Insistent ringing woke me from a deep sleep. Stumbling out of bed, I answered the phone and heard my friend Jennifer’s voice, calling from the U.S. Shaking my head to clear the grogginess, I tried to take in what she was telling me. There had been a car accident. Her sister’s husband had been driving. The family was called to the hospital in the middle of the night. Her sister, who had been seven months pregnant with her first baby, was killed instantly.
Less than a month earlier, I had packed up everything and moved to East Asia as an English teacher. My roommate and I were just starting to find our way around town, getting to know our students, and beginning friendships with the local teachers at our school. Our little northeastern town was starting to feel like home.
But after Jennifer’s phone call, I was ready to jump on the first plane back to the U.S. My heart ached for Jennifer and her family, who seemed a million miles away. In that moment, I doubted God’s plan for me. I wondered if I’d made a mistake in coming to Asia.
Soon after, I received an email from a friend that addressed exactly what I was dealing with. He described how his family had moved from Australia to Hong Kong when he was young to begin a new ministry. Almost immediately after they arrived, however, news came of a family emergency in Australia, tempting his parents to give up their calling and move back home.
“The enemy loves to end things before they’ve even begun,” he wrote. Though it was difficult, his family decided to stay in Hong Kong, and God greatly blessed their work in the years to come. “It’s not a coincidence that this tragedy occurred right at the beginning of your time in Asia,” he continued, “but I’m praying for you to persevere.”
With God’s grace sustaining me, I stayed in Asia. I talked and cried with Jennifer, my family prayed with me over the phone, and my roommate covered classes for me when I needed a break. As I shared openly about my own loss, a local co-worker confided in me the pain of her father’s death in a car accident many years ago, and I had the opportunity to share with her the hope I have in Jesus.
That was just the beginning! If I had left that first year, I would have allowed the enemy to rob me of all God had in store in the following four years in Asia. Even in pain and loss, Jesus brings life and hope!
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble (pressure). But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Emphasis mine)