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Exploring Your Call Cross-Culturally
- When God spoke to Abraham, he called him to a journey to go to a place where he didn’t know.
- The guiding principle is that God speaks and he is the one that gives us the calling.
- God speaks and we get to step into it, discover it and pursue it.
Joel & Amie’s Story
- Amie came to faith at university, and then did a gap year training with YWAM. In that year she went on some short term mission trips.
- During that time, God spoke to her and showed her a vision with a calling she couldn’t ignore.
- For the next few years she was working in London with this calling on the back burner, but it couldn’t stay on the back burner for ever.
- Before going to university, Joel travelled to Australia and New Zealand, and at this time was seeking God’s will. He was given words by several different people about sharing good news with people from many different nations.
- He didn’t know what it looked like, but it resonated in his heart.
- At university, Joel started a group on each of the six campuses of his university in London to reach out to people around them. They had a vision for reaching out to the different nations around them.
- He then began leading the students work at Christ Church London, and they started looking to how they could mobilise students into what God is doing all around the world.
- Through leading teams to Malmo and St. Petersburg, Joel knew that he was not called to Sweden or Russia!
“Seeing what doesn’t fit and realising what we are not called to can give us clarity about what we are called to.” (Joel Kendall)
- Joel was given a prophecy from Julian Adams that he would be a church starter and a man for many nations. At first he wasn’t sure what it meant.
- Joel joined a team going to the part of the Middle East where they are now living. This was hugely impacting and he wanted to go and serve the people there.
- As a group of people in church were sharing about what God was saying to them, both Joel and Amie shared the same desires for going to the Middle East. They then ended up building a team together for a short term trip.
- Some of those people from that initial team are now part of the longer term church planting team.
- We can often dream of pioneering in another context, but we can also ask whether God would have us move to start new communities among people who don’t understand Jesus where we are right now.
- This led Joel and Amie to move to a different part of East London that had a majority population from a particular Middle Eastern context, and they took a team there to form a new community and start making cross-cultural connections and helping people on a discipleship journey.
- They saw friends from this context come to faith.
- They also learned about how to start something from scratch.
- As they were moving to East London and Joel was preparing to go to the Middle East, this was the time that Joel and Amie started their relationship with each other.
- Despite the background noise about the call overseas, they had peace about things and listened to the voice of the Spirit.
- Joel had a stronger sense of going quickly than Amie did.
- Timing can be challenging in this circumstance – Joel couldn’t in good conscience lay down what God was saying, but if he was going to marry Amie he needed to do that well. He felt like he needed to give the sense of calling back to God and trust him that he would bring it about.
- This was one of the hardest things that Joel has had to do in his life.
- As they were engaged they came to the city they now live in for a weekend, and started to explore whether they could live normal life there. They were working it out openly with each other and the people around them.
- Over the next couple of years they served in East London and were able to multiply the community of fifteen into a few new communities totalling around eighty people as a site of Christ Church London.
- They could have carried on and led the site, which would have been a good thing in itself but would have got in the way of what God was calling them to.
- When Joel and Amie announced they were going, people began (unintentionally) stepping back from them.
- As you start to follow God’s call and pursue it, there is a loneliness about it
- It is really important to have strong relationships with close friends who are sharing in the calling with you.
- They then began to share vision and gather team for a new community where they were. They were looking for people who God had been calling and whose hearts they were joined with. It wasn’t about a big random group of people who wanted to give it a go.
- God was speaking to them about seeing a discipleship movement in the city they are in and raising up indiginous leaders from the start.
- They wanted to contribute to the flourishing of the city – business, arts, hospitality, trade, etc.
- Part of the role of leaders is to help bring out the particular calls that individuals have.
- Amie has now started back with the management consultants that she had worked with in London with a role in the city she now is, and this helps with seeing the city flourish.
Some Key Lessons
- Don’t wait to be in the right stage of life before pursuing God.
- Invite others on the journey.
- God does the calling, so we can give it back to him and trust him with it.
- Serve hard where you are at but always have an eye on where you want to go and have faith for that.
- Your family are hugely important in this, so make them part of your journey and share it with them.
1. How did your sense of calling change when you got married?
- It focussed in a bit – Amie had a general call to the Muslim-majority world, but when she married Joel she took on his call to the specific place.
2. How did your families respond when you told them about your call?
- One of the families was enthusiastic, the other less so.
- Part of how they worked through this was introducing them to the culture, taking them to restaurants, etc.
- Trust your friends and your family into God’s hands. God will speak to the people he needs to speak to.
3. Did you feel your calling grow over time?
- Initially for Joel it was a very general calling (people from other nations) but there was a lack of clarity about where it was going.
- The most frustrating point was as a sense of calling and passion grew but not knowing specifically where it was.
- It has grown but also become more defined and narrowed in.
4. What are some specific steps you would suggest for someone who has a heart for a particular culture?
- If there are people from that culture close to you, make them part of your life and start investing in them now.
- If you don’t have that opportunity right now, it is helpful to serve and love people from another culture, even if it isn’t the culture you may go to long term – through it you learn about God’s heart.
- Particularly if it’s a Middle Eastern context, put your energy into that because you need a depth of relationships before you can have faith conversations.
5. When you feel like pursuing a calling is going nowhere, when do you reset and go again?
- You will probably have some difficult times as you follow your calling.
- The reality of culture, language and homesickness is hard.
- You need faith – ask God for the gift of faith to endure even in the tough times.
- If God has given you a call then you are there until God calls you out of that situation.
- If God has spoken to you, there is often a long journey before you see what it looks like.
6. How important is knowing your sense of calling when the going gets tough?
- It is fundamental. You need to be able to see that God has brought you there to see that he will bring you through.
- It really helps that you both have the same sense of call.
7. What advice would you have for couples who don’t feel the same sense of calling?
- Don’t listen too much to what others say.
- Trust that if God has called you to marry a certain person, he will work it out. Seek God and his will for your marriage.
- Create the safe space to have those conversations.
- Keep exploring together.
8. How did God use others to shape your calling? Were you given any bad advice?
- When they were dating, someone said to Amie, “You’re not going to stop Joel going to this country are you?”
- Their families have been great – and they get messages and letters all the time.
- Amie had support from close friends in working through dating Joel as he was preparing to go.
- Don’t make yourself more vulnerable than necessary – have people you can confide in.
9. What was the best advice you got?
- Take time off for language – you enter a culture through it’s language.
- Finishing one season well will set you up to start the next season well.
10. What was the trigger point that made you realise it was time to go?
- They had been chatting and praying about it – they were preapring to speak to Dave Stroud (the church leader) about it.
- As they were on the way to tell him, God spoke to him on the way and said they should go as soon as they could.
- Don’t be scared to pray for God to give you signs or things to encourage you that you are on the right lines.
11. How did you manage to finance your call?
- They needed to raise finance to come and learn language for two years and take three years to get a community formed.
- They asked a few churches they were well connected with to support them as a church – and some individuals supported them too.
- This has been a journey of faith as well.
- Relationships have been built through this.
- For members of the team, they raised money for two years to learn language and then will get jobs in the city.