The Story Begins Here
David Degler’s voice crackled through my computer speakers. I couldn’t hear much. The sounds of Senegal poured in through the window of the concrete-walled room and invaded my rare moment of solitude.
Just outside, a goat bleated over his meal of plastic bags and candy wrappers, vendors from the nearby market-stands shouted their day’s selection to passersby, and the honking minibuses transported Dakar’s bustling population to and from the various quarters of this West African city. Amidst the noise, I sat at a splintered wooden desk with my computer before me and waited patiently for our meeting to begin.
This wasn’t exactly how I imagined the training conference when I signed up for ACMNP a few months earlier, but I had no other choice. I decided to spend this semester across the Atlantic, in Dakar, Senegal. I was far from home, at the most western point of an unknown continent, and I felt far from my summer-time role as a ministry leader and park employee.
An airplane moves too quickly. It can jerk our hearts across the map like the needle of a faulty compass. One day, I’d be on the sand-swept streets of Senegal, at the confluence of the Sahel desert and the vast sea. And with the blink of an eye I’d be in the Rocky Mountains, listening to the rushing waters of the Flathead River as mountaintop snows melt under a summer sun. Sand dunes would soon be mountains. Dakar’s roads and alleys would become gravel trails under a coniferous canopy. City-sounds would turn to silence.
Most importantly, my role would suddenly change, from curious traveler to ministry leader. I would have a mere ten days between my last day in a Muslim country and my first day with a Christian ministry. And honestly, I worried about this sudden switch.
I had constantly asked God how to gain wisdom from this experience in this place, how to reflect His glory where hardly no one knows Christ. I prayed that God would formulate me now for tomorrow’s trials. Still, I had a difficult time connecting this season of life with the one to come.
I sat with these thoughts in front of my computer. For those of us who were spending this semester abroad, ACMNP offered an online orientation. I would be able to meet others like myself, who had chosen God’s call from one wilderness to another.
Eventually, the screen flashed a pixelated image of David and three other ACMNP team members, and we commenced a five-hour video meeting in which we each expressed our goals, concerns, and expectations for the upcoming summer. We slowly made our way through the informational handbook, learning about our summer duties and hearing experienced input from both David and Amy Bloomquist.
All the while, the images on the screen grew clearer. I could distinctly hear the thoughts and prayers of the other team members and see the immediate surroundings framed within each video box. I saw a brightly decorated dorm room in Dublin, a musty Mumbai student flat, David’s personal desk at the ACMNP staff office in Colorado. We were all over the place – representing not only different hometowns across America but also various experiences in countries around the world.
I instantly recognized the beauty of ACMNP and the importance of my role in Montana: this summer, I would have the opportunity to congregate with a myriad of stories, experiences, and denominations in the familiar setting of our homeland’s iconic landscapes to worship the name of God.
This realization hit me with the force of a moving glacier.
God has blessed me with a personalized timeline of seasonal adversities and growths, but I am just one member of the body of His people. And He is in control. Isaiah 42 says that God created the expansive skies and the teeming earth and “gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it.” I am not more than a single entity in a Creation that is overwhelmingly incomprehensible, but God personally invites me to walk humbly in the spirit from the streets of Dakar to the trails of Montana.
This path that He has laid before me is anything but arbitrary if I consciously live according to His will, and His will has brought be where I’ve been and will bring me to where I will go.
God invites me to tell my story– the one that He has written for me.