He Said/She Said. You Say? “How can I know if God’s calling/leading me overseas?” Part I

Reading Time: 5 minutes

I’ve written before that my husband’s and my decision to shuffle our family of six overseas wasn’t perhaps as clear as we would have liked. But when I finally arrived overseas, y’know the funny thing? Everyone’s story and path on how they got overseas was completely different.

None of us had heard an audible voice, to my knowledge. That would have been nice, considering all the times you wonder what in the world you’ve gotten yourself into; all the times you’re second-guessing because the work and the results didn’t look how you thought. Did I hear you right?

But I go back to this: God knows how to get a hold of each of us. He’s not up there with hands on his celestial-policeman hips: You gonna do the right thing? He’s a good shepherd. He knows his sheep.

Calling is a bit of a Christian buzzword–so if you’re new to this whole Christian/Church thing…I realize this may be a word you’re still scrambling to define. “Calling” may imply to you a “voice”, and you may hear people use words like “God told me.” Which may sound even weirder if you’ve never actually heard an audible voice. Which may have sounded a lot like, oh, mental illness if you’d thought about it in your pre-Jesus days.

From Around the Web

If you’re starting there, consider posts like this one from Tim Challies, “God’s Will for Your Life” and this one, “How Do I Make Decisions that Please God?”–and even his own confusion about “God told me” statements. Kevin DeYoung, author of the acclaimed Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will, also has great thoughts in this article on calling–and if asking about calling is even a good question. Al Mohler, too, has a lot of thoughts on call to ministry in this video.

But let me cut to the words of some other global workers and their thoughts on this one. Then–mind chiming in through the comments section? Let’s get this conversation started.



“Let God take you through the process he has for you.”

The Bible teaches us that God is personal, that he created every one of us for a purpose, knows us, and wants the very best for us. Paul expresses it this way: “We are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Ephesians 2:9-10).


The biblical writers also describe that although some people received very concrete and definite direction, such as the Apostle Paul did when he had a vision (Acts 16:9), most people didn’t. They had to ask God, trusting that he would guide them in his own way. For example, one writer said: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). 

…As we seek God’s will, it is helpful to analyze who we are: our abilities, our interests, our opportunities, the counsel of wise friends we respect, what gives us the greatest joy, and also the tug of our hearts. As we bring these resources before the Lord in prayer and get involved in serving him where we are, we can expect him to show us more and more clearly the next steps.

–Jack Voelkel, missionary-in-residence with the Urbana Student Mission Convention; originally published on the Urbana website. Previously Jack served thirty years with Latin America Mission in Peru and Columbia.

“Stay close to God and trust him to lead in unmistakable ways.”

When our sons were about three years old and just learning to express themselves in English, we spent countless hours trying to figure out what they wanted or what they were trying to tell us. In contrast, when I was a teenager and my father wanted the grass mowed before he came home from work that day, he never had a problem getting his expectations across to me. Now, I could have turned to my older brother and said, “You know, I think Dad may want me to mow the grass today, but I’m just not sure. How can I be certain of Dad’s will on this matter?” But of course my brother would have thought I had gone nuts to ask such a thing.


Is our heavenly Father, the Creator of heaven and earth, any less able than my earthly dad to communicate his will in clear and unmistakable terms? I think not. If you have to puzzle over a feeling or seek help in interpreting a sign, then it most likely is not direction from God.

Those of us raised in the Church learned about God while we were young. Unfortunately, we often fail to know God. We must nurture a personal relationship with the Father in order hear his voice or even to understand the proper context of that which we do hear from his Word.

If as a teenager I had rebelled against my father, I very well might be confused about what his will was for me. If I stayed out late each night, coming home only after Dad had gone to bed, and if then I got up after Dad had left for work, I would never be in a position to hear him ask me to mow the grass. If loud music was blaring in my ear, I could be in the same room with Dad and never hear his request.

Before I ask about knowing God’s will, I must ask how well I know God. Am I putting myself in a position to be in personal contact with him? Am I getting rid of those things in my life that keep me from hearing his voice?

–Mark, who served with Pioneer Bible Translators in Zaire. Later he served as a professor at Nebraska Christian College.

“Ask yourself the hard questions.”

Amy Carmichael was the founder of the Dohnavur Fellowship in India. When people wrote to her suggesting that they might like to come and work in India, she would ask three questions:

1. Do you truly desire to live a crucified life?
2. Does the thought of hardness draw you or repel you?
3. Are you willing to do whatever helps most?

Amy established a wonderful home for children who otherwise would have been consigned to temple prostitution. Don’t make up your mind that you are going to Africa or to China or to India to do a specific kind of work. In my experience, virtually all missionaries are asked to do many things not in their job description. 

When Jim Elliot was considering missions, he didn’t know where to go or what to do. But he did have two ideas. So he started corresponding with one missionary in India and another in Ecuador. In view of the information he received, he made a choice: Ecuador. But before deciding, he first did a lot of thinking and praying. It wasn’t a wild guess but an act of faith in the God who promises to guide. 

Jim used to say, “you can’t steer a parked car.” It makes sense to move in the direction you believe God is leading, trusting him as a faithful shepherd to lead you in paths of righteousness.

–Elisabeth Elliot, who worked with her husband Jim Elliot on translating the New Testament into the language of the Quichua Indians in Ecuador. Later, as a widow, she lived and worked among the Aucas.

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