eyes light up every time they showed a snippet about the organization during the game show.
In reality, what really prompted this letter all began with a book report Ashlee had to do in 5th grade. The assignment: choose a country, read a book about it, and write a report on the country's culture. Ashlee chose India. The report detailed the country's caste system, how each person belonged in a different social class. And for their entire life, their chance of making it to the next level of society (in their "next life") was all dependent on how well they performed at their job or how good they were during their current life. This book report sparked a little fire in Ashlee for the people of India, a fire for them to know her God.
Fast forward a few years. My in-laws were part of a mission team that traveled to India. Seeing their pictures and hearing their stories about the incredible poverty they witnessed there just added more kindling to Ashlee's little fire. Her desire to go on a mission trip was getting stronger... but not just any mission trip would do. She wanted to serve in India, and she wanted to work with orphans there.
Fast forward a couple more years and a possible opportunity to go to Haiti presented itself. However, after much research, phone calls to people who had gone to Haiti, and a meeting with our mission's pastor, we decided that this wasn't the trip. The mission's pastor felt like her first mission trip should be a good experience, one that would make her want to go on another one. While I agreed, Ashlee just wanted to work, to serve. He told us he'd put us on his list and would contact us when a good opportunity came up. Time went by, and we never heard back from him. However, Ashlee would hear story after story from other teens who were going on mission trips to other countries through the church and just couldn't understand why she wasn't getting the same opportunity. A closed door? Maybe at that time. Nonetheless, she became discouraged.
Fast forward to January of 2013 and her letter to us expressing how she felt God was calling her to go to India. She ended her letter with, "I will trust God's plan, His will, and His timing." How do you argue with a 16-year-old who tells you she feels that God is calling her to serve Him? What more could a parent want? Well, as her mommy, I would love to have a 16-year-old who tells you she feels that God is calling her to serve Him a little closer to home than India... like maybe in our community, in our city, someplace where it's safe, someplace that's not on the other side of the world! That's what my heart was saying. But God was saying something different.
More information from Ashlee's letter detailed the organization the game show contestant had founded. Seems like Ashlee had done some research of her own and discovered that this organization was planning a trip to India in May, and they were inviting teenagers to go along to work and serve with them, and she wanted to go. She asked us to pray about it and keep an open mind. We promised her we would pray about it. As far as keeping an open mind, mine was open... well, maybe barely cracked. However, daddy and I decided to do some research as well. We realized that we needed to embrace Ashlee's heart to serve. Besides, I feel very strongly that if God calls you to do something, He would remove any obstacle that stands in the way of that calling, and I did not want to be removed!
So I emailed the organization for more information about the May mission trip. Unfortunately, two weeks passed with no response. Another closed door. During this time I pursued two other opportunities, both of which also turned into closed doors. Another organization I looked into had several mission trips on the horizon... one of which was to India; however, the dates overlapped Ashlee's youth choir's summer mission trip, so this wasn't an option. There was another option with this organization... a trip to Guatemala. The dates worked well, and the cost was less than going to India.
We talked about this option, but she just didn't get the same spark in her eyes as when she talked about India. So she decided we would just keep researching, just keep praying. She was content to wait on His perfect timing, and she was content to pray for God's perfect plan. So that's what we all did... we waited and we prayed.