Katie first heard about the great need of unreached peoples one Sunday in church. Kent Parks, President of Beyond, was speaking that morning. Katie felt burdened when she heard how many people will never have a chance to hear about Jesus or his offer of forgiveness and new life. She wanted to do something personally about this huge problem. But what? Pray? Something else? In the end, the idea got put on the back burner for a while.
In college, the problem of the unreached came up again when God made it clear that Katie should go on a missions trip to Bangladesh. As an introvert, Katie questioned why He wanted her to go. “I used to tell people, ‘I’m the shyest person you’ll meet, but really you just won’t meet me.’ I felt like I was useless in God’s plan. Why would he want me to go? More people needed to know about Jesus, but I couldn’t imagine myself talking to others. I could pray. I could encourage my teammates. I could smile at people, but the message would not get across. Shouldn’t God take people who are more skilled?”
To prepare her for the trip, a mentor coached Katie by giving her some exercises that would help her learn to talk to people more comfortably. Her first assignment was never to use a self-checkout at Walmart again. She was to practice speaking to the check-out people, asking them questions and interacting with them.
In Katie’s words, “It did not come naturally to me, and I was struggling with feelings of being unqualified and unable to please God. But isn’t that the Gospel? That I would not be able to do it? That I cannot please God on my own? I began to trust God. I realized that my failures did not change things between me and God. Other people’s responses didn’t change my stance with God. And seeing God’s faithfulness in those conversations helped me open up, which was super freeing.”
The trip to Bangladesh proved to be an eye-opener for Katie. Being there in person, seeing face to face the masses of people who didn’t know about Christ was both overwhelming and a reality check. One thing became clear to her: more than short term trips were needed to address the problem of the lost.
Once back stateside, Katie had a hard time adjusting to college life as usual. She talked with the campus ministry director about her summer in Bangladesh. “You know, Katie, not everyone on the team had a great summer. There were a lot of hard things there, but it seemed like you were thriving.” The director asked Katie to consider praying about whether God might want missions to be a part of her future. According to Katie, “That’s when I started wondering if I could actually be a contributor (and) part of the solution to the problem of the unreached.” Katie did begin to pray, earnestly seeking the Father on what He’d have her do. The path forward, however, was unclear.
Despite the uncertainty, Katie kept pursuing God’s purposes for her in missions throughout her grad school years. She attended a missionary training program through her church, took the Perspectives course, and was part of a Launch Global disciple-making team. Through all of these milestones, Katie feels she was spurred on because the Bible’s big picture narrative of the unreached was deeply seeded in her heart. Another important factor in Katie’s tenacity was personally knowing people who had walked the same path and made it to the field as missionaries to the unreached. They had done it. She could too.
Still, Katie felt frustrated because she did not know the “if, when, where and how” of her part in the story. It seemed like a big puzzle that she had to figure out on her own. Katie compared herself and her journey to those who were already in the field and tried to emulate the steps they had taken. She felt bad that she did not as yet have a “calling” to a particular UPG.
Katie turned to Erika Parks, her friend and mentor, about her struggles. Though Katie was at the point where she just wanted someone to tell her where to go and what to do, Erika offered a more timeless message. “Katie, it seems like you have a lot of competing voices and inputs on what you should do when. But what has the Lord said to you? I can add my options to your list, but I’m not the strongest voice in your life. I could convince you today, and then someone else could convince you of another thing tomorrow. You need to hear from the Lord and do whatever He says. This is the single most valuable thing you could learn in ministry.” Katie took this word to heart and began seeking the heart of God first and foremost. She asked Him questions, expected His answers and listened for His voice.
One night during a worship service, Katie asked God what to do with her free time. She had finally arrived at a place where she wasn’t frustrated with God. She was open to whatever He wanted. God gave her the thought to pray for a specific country in Southeast Asia. Katie thought praying for this country would be a one-week assignment, but after doing some research, she found there were over 300 unreached people groups in the affinity block to which the country belonged.
Not long after this personal call to prayer, a friend sent Katie an invitation to a partner meeting for a Beyond missionary couple living in that same country. Katie went, though she was still a bit uncomfortable being in a room full of people she didn’t know. After the meeting, Katie went to coffee with them and was challenged to get a map and begin praying strategically for the nation’s peoples. Ultimately, this partner meeting was the catalyst that prompted Katie to pray for one people group per day for nearly a year and opened up a dialogue that resulted in the pivotal question, “So Katie, what’s keeping you from joining Beyond?”
Katie says, “I started thinking about it, and everything clicked. The values of Beyond stood out. I wanted to be 100% on board with the vision and values (of the organization I would join). I could see all of them being exercised in Beyond. It wasn’t just a document no one cared about. The vision and values of Beyond were exemplified in everything they did . . .. I think it was God’s gift to me to let me be with people I would really enjoy.”
Soon after, the Lord gave Katie a dream that confirmed the people group she should focus on. In the dream, she saw herself running across a bridge and discussing the kingdom of God with some Southeast Asian friends. Upon waking, Katie discovered the bridge she was on in her dream is located in the same country God had given her to pray for, and on that very day, there had been a marathon across the bridge.
Finally, Katie had her organization, her team, and her people group.
Fast forward through many busy months. Months spent informing family and friends of her decision to follow Christ overseas, getting basic training on how to live and thrive in a new culture, raising financial and prayer support, leaving her job and the friends she had there, saying goodbye to people and places. Tough months. Good months. Months of seeing God’s faithfulness poured out to her in a myriad of ways.
Now Katie is counting down the days until she boards the plane that will take her into the next phase of her missions journey. This new phase will include language and culture learning for her people group as well as coaching in cross-cultural disciple-making for her specific people.
When asked what one thing she would say to someone who is currently considering going into missions, Katie replied, “Prayer is the biggest, most important action that I would recommend. For anyone asking: ‘How do I figure out where to go?’ Pray . . .. Listening prayer has been a huge encouragement. But I was not doing that until recently. I feel like a lot of my wrestling of where to go and what to do could have been resolved if I’d just learned to wait on the Lord and listen to His voice in prayer. In every question you have, God will guide you through prayer.”
We ask you to pray as Katie begins the next phase of her journey with Christ.
KATIE’S PRAYER REQUESTS:
- Pray my time of language learning will open doors to people God is drawing to Himself (John 6:44-45).
- Pray that my coworkers and I would seek God’s glory instead of our own. Pray for us to stay dependent on Him for all strategies and efforts. (Proverbs 16:1-9, Psalms 115:1)
- Ask God to send out more followers of Jesus (from nearby and far away) to go and make disciples where Katie is. The harvest is plentiful (Matthew 9:37-38, Matthew 28:16-20).