Discovering God’s will for my life has been emotional and deeply personal. I hope hearing about my journey will inspire someone who reads this. This is the story of how I discovered my calling.
God has called me to do lots of things in this life, and one of them is missions. I kind of stumbled upon this calling four years ago, in 2011, but it’s taken me a while to fully embrace.
I went on a short-term service trip to Cape Town, South Africa during spring break of my senior year of high school. During those two weeks, I prepared meals for malnourished children, served in a local orphanage and tutored kids at an elementary school whose students lived in the shantytowns on the outskirts of the city.
"The place God calls you to is where your great gladness and the world's great hunger meet."
It’s hard to adequately describe the living conditions most of these kids faced. Walking along the hot, red dirt through the shantytown, I tried to imagine what daily life looked like for them. No electricity, no running water, a small “house” made of cardboard and tin, a small mat on the floor for a bed. It’s hard to describe what life is like for these children, because their daily realities are so vastly different than what we’re accustomed to here in the States. It’s hard to know where to start.
I met kindest, most gentle lady while walking through one of the shantytowns. She had two beautiful sons, from different fathers, a newborn and a little boy around the age of 2. She and her newborn had recently tested positive for HIV. She’d probably contracted it from the youngest son’s father. She knew what the future probably held for her and her baby, given their lack of medical care. Her 2 year old, who didn’t have HIV, would likely end up in the orphanage where my group was spending some of our time volunteering. She was thankful her son would have somewhere to go when she could no longer care for him. As she was sharing her story and expressing her gratitude, it took everything in me not to break down into a puddle of tears right there on the hot, dusty red earth outside her tiny little cardboard home.
During my first day volunteering serving meals at school, one cute little boy with curly hair and missing front teeth gobbled down his breakfast, shredded wheat with hot water. He ate faster than anyone I’ve ever seen. Before we could stop him, snatched his friend’s breakfast from his hands and ate it too. His teacher reprimanded him, and later explained to me that this was probably his first meal in a while. For many of the children, the only meals they received were the breakfasts and lunches provided by the school.
Despite the difficult circumstances that surrounded me, I saw so much beauty. The poverty and brokenness of the shantytowns against a backdrop of gorgeous mountains. The helplessness of HIV patients and the joyful squeals and laughter of children running through the dirt. I wasn’t changing the world, but I was changing a little bit of someone’s world. My heart was full to the brim and I felt so much purpose. I felt so alive.
“The things you’re passionate about are not random. They are your calling.”
At times, it has been scary to realize that missions are part of God’s plan for my life. It’s scary because it’s often at odds with that my family and the people closest to me want for me, it’s sometimes different than the plans I’ve carefully made for myself. Seeking God's will for my life pushes me out of my comfort zone. It’s scary to recognize this calling, but not nearly as scary as living an unfulfilled life. Once I had a taste of the fullness of life and the purpose I felt from living out my calling, it became impossible to be satisfied with an ordinary life.
God gifts us each uniquely. One of my gifts is to see beauty in brokenness. I love serving people, especially people in poverty or difficult situations. I love mentoring and leading others, showing them God’s unfailing, unconditional love. God has given me a passion for serving others and has broken my heart for people living in poverty. Andy Stanley did a series earlier this year called Re:Solution. He asked us to answer the question, “What breaks your heart?” and then to do something about it.
My heart was broken by the poverty I saw in Cape Town. I am beyond thrilled to have the chance this fall to follow my passion for serving people in poverty as I travel to Bangkok to work with human trafficking victims, mentoring them, loving them, and working alongside them as they transition into new lives.
My advice for discerning God’s will for your life and finding your calling is to think about your unique gifts, think about what makes you come alive and ask yourself “what breaks my heart?” You have unique gifts and passions, and you can use them to change someone’s world.
The total cost of my trip is $5,700. I’m using my personal savings to fund part of the trip, but I’m relying on donations for the remaining $5,050. I am blown away by the generous donations I’ve received so far! To make a donation, follow my fundraising efforts and to learn more about how I’ll be volunteering, please visit: http://www.gofundme.com/LaurelToThailand
Thanks for stopping by. A little about me — I have a latte each morning and drink about 7 cups of tea a day (I'm not exaggerating.) I live in Atlanta where I'm going to law school. I like long distance running and I love my city and I love exploring our beautiful earth. I believe in being vulnerable, following our passions & being free.
I started this blog to document and share my favorite moments while traveling. This is a place where I process my ideas, share the aches and joys of my heart, speak truth, and shine light on the beauty I see in the world.
I've realized that what I probably love most about traveling is the same thing I love about writing — the way it connects me to myself and other people. I hope as you read my words, you feel connected to our shared humanity.
Thank you for reading. :)
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