by: Our friend, Charlene
My call to India arrived along with my call to follow Jesus.
As a college student at the University of Florida (UF), I thought I knew everything. I was a pretty decent student, working toward a degree in Elementary Education. I considered myself a Christian as well, so when my new friend Michelle invited me to visit several campus ministries with her, I went along. The two ministries we settled on were the Baptist Student Union and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, or FCA. For any of you who happen to follow college football (or who followed it 20 years ago!), the FCA president at that time was Danny Werfel, the star quarterback who led the Gators to our first national championship and acquired the Heisman trophy. So going to FCA was a cool thing at the time, for plenty of us who had at least a Christian worldview. The meetings were packed every Wednesday night.
Someone else frequented UF’s FCA in those years, someone who didn’t mix up following Jesus with pleasing the world. His name was Clayton King, and his messages tugged at my heart, pulled at the distant memory of a tearful walk down an aisle when I was 11, reminded me of letters I used to hang from a clothesline for Jesus to take when I was 5 or 6, and awakened childhood memories of a mother who loved the Lord like no other person I’ve known. As he spoke I started to realize who I was, or at least, who I was always meant to be. My heart stirred for the Lord who loved me unconditionally, more than any human person ever could, and at the same time it began to pulse for the country Clayton kept mentioning in his messages . . . India . . .India . . .would the Lord ever send me somewhere like India? When he spoke about it, India didn’t feel like a foreign place at all. I could picture myself there, serving, living, and working, without any trouble at all. Could He use someone like me in such a place?
That next summer I went to serve on staff with Crossroads Summer Camp. I’ll go ahead and tell you that it was 1998 and camp was really different back then! But as it continues to be for hundreds of campers each year, it was the best summer of my life to that point. The Lord entered every crack in my soul and emptied out a pile of sin, guilt, confusion, and pain. Each wounded space He filled with healing salve, and then an inexpressible joy. I wanted to follow Him for the rest of my life.
India didn’t go away. It stayed in my thoughts and became part of my prayers and plans. I prepared to go on a short-term trip around the year 2000, but I was convicted by some debt I had accrued during college and withdrew my application. I worked off that debt and by 2003 made my first trip to South Asia, spending a summer in Nepal as an English teacher. By the end of that summer, I felt sure that there was more to come.Of course ‘calling’ sometimes becomes sticky as marriage comes into play. Thankfully the man God had for me had a similar call to South Asia. In fact, my future husband had paved my way to be in the Nepali village I served in that summer.
Shortly after my return to the States he proposed, and we began planning our journey to serve overseas. We announced these intentions to friends and family at our rehearsal dinner, and set about our married life together as if we could be going at any moment. We lived in a missionary family’s empty house free of charge, avoided getting a dog, resisted taking on car payments, and kept our financial debts as clear as possible. We also started the challenging search of finding the exact place to serve and the agency to be sent through. The Lord was gracious to work out all the details at the right time, and in 2008 we were planted in northern India.
My husband often says that there are two things he has always been sure of in life, his decision to marry me, and our call to serve for a period of time in India. There is no greater feeling than to know that you are living in the center of God’s will for your life. In our case, it was India.
Whether in your neighborhood or on the other side of the world, how is the Lord callingyou to serve Him?
About the Author: Charlene and her husband have spent the past seven years serving in South Asia, most of their 11 years of marriage. With God's grace they will be transitioning back to America this Fall. Charlene loves singing, hiking, and spending time with people, and there is nothing more beautiful to her than the Himalayas and the faces of those who live there.