If you’re looking for a sign, then this is it

Written by Jonah Katrina

I was in a conversation. We were in a hotel lobby, laptop in front of me which was prepped up on the hand of my friend. Replies were quick, and responses were thoughtful. We were talking about missions and how India needs to receive more missionaries compared to another receiving a similar number. I could faintly remember myself thinking, “When was the last time I had this crucial conversation?”

I became a follower of Christ when I was 16, as a freshman in college. It was through a booklet entitled “How To Be Sure You are a Christian” which was given for me to read as a weekend assignment. That decision started shifts in my perspectives in life and God which happened decision after decision. I got myself so active in the ministry too that my parents had to strongly remind me that I am still a part of the family after all the events I bailed out on. My outlook was that I felt useful for the first time in my life. To elaborate, I think it’s mainly because I realized that I had a purpose– to know God and make Him known. (But of course, God had to teach me that I need to show up in family events, too :P)

Together with me knowing more about who Jesus is, what He did, and how I could live out this relationship with him, is the cultivated perspective that others need to also receive these pieces of information that changed my life. I guess what always comes next to being restored to God after being convicted about living apart His plan for your life, is to be convicted that I have to give others the chance to fix theirs, too. I decided that to be a mission I can pursue for the rest of my life.

If you weren’t aware, Philippines is the only Christian country in Southeast Asia. It means that more than 86 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, 6 percent belong to various nationalized Christian cults, and another 2 percent belong to well over 100 Protestant denominations (source). I belonged to that 86 percent of Filipinos who grew up in a traditional family. Religion for me was just culture. Other countries have their own, and it composes who they are as a nation. “Let them be”, I thought before.

When I became a follower of Christ, I realized that others need to know who He is. In that sense, people will later on need to turn back from who they were and to start living a life apart from how they grew up– in most cases that means turning back from the religion they were so familiar with. That involves a choice and choosing Christ needs knowing about Him, and knowing about Him means encountering Him, and encountering Him means someone needs to tell them. The idea that religion was beautiful became for me a sad thought and a challenge at the same time.

As I write this paragraph, I could hear a resonating voice in my head of a mentor recalling a story about someone being asked about who Jesus is, which came the reply, “Jesus? Is that a softdrink?”. That often gets laughter as a response to a vision casted for conviction. Behind that laughter, I could never tell the succeeding emotion. Could be sadness, could be disbelief, could just still be amusement… but I remember when I first heard that story when I was a college sophomore, I felt strongly to do something about it. Maybe not immediately during that time, but probably when I get old enough.

Fast forward 12 years later, here I am finding myself getting asked if I will.
“Weren’t you asked about that question before?”, my friend finally said.
“What question?”, I replied.
“To go overseas for long-term missions”, he clarified.
I did a quick inventory of the questions people have asked me to consider, like intentional “Can we talk?” moments. The ones where it almost feels like a business proposal or something of the sort. There was a question about me going overseas, but that was to be an OFW. There was one asking me if I will be a missionary, but to the campuses in the country. Now as I think about it there was actually one asking me if I will consider going back to China and be a missionary after a 10-day mission trip, but it wasn’t serious enough to be considered an invitation. But back then I was surprised to realize that indeed, no one has asked me to go, which I then answered, “no, I haven’t”.

“How do you feel?”
“This is really scary”, came my honest reply.
“When you are weak, you are what?” He asked me, referring to Paul’s reminder to the Corinthians.
“Strong”. I replied. I still was in a weird space of disbelief about where the conversation was going.

What came next was a rather unexpected brainstorming.
“Pick a country”, my friend said. He made me rank countries I would like to “go” to. I had a history of wanting to go to Japan but from that conversation he made it clear that other countries would be a better choice in terms of real demand for missionaries (and for a time in my life, God made it clear to me I wasn’t sent there). I picked Thailand, then succeeding names were India, the Middle East, and I think Japan still took a spot, then finally, the Philippines.

Initially, I thought that conversation about being a cross-cultural missionary came at me so strongly that I almost felt guilty about not journeying it with the Lord. But as the talk progressed I felt more at ease. Moments of my conversations with God about trust, living for Him, surrendering control of my future, giving up my idols in life (I was reading Tim Keller’s Counterfeit Gods then), and living by faith came rushing back. I felt affirmed, actually. It felt like that conversation was the appointed next chapter for my walk, and I just felt at peace but also amazed that everything was actually coherent.

We ended the talk with a prayer, and for me a heart that was challenged to be serious about asking the Lord about it. I thought, I never got an answer probably because I didn’t ask? But at the same time, I was just comforted that God still knows my timeline. Probably my friend’s question just came at the right time? What if this is the season that I will actually ask the Lord intentionally about where I will go?

I remember a conversation with a mentor where we discussed that sometimes when he tells people to go to missions, they reply with apprehensive statements of them needing to pray about it. “It was already written in the Bible that Jesus already commanded us to go; what is it then that you need to pray about?”, came his usual frustrated statement, and I usually reply with a pensive nod, or sometimes a chuckle.

But then if that’s the case then shouldn’t we truly live sent? And from my friend’s words, we should try to go where people needs to be engaged with the Gospel and continue to do it until we see doors closing, then that’s when we decide to stay.

When we ended that conversation, he left me with a statement that felt like rediscovering a once important journal that was long forgotten at the bottom of my belongings:

I realized, how many of my peers were asked the same challenge? And how many of them were just waiting to be asked? If you’re one of them people who might need a sign to jumpstart that same journey, then this is it. Ask… and when the time comes, go. 🐋

What’s up, I’m Jonah Katrina. I’m a software engineer at Cru living in Iloilo, Philippines. I am a fan of Software Engineering, Christianity, and Life Coaching. I’m also interested in design and music. You can read my articles here: https://seventhousandmore.wordpress.com/