-Missionary Tracy Paver
“Your reasonable service.” I stared at those three words in my Bible, overcome by their meaning. I was at a missions camp in the mountains of Tennessee. I had just graduated from nursing school the month before and figured this camp would be a welcome hiatus before I dove back into the world of nursing, NCLEX-RN exam preparation, and job interviews. But after the first camp service, I knew this wasn’t going to be the low-stakes, relaxing camp I’d imagined. A missionary preached on Romans 12:1 and challenged us to surrender to missions, to serve Jesus with our lives. And it left me feeling uncomfortable, unsettled.
Because of an American missionary who shared the Gospel with my dad in the Philippines, I had the blessing of growing up in a Christian home and getting saved at the age of seven. God would later move my family to Singapore and Indonesia, where I made a diverse group of friends, many of whom were missionary kids. The move overseas made me more aware of my spiritual surroundings, the false teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, and the world’s great need for the gospel. But the move also helped me understand in part what it was like for a missionary to leave the comfort, familiarity, and security of home to live in a foreign land, to adapt to culture, to learn a language, to share the gospel with people in darkness. Living overseas, seeing the gospel need, and counting missionary kids as some of my closest friends, helped keep my heart open toward missions.
“But, Lord,” I thought, “You can’t possibly want me to surrender in this way. Not yet. It’s too early.” I had just finished a challenging four-year nursing program. I was at the beginning of what I hoped would be a long, successful career, either in cardiac or orthopedic nursing at some prestigious teaching hospital in the South. There would be plenty of time for missions later. But that week at camp, I couldn’t get that phrase out of my mind. Your reasonable service. Reasonable meaning rationale, sensible. As I meditated on Romans 12:1, I realized that giving my life to serve Jesus isn’t an excessive or extreme act. It is a rationale, reasonable response when I consider who I was before salvation, who God is, and what He sacrificed to save me.
Still, I held back, wondering if I could really trust God with the surrender of my life. I was afraid of where surrender would take me, of the kind of life I would have. But it was another verse in Romans that quieted the fear in my heart. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). God had given me His very best, His most beloved Son, “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” That’s a good God. That’s an immeasurably gracious and kind God. That’s a God I can trust with the surrender of my life. On the last night of camp, I gave up my plans for the reasonable service of giving my life to serve the Lord as a missionary.
When I look back on that missions camp and how God worked in my heart, I am overwhelmed by His goodness. All I wanted was a week-long break from studying for the NCLEX-RN exam, but God wanted to work something else out in my life that was of far greater value. Since camp, I learned to prioritize my life differently. Instead of letting a job dictate my direction, I moved to Alpharetta, Georgia, because of a pastor, church, andmissions training program. There I knew I could get discipled, mentored, and trained for missions and ministry. I learned to balance studying at the Our Generation Training Center and serving at Vision Baptist Church while working at a local hospital and teaching in various nursing programs. I learned to be willing to serve in different capacities. And I learned, and am still learning, to be sensitive to the Lord’s leading.
God used a recent missions trip to Latin America to open my eyes to the continued need for the gospel in this region. He also showed me what He could do through the lives of faithful men and women wholly surrendered to Him. What my eyes saw affected my heart, and I began to pray and search for an opportunity to serve. And that’s when God directed my steps to Chile, a country that, despite its still predominant Catholicism and growing population of atheists and agnostics, is ripe for the harvest.
Long before I stepped onto Latin American soil and saw the Gospel need, before I even started deputation as a missionary to Chile, God was already at work in my heart. And it began with the realization that giving my life to serve Jesus isn’t an excessive or extreme response. It is simply my reasonable service.