Many people have asked me how I made the decision to go to Bolivia. Sometimes the how can be just as important as the why. Here’s my story of discernment on spending a year in South America.
No, I didn’t hear the voice of God speaking directly to me. I didn’t see a burning bush, nor did a bright light descend upon me in the middle of a road.
I did have a clear process of discernment though. I used three key tools in my decision making process: looking back on my past, looking out to my community, and looking in to the Word of God.
Let’s talking about looking back.
God has left little bread crumbs throughout my life that led me here. They aren’t necessarily massive lightning bolts– most of these clues require a patient and discerning eye. But they are there if you look close enough.
I looked back on my passions, gifts and experiences.
“What makes my heart set ablaze with passion?”
For me personally, it’s the fight for justice, ministry with young women, giving a voice to the voiceless, and Latin American culture.
“What gifts has God given me?”
God has given me the gift of relating to young people through ministry, the ability to speak Spanish, a passionate and dedicated work ethic for justice, and openness to new cultures.
“What experiences have I had that equip me?”
I’ve been blessed with incredible travel experiences, mostly to the developing world. Through these travels, I witnessed grassroots programs that bring redemption and healing. I had an amazing four years at Pepperdine as an International Studies major, in which I learned about different cultures, conflict resolution, and international negotiation.
International Justice Mission is where I saw my passions, gifts, and experiences collide. Looking back on my life gave me clarity.
I also looked outward to my community for discernment. Let me first say, I am incredibly blessed by an amazing tribe of people who love, care about, and support me. This tribe includes parents, mentors, mentees, friends, family members, those who are single, married, my age, and older. So during this season of decision, I leaned into my community for support, advice and prayer. I set aside time with each of them one-on-one to process the decision together. I asked them questions:
“What do you think my passions are?”
What do you think my gifts and skills are?”
“What are the pro’s and con’s of this job from your perspective?”
“Do you think this job is right for me?”
“Do you think God will be glorified through this decision?”
And many other questions that probed at the heart of the matter. I asked them to be honest and reflective with me. What a blessing it was to sit with the special people in my life and hear one by one, a passionate, unwavering yes to this decision.
Lastly, and most importantly, I spent time digging deep into God’s word for clarity. I aligned my heart with the one who created it, so that I could also align myself closer with His path.
I uncovered Scripture that reaffirmed my passion for justice, the poor, and the Kingdom (Matthew 25: 35-40)
I reread the call to the mission field (Luke 10:2)
I found strength in His promises (2 Corinthians 12:9)
I recognized that I’m a living sacrifice for Him (Romans 12:1-2)
I felt fortified through His guidance (Psalm 25)
I trust that He will steady my heart with His peace (Isaiah 26:3)
I rested in the fact that ultimately, His ways are good (Psalm 18:30)
Here’s something important to note: I don’t think there was a right or wrong decision. God would not have been mad or disappointed with my decision had I said no to the job. He would have used me in whatever path I chose. But I do believe He delighted in the fact that I weighed it with His promises, and I could find no reasons to say no.
I also meditated on these two reflective questions:
“Will it bring me closer to Him?” “Will it glorify His name?”
My soul answered an emphatic yes. And that yes was strengthened by looking back, looking out, and looking in.
So there it is, friends. I hope this leads you into wiser and more Kingdom-centered discernment in the future. I hope it encourages you to reflect on how God has spoken through your past, to lean into your community for support, and to seek truth in His promises in Scripture.
He may not speak through a burning bush or a bright light anymore, but He is still ever so present with us. You must listen to your life and all the treasures He has left to guide us towards Him.