Monday, December 17, 2012

SEVEN: from a VO Staff Member

During our 12 Days of Features, we want to bring people's stories to life, to show how one trip has impacted them.  Some people go, are radically changed, and continue to change the lives of those around them…These are their stories.

Behind the Scenes
from a VO Staff ~ Julie Richards

Sometimes it feels like God works in puzzles. When we first step out, we so rarely have a clue what the fuller picture will be.  If we could only imagine how purposeful God is, how intentional, how incredible are His connections and intricacies.  I think we’d be more apt to trust Him and respond with willingness. Courage would trump our fears.

My first Visiting Orphans trip goes back to the very beginning when we had just completed our adoption in 2005.  America World Adoption Association was offering a mission trip to my daughter’s orphanage. It was only four months after we had gotten home from China, but I had read about the importance of finding out all we can about our daughter’s heritage and upbringing.  This would be a perfect opportunity, even if it was hard to leave her so soon.

You know you can have your heart tugged, despite everything not being easy and all figured out.  This is a key place we could miss out on something God has for us. We can all make excuses about the timing – that maybe next year would be better, or my kids are too young, or the finances are too tight, or it is hard to ask for help.  We had just had tremendous outpouring of generosity for our adoption – how could I ask for more financial support now?  God had even provided for my whole family to go to China to bring our daughter home!

I let the urging of my heart and the prompting of God to assuage the doubts and uncertainties.  I didn’t have all the puzzle pieces figured out, but I sensed the compelling to go forward.

I didn’t know then that her orphanage would later be flooded and destroyed.  When I said yes, it was the last chance to be in the very place she spent her first year with the same nannies and helpers.  I didn’t know then that the vision would catch on, and that my church would ask me to lead another trip back to China.  I didn’t know then that I would keep going back to help serve in Chinese orphanages and lead more than sixty people over the years to come with me.  I didn’t know then that this would become part of my life calling to reach out to the hurting and forgotten, to bring light and hope and love to orphaned souls.  It has grown.  It’s a bigger picture now, a fuller calling, and a brighter and clearer vision.
“taking the next step” 

I am convinced now more than ever that those first little steps of obedience have life-changing significance.  My life and my family have changed.  We have a forever place in our hearts for the orphan and for missions.  It is an ultimate priority to stay connected to that vision.  I believe it is part of why God put me here on this earth.  It has taken years of one day at a time, following His lead.  In the past year, God has opened two incredible opportunities for me that coincide with my calling.

The first is the honor and privilege of working with the Visiting Orphans staff, where I have the joy of working with others who are passionate about orphans and missions too. I get to encourage the hearts of those who will trust God and travel clear across the world to be His hands and His feet. I’ve also begun studies in graduate school, where I can go deeper to nurture and facilitate the healing of hurting hearts.  Who would have dreamed? I can live out this calling of connecting families to adoption and support their journey. I can encourage others to step out in faith and trust God, that He has something more for them.  This mission trip you are considering going on, just might be the classroom where He fashions your faith a bit deeper.  

It can lead to something more.  

Little by little, transformed lives.  Trust His process.  Enjoy the journey as He unfolds it, one day at a time.  

For today, He just may be asking you to step out in faith and say YES.

~Julie Richards

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