This time last year, while I was traveling in Central Asia as part of a team from Youth With A Mission, an existential crisis was brewing inside me.
Things had happened so fast as the trip came together that it was kind of like my body had gone ahead of my mind and spirit, and I was waiting for them to catch up. Also, team dynamics seemed to be changing rapidly as our young leaders’ goals for the group had shifted to a more personal focus.
Honestly, I felt like things were falling apart. I was frequently asking God, “Why am I here in Tajikistan?”
The only thing I thought to do was to set my body on autopilot and, when the moment presented itself, to just tell people how God had met me where I was in life the first time I had raised my hand, asked to know Jesus, and really meant it.
One day, a friend we’d met locally said to me, “I feel like you should have this.” Then he handed me a small piece of cloth. It was a little shorter than a scarf, almost like a tablecloth for a very small table. It was beautiful and clearly handmade, but not soft. On it was embroidered TIMOR LESTE with two Stars of David on each side. Since our friend, Vali, had brought articles of clothing for my whole team, he clearly meant for me to wear it, but it was such an odd piece of fabric that I didn’t know what to do.
I started to wrap it around my head like some sort of ceremonial garb and I said, “Like this?”
I’ll never forget his quick response.
“Dude, it’s a scarf!”
We both laughed for a long time at the silliness; we were two men from different corners of the world enjoying each other’s humanity and just being goofy. I will not forget that moment for a long time. It is truly a pleasure to have met Vali. He was the first person to ask me on our trip to please tell him about God and Jesus, seemingly out of the blue, even though he was a Muslim. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for him.
“I feel like you should have this.” Almost a question. Something in Vali’s voice was curious, yet he spoke with authority. I asked him where he got the scarf and he replied, “I don’t know — it was just there at my house.”
TIMOR LESTE. From the instant I read it, it burned in my mind. “I must learn what it means!” I thought. Initially I assumed it was Latin, and I hoped it meant something like “Friends Forever” or “Honor and Love”; a fond token it would be to remember Vali by.
But I soon discovered that Timor-Leste is actually a place — specifically, it’s the eastern half of an island off the northern coast of Australia that had recently won its independence from Indonesia.
From the moment I learned about it, this place has not left my mind. A place I had never heard about before in my life was suddenly on the tips of tongues of random strangers I would meet. In one day, I had four different conversations about this place that were initiated by other people. Dreams of catching large fish in the ocean off the coast of an island I couldn’t quite make out were a weekly occurrence.
Fast-forward to my return to Arkansas. YWAM Ozark was holding a staff retreat to usher in the next season of Discipleship Training School. The base leader, Barb Nizza, had organized a group of people from a local church not only to pray for us, but to interpret a word from God for us. During my time in Tijuana and Colorado, this team of people had been asked to pray for each one of us for several months.
At this point I hadn’t uttered a word about Timor to anyone. During the retreat, as the people took turns praying for us, a man looked at me hard and told me that he felt a calling for me to go to an island nation.
My jaw hit the floor.
“Oh no … no no no, God, not me! This is ridiculous!” is usually how I respond when I hear God pushing me toward something big, and this instance was no different. Flat-out refusal turned to self-doubt, which then turned to questioning what I heard. But I’ve learned that when God shows me where I can serve Him, that’s exactly where I need to be; if I misunderstand, He will make it apparent. So I decided to push through the doubt and dive headlong into obedience. The whole process of submitting to God, I’m proud to say, is taking less and less time for me! After handing my life to Him fully, what else am I gonna do? Get back in the driver’s seat now?
I sometimes ask God outright (because of past experiences), “Should I just drop everything right now and go?” This time I heard, “Well, that would be one way of doing it.” Then I felt a warmth like our Father was smiling. Our God is an awesome God, and I feel He certainly has a sense of humor.
A goal for 2019 is to travel to Timor-Leste myself, and I wish to lead a DTS team there for their outreach in January and February of 2020. I’m pleased to say that I've already reached out to some contacts at the YWAM base in Dili (the capital of Timor-Leste), and these goals sound very achievable. Please pray for me, and specifically for these efforts. I truly believe I am being led to do this.
I’m taking it one step at a time for now. Sometimes, being led by the Spirit is like holding a little oil lamp above your head: You can only see the very next step along the path you’re walking, and you must take that step so you can see the next one. Please pray for God to use me and that little piece of cloth exactly the way He intends, every step of the way.
Connor Murphy is a full time mission worker with YWAM Ozark who specializes in community development. He came to know God with the help of the community at Grace and has been a member for almost two years.