“And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it. When ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21)

What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a missionary. When I was about 7, I asked God what country He wanted me to be a missionary to. After I prayed, I saw the word MEXICO in my head as if it were typed in all caps. From then on, I was sure God was calling me to the mission field in Mexico.

My story is the story of the change from a little girl’s idea of what it meant to be a missionary, to the realization that in all of life, no matter where I am, I am called to be a missionary.

In July of 2000, I got to go on my first mission trip to a foreign country; it was a ten-day trip to Nicaragua with my dad. I had never felt as close to God before as I did on that trip. The experience only further solidified my desire to spend my life doing mission work in a foreign land.

One thing that started to shift, however, was my conviction that the country where I should live and work was Mexico. God had been opening up opportunities for my dad to go to Nicaragua every summer, and we started working with another pastor from Costa Rica as well. I thought of this verse: “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) And I realized that maybe the word Mexico that I had heard from the Lord was just the Father telling me that I would go Mexico someday. Or maybe that I would work with Mexicans someday, or maybe that I just needed to learn Spanish and the word Mexico was a seed that God was planting in my heart—the beginning of a growing desire and love for a culture that would deepen as years went on.

What Proverbs 16:9 says to me is that because the Lord directs our steps, we can trust that the doors He opens are the ones He has for us to walk through. And if a door appears to be opening to us, but once we reach it, we find that it is closed, we can be sure that the path He had planned for us was not to be reached through that closed doorway.

My first solo missionary trip occurred in January of 2005. I was a senior in high school, but because I was homeschooled and could take my schoolwork with me, I was able to travel to Genval, Belgium, to help take care of a quadriplegic missionary, Rebecca Petrie. I was her caregiver for three months. Most of my duties were nursing tasks; I had no previous experience in nursing and therefore had much to learn.

I was overwhelmed at first but eventually began to get the hang of things and started to feel like part of the Petrie family. If I had to sum up the atmosphere of the Petrie home, I would use this verse from John: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35) The Petries have sincere love for each other, and all who enter their home can sense their love and are recipients of it.

I was privileged to live in their household. It began to feel like a home away from home, and when I returned to the U.S., I kept in touch with the Petries and wondered if someday God would open the door for me to work with them again in Genval.

Because it was my last semester as a senior in high school, during my trip to Belgium I was praying a lot about what God wanted me to do after high school. I liked school okay but did not feel strongly about going to college. I still just wanted to be a missionary. I did not feel particularly called to Belgium, so I was not really considering staying there, but I told God that if He made it clear that I should stay in Belgium, I would be open to that. Belgium and Mexico are about as different as two countries can get, but I knew that God had me in Belgium for a reason. And now I know that one of those reasons was for me to learn that although the Petries are missionaries in Belgium, they are just living life for the Lord in Belgium like my family is living life for Jesus in Kentucky—both families doing the work the Father has called them to do, on the path He has chosen for them to walk in.