Ahead of me was the check-in counter for Swiss International Air Lines. My family stood with me, and I wanted desperately to express how much I would miss them. Unfortunately, my tendency to bury emotions prevented any words from leaving my mouth.
My mind preoccupied and distracted, I heard my mother say distantly, “You should have eaten something.” I wanted to tell her, “I couldn’t eat anything if I tried.” I was too nervous. The airport exits were close, tempting me to run back to the car and drive home. However, after a rush of goodbyes, I took my seat in 28C, and about 14 hours later managed to find my way to the city of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, where I would study French for the next nine months.
The days leading to my departure for language school were marked by the ebb and flow of conflicting emotions. At times, I felt great excitement and relief as I received the last of my financial support and prefield clearances. But these sweet moments of victory were often followed by overwhelming waves of fear that made my body feel heavy and caused periodic ringing in my ears. Although confident in God’s leading and sovereignty, I still dreaded saying goodbye. These emotions are not unique to me. I am just one of thousands of missionaries who regularly undergo this process.
People often comment, “You’re so brave.” Disappointingly, I must confess, I am not brave. There were many days on the field when I sensed God dragging me from place to place. There were many times I thought, “There is no way I can do this.” Fortunately, the Holy Spirit would intervene and lovingly whisper, “Trust me. Depend on me.” Time and again I returned to the words of Jesus in John chapter 15: “Apart from me you can do nothing.” The knowledge and faith in God’s absolute sovereignty throughout this life-changing journey seems to always surpass the human fear I regularly experience.
To combat the worry of stepping into the unknown, I dedicated much time to reading Scripture. I conveniently buried my checklist at the bottom of my purse and clung tightly to the word. It imparted the courage and strength I needed. I began to see more vividly God’s miraculous work through men and women who became foreigners but continued to obey the true God. I can’t begin to grasp the emotions Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah must have felt as they were captured and taken to Babylon, given new names, and forced to learn a new language and culture. I can’t imagine what Ruth felt as she gleaned in Boaz’s field for the first time. These courageous examples demonstrate God’s omnipresence in scripture, as he stood fast with them in blazing furnaces and unknown pastures.
God is just as present, active, and powerful in Switzerland as he was in the US. He is always working through his servants to accomplish amazing feats that bring him glory. This is my constant reminder and hope. It’s what keeps me from sprinting toward exit signs.