Keeping mission vision alive and growing A quarterly publication of Mission Data International

Interview with Stacy A.

This issue’s interview is with Stacy A., an aspiring missionary who grew up in Nebraska and presently lives in that state’s capital city, Lincoln. She addresses a few things here related to missions we’ve yet to talk about in Propel.

Propel: How long have you been interested in long-term missions?

Stacy: I have been interested in long term missions since I took Perspectives a little over two years ago.

Propel: When and how did this interest begin?

Stacy: I came to Christ in 1997. In 1998, I began to feel a tug toward missions, which I pretty much ignored for a while as I planned to go into politics, and missions would kind of just mess that up! But in late 1998 (I was still I in high school) I went to a youth conference in Denver. During the conference they did a presentation about different countries and people groups. I was fairly indifferent until I heard that “One Million Buddhists Die Every Year without ever hearing the name of Christ.” God broke me right there. I didn’t hear anything else during that conference; I couldn’t focus on the sessions, I was completely distracted by that statistic. Through a series of events during the conference that week, God really confirmed that he wanted me to go to Southeast Asia for missions work. He wasn’t clear on when or how long, just Southeast Asia.

Well, being young in age — and young in Jesus — I was ready to go that next summer. So, I got information from this conference about their trip to Southeast Asia My parents were not believers, but I was convinced that if God called me they would let me go. This may come as a surprise, but it didn’t work that way. I was promptly grounded and not allowed to go to church anymore. Some months passed and I was able to go back to church. I was greatly questioning this “call” I had received because my parents had acted so horribly against it. But this longing and ache for Southeast Asia, just wouldn’t leave my heart.

Finally, in 2002, the college group at my church was going to Southeast Asia. I applied and was accepted to the team. This trip confirmed my love for Southeast Asia more than any experience of my lifetime. It was pretty clear to me that even if God didn’t call me full-time that I would have to go semi-regularly to Southeast Asia. Perspectives was really the training ground in which God made clear that this was to be my life’s work. I still don’t have all the details of when or how, but as I have learned from previous experience, He’ll get me there in His time.

Propel: You’re interested in social issues and community development as missions, if I understand correctly. What are you doing now to specifically prepare yourself for this kind of work?

Stacy: Actually, strangely enough, I’m not interested in doing community development as missions. I will likely work with the upper class of Southeast Asia, probably focusing on college students fortunate enough to be in a university setting.

Don’t get me wrong, I care deeply about social issues and community development, but I feel that I can be more effective working with those who could affect change from the top down, then trying to individually work to alleviate symptoms. That is not to say that some are not called to do so — many people most definitely are — just not me.

Secondly, and this will sound weird but it’s just the way God wired me, so hear me out. I care for people almost to a fault. When I read the paper or watch the news about Darfur, the AIDS pandemic or world hunger I am often reduced to tears. Sometimes I lose significant amounts of sleep because I’m so torn up over these things. If I were to be a relief worker and we ran out of food during a distribution and there were still 100 people wanting food, I’d be so distraught I may never recover. God has equipped some people to be able to handle that kind of stuff, not me. So while I’m well informed, I am still far enough removed to carry on a semblance of a normal life.

That all being said, I feel a great sense of responsibility to do everything that is available to help draw attention to these plights and help support those who are taking action. I believe in taking action on an individual level, so I buy fair-trade whenever possible, I recycle, I try to buy local and I support organizations and businesses that do the same.

Propel: Do you believe your degree and experience in politics will help you in your mission ventures, and if so how?

Stacy: Yes. It already has. It is hard to say how it will directly help, but my degree was a major factor in getting my current job, without which I couldn’t pay off debt or get the necessary weight-loss surgery. It may be helping indirectly, but definitely helping.

My experience in politics will certainly play a role in helping me work through cultural differences and compromising with missions team members. After all, politics is all about compromise. Also, my studies and experience in politics have taught me the life long discipline of staying informed. I read two newspapers, watch news programs and read BBC’s website everyday to stay informed. My studies helped me better understand what I read about, helping me make value judgments and drives me to action when necessary.

Propel: You were an Asian studies minor in college and later went to Southeast Asia on a mission trip. How did you become interested in Asia?

Stacy: As I stated before, I felt way back in 1998 that God was specifically calling me to Southeast Asia for missions. Wanting to not be a typical ignorant American, when I went to college I chose to learn as much about Asian history, culture and politics as I possibly could. I found that when I was in Southeast Asia, I had an automatic rapport with some people because I had taken the time to learn about their history and politics before I even got there.

Propel: You recently moved home to cut down on expenses and pay down some debt in preparation for mission work. (I’m assuming this debt is more or less related to college.) Do you regret the debt that you have presently?

Stacy: My major debt has three sources. I had to have a medical procedure that ended up not being covered by my insurance; various major car repairs, I was laid off from a job and was without work for two months. When I was finally employed I was paid significantly less, but had a lease on my apartment that I had to finish. There were about eight or nine months of living well beyond my means, so I had to rely on credit. My mom did manage to give me a loan for my debt, so I could pay it back interest-free and therefore much more quickly.

Two of those factors were pretty well out of my control, but I think I could have managed the last one a little better. I do definitely regret that debt. It wasn’t until the last couple of months in that apartment that I really realized just how out of control it had become and started cutting back on the frivolous spending. Even once I cut back on everything I was living beyond my means. But God certainly used that time to teach me valuable lessons on financial stewardship.

Propel: Besides debt, what obstacles have you encountered in your pursuit of mission involvement? How are you overcoming these obstacles?

Stacy: Right now I have two hurdles that I must get over in order to be “free” to go overseas. One of them being debt, the other one being my physical weight. I have struggled with my weight all of my life. I am considerably overweight — not just 10-20 pounds; more like 175 pounds. While I made it through Southeast Asia in 2002, it was definitely a challenge. I feel that in order to be free to do missions well, that I need the endurance to walk long distances (like walking to public transit, from home to work). I also know that I need to lose the weight so my health doesn’t slow me down or affect me negatively in my work. I don’t want to be taking medications for high blood pressure, or be a borderline diabetic in another country. I don’t want to just get there and have to be pulled off the field because of health issues.

So after much prayer and tons of confirmation, I went in to have Lap-Band Surgery on July 2, 2007. They place a band around the stomach, which they can adjust from the outside to continue to tighten it, and it limits the amount of food I am able to eat. I have lost about 54 pounds since the middle of June. I still have a long way to go, but I honestly believe God made it possible for me to have this surgery to make my hard work — eating right and exercise — more successful. If I keep up the hard work, I should have lost all of the weight I need to for my health and freedom within the next year or two.

Propel: The church you attend in Nebraska has a program to help people who want to become missionaries actually get overseas. What do you think of this program?

Stacy: I love the concept and the heart behind the Missionary Prep Program. The vision is really to identify those who might have a calling and walk with them to help them feel out God’s leadings. For those who know they are called, it is systematically set up to address common problems that missionaries face on the field like team infighting, lack of leadership training, lack of Biblical knowledge and cross-cultural issues. It really is designed to get you doing the work of a missionary here.

Propel: What are its strengths?

Stacy: I love that they have us work with a mentor. She really is a pace person, to help make sure I’m getting the work done and to encourage me to continue in the program. But she is also a trusted friend, who shares my heart for missions and for mobilizing others.

Propel: What are its weaknesses?

Stacy: Some of the “required reading” is pretty dated. Much of it doesn’t even discuss how technology and global networking sites like Facebook and Myspace are changing the very face of missions and the church. Southeast Asia will soon surpass us in internet users; this must be part of our models. I guess I’m just looking for a happy balance between traditional missions models — which are vital to our understanding — and modern models that account for the times we live in.

Propel: How would you like your involvement in missions to look ten years from now?

Stacy: Well, I would like to have been on the field for a few years at least by that point. I would like to work with university students, both reaching out to them and discipling them. As I said before, many of these people are the future leaders of their nations, major businesses, and communities. They have a tremendous opportunity to affect the lives of those around them, and, if they become Christ followers, we could see great things happen in their spheres of influence.

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