Like many teachers, I moved to the Middle East eager to embrace such a unique experience and the chance to see the world. I had grown up in a Christian family who was devoted to its church, but joining a new one definitely wasn’t on the forefront of my mind at the time. In truth, I didn’t even know if there would be a Christian church in Kuwait when I boarded that first trans-Atlantic flight.
I ended up learning about existing churches in Kuwait through coworkers and soon started attending services each week like I believed a good Christian would – something that I had done all my life. I even went the “extra mile” and joined a life group. That’s where you would find me every Friday morning and Wednesday evening, sitting quietly in a chair (at least when I wasn’t traveling). But church honestly was not my priority at that time. God wasn’t my priority at the time.
The only thing I was really concerned about was making money and traveling as much as possible, and I was surrounded by hundreds of people who all seemed to be doing the same thing. I was one of the many young adults who moved to Kuwait knowing that it would be temporary, and was determined to make the most of it while it lasted.
But then something unexpected happened.
Two months turned into one year, which turned into two more. Somewhere along the way, I realized that all the travel, the countless countries, the temporary fun that I was having was never going to fulfill me. I felt convicted of my love for the things of this world. I suddenly was faced with how distant my relationship with God had become. When was the last time I opened my Bible or spent time in prayer outside of church or life group? I didn’t even know.
I slowly began recommitting my time, energy, and life to the only One who could truly satisfy my soul. It was hard; it required dying to my selfish desires every single day, and I often lost the battle. It took discipline to wake up early each morning and open my Bible. It meant cabbing back and forth to services, life group and worship practices, which took much more time and money than I liked. It resulted in being humbled and learning to tithe faithfully.
After three years of struggling with this in Kuwait, I felt God calling me to the World Race, an eleven-month mission trip that would take me to South America. I knew that He wasn’t leading me there because I had figured everything out and was now living only for Him, but because there was more work to be done. He could only take me so far in such a familiar environment and it was time to really test my trust and obedience.
Unfortunately, I learned a certain valuable lesson too late.
It wasn’t until I was packing my things and preparing to board that final flight that it hit me how much my church family had cared for me through all of this. As I was called to the front to be prayed over after my final service at CIC, I began to weep. I mourned all the lost time, all the lost opportunities. These people had invested in me and for so long while I had sat quietly in my chair, entrusting only parts of what I could offer them in return. These were the people who were spurring me on to follow God whole-heartedly and supporting my journey with prayers, finances, and words of encouragement. I didn’t even realize the blessing that was right in front of me until it was taken away.
God has given me a chance to learn from this lesson during my months away on missions. I have been living in community 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I was hesitant at first, still caught in my old ways of reservation and selfishness, but I’ve seen the benefit of letting people in and committing to them in return. God has spoken powerfully to me through my teammates, and he’s loved me through their intentionality. I have grown more than I could have expected, and I thank God for surrounding me with people who live radically for him. It has changed my life. I honestly can say that church is now one of my top priorities, and can’t imagine my future without community like this.