When I tell the story of my journey from Ivy League-trained doctor to nation-hopping missionary in Africa, I get a variety of responses. From some, I get respect, admiration, and often a request for prayer to be launched into their own God adventure. From others, I get a tight smile with a “bless your heart” or a “that’s nice, dear.” And some people look at me like I need my head examined.
I have to admit that sometimes when I tell the story, it does sound pretty crazy. Sometimes I feel like God drugged me, or tricked me when I made the decision to move to Cameroon. Who quits their doctor job, puts their stuff on a ship, and gives up everything they know to go live in a little town in West Africa among a bunch of people she met on the Internet?
Crazy me, that’s who. Or maybe I should say me – the radical, laid-down lover of Jesus (in the words of my shero Heidi Baker) who would do ANYTHING He asks because I’m head over heels in love with the One who deeply and extravagantly loves me.
What led me to the decision actually makes a bit of sense. I needed more. More out of life. Meaning, purpose, destiny…I needed my life to really matter. It was somewhat fulfilling to care for my patients as a physician, minister to people in the small Bible study in my den, and write Christian novels. But it wasn’t enough. It didn’t feel like it. Something deep inside me knew it wasn’t the reason I was born.
One of the greatest desires of the human heart is to have a sense of purpose – for life to have meaning. Without it, one drifts aimlessly and heartlessly through life, going through the motions, living perfunctorily, but not passionately. I know all too well, because that was my life for many years.
To live passionately and to the fullest, we need a sense of purpose. We need a reason to be – a reason to exist that actually matters. We need to feel like we’re having some kind of impact on the world. God created us with this need so that we would seek Him for the very reason we were born.
This can be different things to different people – maybe rescuing young women from sex slavery, saving elephants from extinction or opening an orphanage for destitute children. Such heroic pursuits are normally what come to mind when we think of purpose. But equally important endeavors include being a great wife and mother, teaching kindergarten, or taking care of the elderly in a nursing home. There are as many purposes as there are people on the planet and no dream is more valid than any other.
One of my favorite messages to teach – a life message for me – is the message of purpose and destiny. Without fail, every time I teach it, I’m faced with an onslaught of questions that include, “How am I supposed to discover my purpose and destiny? How do I design a life for myself that’s full of meaning? How do I discover God’s perfect will for my life? How did you get the courage to go for it?”
These questions are rarely asked casually. When people ask me how they, too, can live a God adventure full of meaning and passion, there’s always a sense of desperation in their tone and a pleading in their eyes. People are desperate for purpose.
I answer the questions as best I can, but most of the time, I think people leave with an even greater sense of angst. I can see the wheels turning in their heads. I can feel them thinking, “Well, your story turned out great and inspiring, but can that happen for me? Can I really figure out who I am and why I’m on planet earth? Can I really live my best life? Will God really talk to me and help me live an amazing adventure?”
My answer to all of the above is a resounding, “YES!!!”
God’s greatest desire is for each of us to live our best life – in the center of His perfect will and at the height of our purpose. Over the last seven years, I’ve discovered so much about life, about myself, and about God. I’ve learned what it is to live an amazing adventure, listening to and following His whispers. I’ve discovered that He’s a loving Father who wants to see His children’s lives filled with meaning.
We were made to change the world. We were designed to enjoy the reward of pouring out His goodness that lives within us into the lives of others. We were created to bring His Kingdom to earth and to enjoy how amazing that feels. Imagine partnering with the King of Kings to transform this world into a place filled with His glory. There’s no greater high. There’s no greater joy.
Don’t get all religious on me. Not everyone is called to be a preacher or pastor or evangelist or “minister.” (Actually, we’re all called to be ministers, but not in the way you might think.) There are so many ways to bring glory to Him and only a few involve being engaged in what we typically consider to be full-time “ministry.”
I think that’s why a lot of Christians shy away from giving their lives completely to God. The thought of doing so is often associated with mental images of pain, suffering and sacrifice. We feel like we’re going to have to give up what we love to live a life of poverty and limitations, without pleasure or enjoyment.
I’ve learned that the exact opposite is true. When you lay down your life for the life that God has designed for you, it’s better than any life you could have imagined or created for yourself. Beyond your wildest dreams.
I think this expectation of suffering, poverty and sacrifice comes from our misconception of who God is. Another life message for me is the understanding of the Father heart of God. Growing up in church, most of us get this vision of God as being harsh and difficult, distant and silent, with a long list of do’s and don’ts and a standard of living that’s impossible for the average human to attain.
If we knew Him as He really is – a good, good Father who’s perfect in all His ways – then we’d see things differently. If we knew Him as a Father who loves us with a love that can’t be explained in words, then we wouldn’t run away from His plans for our lives. We would instead run towards them.
Our loving Father wants to give us a destiny that brings us great joy and fulfillment. The life He has for you is full of joy, abundance, and adventure. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and wander out onto my second floor balcony, overlooking avocado, mango, guava and plantain trees, with the most picturesque view of fluffy clouds gathering around the base of Mt. Cameroon and I can’t believe my life!
My life is full of joy, amazing relationships and family, and abundant provision. Every day, I experience deep fulfillment that I didn’t think was possible. My “kids” constantly tell me how deeply I’m impacting their lives. I get to see them transform and grow into the most amazing, fiery revivalists.
And yet, if you had told me eight years ago that I would be the Director of a School of Supernatural Ministry in Cameroon with dreams of reaching many other nations in Africa, I never would have believed you. The most I could have hoped for was yearly mission trips to Africa, a large home Bible study, and a stable doctor job that didn’t drive me too crazy.
Instead, I’m doing everything I ever dreamed of doing as a child, with the promise of so much more! Why? Because I’ve given my life to a loving Father who knows the intimate details of ME. He knows my dreams, desires, fears, gifts, talents and where my greatest potential lies. And He’s put me in a place where I get to be the best version of me.
The One who knows me the best and loves me the most has designed a life for me that’s destined to bring me joy and fulfillment. I promise He’s got the same thing waiting for you, if you just trust Him with your life.
I hope to prove that to you by the end of this book. I pray that by the time you finish, you’ll be ready to lay down your life, take a leap of radical faith, and jump into a God adventure beyond your wildest imaginations.
Hopefully, the story of my journey will lead you into a destiny journey of your own. Let me take you back to where my dreams of purpose and destiny started.
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