Last year I shared at 22 churches across the US and Canada. Usually when I share I describe the events that influenced me to transition from being a lawyer living the American Dream to going in faith to China—and so finding the “abundant life” that Jesus said He came to give us. One of those events was a story my brother Wes told me, back when I was still practicing law, about his recent mission trip to Russia. He told me how he had gone to a women’s prison in a remote area of Russia and shared the love of Christ with the prisoners. Afterward a 22-year-old girl came up to him and wept on his shoulder—thanking him for coming to that remote place with a message of hope. Hearing Wes’s story I couldn’t help but compare my life with his. I had the American Dream. Wes had Abundant Life in Christ! You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. (Rev. 3:17-18)
I remember praying, “God, that’s what I want! If I only have one life to live, let it be radical, beautiful, and dangerous—full of lives touched and sweet memories. Give me a life like Wes’s—one like I read about in the book of Acts and in missionary biographies. That is what I really want.”
On my first trip to Cambodia last October, Jeff and I were invited to share at the village by the old city dump. Jeff shared outside with the village women, and I shared inside with the medical missionaries and volunteers who were serving there. I told the story about Wes and the Russian prisoner, how that had affected me, and how God had given me a beautiful new life full of love, memories and adventure. Afterward, Toinette, the missionary leader of that project, pulled me aside. She said one of the women, a non-believer from Switzerland, had approached her in tears—thanking her for inviting me to share a message that deeply impacted her. When Toinette told me this it suddenly hit me: 14 years ago Wes had shared his story about his encounter with a Russian prisoner, and I had asked God for a life like Wes’s. And just now I had shared with a group of women in a remote village outside of Phnom Penh and another woman had been moved to tears because I had given her a message of hope. In that moment I realized God had done it! He had rescued me from the American Dream and given me the passionate life that I had asked him for 14 years earlier!
I have come that you might have life and have it to the full. (John 10:10)