Lessons From The Rooftop

Written by a Cafe 1040 Grad

Read Part 1 of this grad’s story here.

 “As I climbed the ladder to the roof of the flat I would spend the next several months of my life in, I realized a gnawing dread was growing inside me. So, with heavy heart and burdened mind I turned to the LORD for understanding.  What started as a simple prayer asking for wisdom swiftly turned into a struggle with God over the course and direction of my life.

 I had just returned from dinner at a local friend's house with my team. It had been a wonderful experience.  We had not been in Southeast Asia for a very long at this point, and the opportunity to get to know a local family had been much-anticipated over the course of the day leading up to our meal. As we finished dinner, our host made a motion to an altar in the corner, and began explaining its significance.  Strung with lights and adorned with photos, the altar was used to make offerings to our host's deceased ancestors.  One of my teammates asked, “How many people in this city have these altars?”

  “Everyone,” my host answered.  “Everyone has one.”

 As we drove back, through the crowded streets packed with people, the reality of my new city set in.  In the sea of faces before me, was there a single follower of Jesus?  In the sea of faces before me, was there anyone who had read any part of Scripture? In the sea of faces before me, was there anyone who had had a conversation with a follower of Jesus?  The likely answer, no.  Tears began to well in my eyes, for there was so much work to be done.

 Then, the true weight of the answers to those questions set in.  This was just one city.  There were many other cities that faced the same reality.  And these cities housed countless people who were growing up, living, working, and dying without ever having the opportunity to hear of the grace and mercy offered by the cross.  And I felt God whispering in my ear intently;

 “You see the great injustice that not all of my creation turns to me in worship.  You see how entire nations made in my image do not honor me as the one who has orchestrated every action in their lives.  Are you content to continue to stand idly by, or will you finally listen and obey what I am calling you to do?”

 On the rooftop, huddled in the corner, staring up into the night, I knew.  As soon as I asked God for understanding, I knew.  If I am being honest, I had known for a lot longer, but had been scared to admit it.  My place is not in America, where I grew up.  It is not in places where I have brothers and sisters in Christ.  My earthly home will be in a place like Southeast Asia, where to be a follower of Jesus is to be in the vast minority.

 I resisted this fervently. As soon as the thought began to settle in, I fought against it.  Excuses began to rise to my lips.  What will my family think, and how will I talk to them about it?  What about my friends, how can I maintain relationships with them if I'm a world away?  What if my health fails, how will I provide for myself should that arise?  What about my role in my church, who will fill it when I'm gone?  What about my hobbies, how can I continue to pursue what I enjoy in another culture?  To each complaint I brought, I felt God respond with the same answer:  “Is this really more important to you than my glory?  After all, I gave you all of these things in the first place.”  I very quickly ran out of excuses.  As it turns out, trying to pick a fight with the all-powerful, all-knowing God of the universe is never really a good idea.  I eventually realized that, much like Moses when God approached him in the burning bush, the fundamental reason behind all of my complaints was that I just simply didn't want to do it, as bad as it sounds.  Needless to say, it was a very humbling experience.

Surrendering to God is the most freeing thing in the world.  When we try to tell God how to run our lives, in never works out well. But when we let Him take the reins the possibilities are endless. I emerged from that rooftop transformed, ready to learn and serve. 

My conversation with God really set the tone for my entire summer.  It was hard, and I wrestled with a lot of things over the course of my time there. Whenever I thought I had laid everything down at Jesus's feet, something new would arise for me to surrender.  But after years of listlessness and confusion, the LORD was finally providing direction over my life. Suddenly, the years of waiting on the LORD to move began to make sense.  Through all of the hardship and uncertainty, pieces were beginning to fall into place.

 The realization that God was calling me to a place with little to no access to the gospel was massive.  It has radically changed my outlook.  How I structure my life and the decisions I make are intimately impacted by my calling.  In fact, it was such a massive thing, and it happened so early in my stay in Southeast Asia, as I descended the ladder back to my flat, I was left wondering what else God was going to do over the course of my summer. In hindsight, this was just the tip of the iceberg, but at the time I had no idea what God had in store for me.  All I knew was that He was beginning to work, and I could not wait to see what surprise He had lying in wait for me next.”