Hope on Distant Shores

Author: Rachel Olson

Just over a year ago, a lifelong dream came true. I was accepted to join Mercy Ships, an organization that brings free surgical care to some of the poorest countries of Africa. I quit my job, packed my bags, and moved to Madagascar, where I have spent the past eight and a half months wading through what it means to live and work in another culture loving people very different from me.

This all started back in middle school, when God clearly called me to spend my life with the world’s forgotten poor. That call stemmed from a close relationship with God, during a huge season of growth when I was pouring frequent, consistent time into seeking his guidance and he was radically transforming me and putting new desires in my heart. And yet even with that firm foundation, I was tempted to put international ministry on a pedestal. During the many years of waiting for this dream to come to fruition, I had expectations of how it would deepen my faith. Now that I am finally stepping into this calling, I have found something concerning — others are putting me on a pedestal for it.

I work for an organization whose motto is to “bring hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor.” I have watched fragile, starving infants slowly become plump and healthy right before my eyes. I have seen deep despair in a patient’s eyes be replaced by joy in a matter of days. I am living in a place where the transformation is clearly visible.It is easy for me, and others, to see purpose and meaning in my work. It can be easy for my job to look more valuable or fulfilling than someone else’s. And yet, more and more, I am realizing these things can still be meaningless externals by their own merit. None of this, not one of our good things, brings purpose or fulfillment on its own.

I still believe obedience is key for living in intimacy with God, and for me that obedience meant walking into international ministry; so in a roundabout way living this life should be fulfilling. Yet I am finding that hope does not come from anything I can do or have done for God. Hope can only be found in God — in who He is, and what He has done. I can strive and work out of my own strength for God my entire life in stress, angst, and exhaustion. I can do great things that people may applaud me for, or I can seek to join God in what He is doing. Seeking to be close to His heart without my value or worth being dependent on my performance or the feedback of others. These two ways of living look similar on the outside, but in the heart they are worlds apart.

The plan for my life may be to dive into international ministry for the long haul, or it may turn out to stay there only for a season; but ultimately my purpose is to seek and know Jesus regardless of the country I am in or the level of economic standing I am surrounded by. My desire in living well is not to create my own hope, but to live out of the hope he gives.  I seek and pray that Jesus will help me to remember and walk in this truth.

Readers, Have you been tempted to elevate good works over grace by faith, or to lift dreams above the God who saves? It is easy to do, but a right view of our lives, hopes, and God will bring more peace than any desire and lead us into the adventure of living for the glory of God. 

Interested in supporting Rachel? Check out the info in her bio.

Thanks for reading,
The Anchored Voices Team

Rachel Olson enjoys reading, making music and exploring new cultures. She especially loves seeing patients find healing, often after years of waiting with no chance of receiving surgical care. To hear more about her journey with Mercy Ships or how you can be a part of it, visit mundanesplendor.blogspot.com or facebook.com/rachelinafrica

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