What Are You Doing With Your Life?

In 1977, a seminary student named Don Stephens was invited to a meeting in Calcutta with Mother Teresa. Given the gravity of the event, Stephens carefully wrote out his questions for her on a note card and placed it in his pocket.

When it came his time to speak, Mother Teresa kindly but directly told him to put the note card down because she had some questions. According to Stephens, what she asked him changed his life.

1. What’s your purpose?

2. What is your greatest pain?

3. What are you going to do about it?

Out of the pain Stephens described to Mother, Mercy Ships* was born. Thirty five years later, it operates the largest, non-governmental hospital ship in the world, and is busy building a second. Working with a $54 million budget, the non-profit organization has visited 578 different ports, providing surgical, ophthalmic, medical and dental care to the world’s poorest people.

One guy. Three questions. Millions of lives.

So, what are you doing with your life?

And I say that carefully, because stories like this used to frustrate me. I too wanted to build something with my life, something significant, but I couldn’t figure out how. My problem, as it turns out, was a simple one:

I had fired my architect.

Because I was mad at the Christians who carry signs and smear gay people on Facebook, I refused to even consider the gospel of Jesus Christ as infrastructure for my life. So, I erected a bunch of buildings on my own. With a few breathtaking exceptions, those structures were up to code and functional; however they were kind of lame and uninspired. I wanted Frank Lloyd Wright and I got mini-storage.

Mercy Ships

What I think Mother Teresa, Don Stephens and thousands of Mercy Shippers understand is this:

It is a tremendous privilege to collaborate on your life with the creator of the universe; to coax something magnificent from the ether and watch it consume thousands of people like fire, conscripting them into the army Jesus had planned all along,

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. Genesis 1:1-3

Whether you know it or not, God’s hovering over you too, right now, brimming with thoughts and plans for your life, with an imagination too wild for you to grasp. However, your humble assent and obedience are required, and nobody can tell you just how it will go.

If you struggle to believe that, I understand but what do you have to lose by trying? Why not let God define who you are and what you’re doing here? (Right, First City Church?)

So go ahead and bring him the tatters of your faith. Bring him your doubts about creation, religion, gay marriage and abortion. Bring your sad heart and your dirty face and lay all of it at his feet. Then pick up the gospel of John.

I promise he will lay you waste and love you whole at the exact same time.

And that’s when the building begins.

*As I’m sure you know, the views expressed herein are my own and not that of Mercy Ships.

Why Go to Africa?

IMG_0325Sitting in a church in Colorado years ago, I stared at the maps on the walls with photos of missionary families stuck to them, and thought,

“In a million years I would never be a Christian missionary.”

This July, I am traveling to Zambia, Africa to be a Christian missionary. Something I’ve talked about here and here and here. As you can see it didn’t take a million years, it took a decade. Maybe God can work with me after all.

But I vacillate constantly. I know in my gut the Lord wants me to go, but I don’t get why I have to fly to the other side of the world to spend two weeks in a bush school, with 100 kids and five unpaid, overworked staff. Doesn’t my big American self just add to their burden? And what about all the money it takes to get there? Why don’t I just raise it and send it to Pastors Jasper and Zion, then stay home and pray for them furiously?

Honestly, what impact can I reasonably expect in to have in 14 days or less, that justifies the cost of the endeavor?

The answer I think is this:563041_3989032717092_1447014515_n-1

It’s not really about Jasper and Zion and the children of Chongwe.

It’s about me, and I know I’m not supposed to say that.

I’m supposed to say, I’m bringing my servant’s heart to an orphanage, where I will repair plumbing, plant gardens, tend to medical needs and share the love of Christ. And to the best of my ability, I will do those things.

But what if it’s my life that’s meant to be changed – not theirs? 

  • What if Zambia ruins my comfortable American life?
  • What if it forces me to really obey Jesus, by caring for widows and orphans there and in the US?
  • What if I’m humbled by the relentless service of people who feed and educate 100 children every day for free?
  • What if I can bring it home and replicate it?
  • What if my experience in Zambia gets you thinking about social justice, salvation and ways to make your life matter more – especially if you are a follower of Jesus?

Is that worth the money?

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? James 2:5

Telise (left) Fidelise (right)

Telise (left) Fidelise (right)

That’s what I want. That’s why I’m going. My gift to them may be pumpkins or prayer or pvc, but their gift to me might just be bigger, richer faith.

This is a weird way to ask for money but that’s what I’m doing. Through the loving support of my friends and family I have raised $2500 of the $4200 mission cost. Will you help me with the rest?

In addition, two of the ten orphans Pastor Jasper and Zion are raising, cousins Telise and Fidelise, need tuition and uniforms for high school. I think it’s $400 per three-month term, each. I’m believing God for that as well. How cool is it that a month of Starbucks cash can send Zambian kids to school? Sorry Starbucks.Online fundraising for Team Kirk to Zambia 2013

Many people have said to me, “Wow, I wish I could go to Africa too.” By funding this mission YOU CAN! Because I plan to pour out what we have on Zambia, fill up with what they have for us, and bring it all home to you.

Maybe together we can make something beautiful.

SCRUBS  Medical Mission is a registered 501(c)3 and all donations are tax-deductible. You can find out more about them here. If you’d rather send a check, write it to SCRUBS with Erin Kirk in the memo line. Mail it to SCRUBS Medical Mission 15434 Brittain Court, Lindale, Texas 75771

What Is Your Gift?

fall 2005 036I’ve been typing and editing away all week, getting ready for the Mt. Hermon Christian Writers Conference in Santa Cruz, California.

It’s hard to unpack all the reasons I’m excited about this: Drinking wine with old friends, cavorting among the Redwoods, smelling the Pacific, but mostly I’m thrilled to be taking another step toward what I’m meant to do with my life. It is such a relief.

The Apostle Paul told the Romans, the gifts and call of God are irrevocable, so maybe that’s why I get cranky and anxious when I’m not writing enough.

Until I started reading The Bible, I didn’t understand that while I am capable of many things, I am best at one thing, and God’s got a plan for it. I just have to cooperate.

At Mt. Hermon, they seem to get that. Not only do they round up the publishing industry folk, but everybody gathers to sing and praise the Lord first thing in the morning. It’s as though networking with God is the foundation for networking with anyone else. Evidently, at Mt Hermon somebody decided to take Proverbs 16:9 seriously:

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.

For the last eight years, I’ve had a career in corporate insurance sales. That’s what happens when you don’t bother to let God establish your steps. I could do it, but I wasn’t made to do it. When I surrendered my stubborn streak to the Lord, I began writing. On Thursday, I’m getting on a plane with a completed manuscript in hand.

So, even if you have to use your gift on the side of everything else, get busy and do it. Next week we’ll work up strategies for how.