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March 15, 2022
March 21, 2024

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Nations

My story of reaching the nations begins, as these things so often do, with the Lord's very cheeky sense of humor.

About 13 years ago, He saw fit to woo and rescue an adamant atheist in a yoga class of all places, and transform her into someone who longs to spread the gospel far and wide. That was me, if it's not clear: I'm the yoga class atheist, the gal who used to mock Christians for believing in God, who thought religion was a bunch of horse manure though I would've used the more vulgar term for manure. And now I lead an Advocacy Team for goers in Central Asia among many other things.

Yes, the Lord has a strong and wonderful sense of irony.

It wasn't long after I came to faith that The Austin Stone launched the 100 People Network as it was then known. As soon as I heard about it, I was all in from the start. The Lord had saved me so spectacularly and from such a doomed existence that I wanted everyone to know about this fantastic God and His outrageous gospel. I was actually ready to quit my job and sell my condo and move overseas when I had a meeting with the missions pastor at the time, who bemusedly suggested I take a few interim steps first. Short-term trips, for example were a perfect first step. So that summer I went to the Dominican Republic and Egypt. I came home radically changed. I had never been abroad before, let alone for kingdom purposes, and I saw with my own eves how laborers in the field allowed the Holy Spirit to lead their walks.

Taking a missions class was another of the mission pastor's recommendations, and I signed up that fall. Hearing directly from those in the field and reading about those who served hundreds of years ago was completely transformative.

Maybe join an Advocacy Team the missions pastor said next, and I did—for a precious man who was coaching American football overseas. And then for a dear sister who upped and left everything to serve in Europe. Then again for some friends who felt a call to the Middle East and also for a brother headed to East Asia. At one point, I was serving on three Advocacy Teams at the same time—all in fevered support of friends who had given up everything for our good God.

The Lord also wanted me to freely give out money to those who were going, so I started supporting people on trips both short and long term. It's funny to me and I'm sure to the Lord too that giving is one of my spiritual gifts—as the daughter of bankers, I was notoriously stingy as a nonbeliever. God radically and hilariously changed me in this area. He prompts me to give money (lots of money) to complete strangers.

About 11 years ago, a dear friend started leading an Advocacy Team for a family who had transplanted to Austin from the Midwest. I am a Kansas City girl myself and I was immediately intrigued. This family came to Austin for a year-long intensive Goer Missional Community, which was meant to prepare them and their team to live in a country with almost no believers or churches and no Christian community but their team. They launched to Central Asia the next summer and I have been faithfully part of their Advocacy Team ever since. I've even been leading the team for the past three years.

Of course, the last three years with the pandemic and subsequent shutdown have wrought great upheaval in everyone's lives. All of a sudden, everything about leading an A-Team was different. So long socializing over burgers and tots at Hat Creek! See ya later, meeting up with the gals on the team for lunch and froyo. Even our group prayers, which had been happening via WhatsApp video calls even before COVID, stalled out—I had so little energy or motivation. I was lamenting all of this to the Lord one day—agonizing over my pathetic leadership skills when He asked me a simple question, "Do your goers feel loved?" I thought about it for a moment, and I had to conclude that yes, they did feel loved. We had just sent them a big care package of birthday gifts and special requests, several of us had been regularly Zooming with them one-on-one and everybody pitched in with prayers and encouragement over the team text thread. We had been loving our friends faithfully the whole time, even if it looked different than it used to. Leave it to the Lord to boil all of our service down to love!

I'm just so grateful that He has a heart for lost sheep! Every believer's story begins with us wandering from Him, and He gets all the glory in writing our stories His way—often with no small amount of sass.

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Sarah Halverson
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For the Nations
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