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Saying ‘yes’ to God when you are afraid


People often say God’s plans are better than our own. We pray for His will. We say we believe that He has the best for us. But do we trust Him deep in our hearts?

Joyce struggled with this same question. Twenty-five years ago, Joyce was divorced and rearing her two sons on her own. She worked as a nurse in a local hospital in the Midwestern town where she lived. Her extended family lived far away, and she was involved in her local church.

When Joyce felt God’s call to serve as a cross-cultural worker, she was overwhelmed with fear. Could God truly want her to leave her sons—who were struggling after the divorce and had rejected God—and move to the other side of the planet?

“It was the darkest time in my life. After having lost a hard-fought battle with the Lord, I reluctantly left behind my family and all that I knew and loved and moved to Central Asia,” said Joyce. “Saying ‘yes’ to God’s call required me to place everything that was dear to me into God’s hands. It was the hardest thing I have ever done.”

Joyce lived in a small village in Central Asia, where the temperature often dropped to 40 degrees below zero, and she had only a wood-burning stove to keep warm. With no family or TMS Global team in that village, Joyce was often alone.

For the next 13 years, Joyce lived in that small village and ministered to the people there. “I saw miracle after miracle,” said Joyce. Trained as a nurse, Joyce helped the sick, shared Jesus with her neighbors, and discipled others in their walk with Christ over tea in her small kitchen. She helped lead a small church in the village that grew steadily during the years she served.

In 2009, Joyce celebrated Thanksgiving with friends from her village. “There were former drunks, beggars, liars, and thieves who had each been touched by the love of Jesus through one or more of the members of our little church,” she remembers. “All were graduates of our sister church’s drug and alcohol rehab program. All were now serving the Lord in various capacities and positions.

“They had gathered to share their testimonies and to thank the church for the part it had played in literally saving their lives. It was a wonderful celebration of God’s mercy and love.”

Joyce did not realize it would be her last celebration in the village for quite some time. Days later, she hastily packed as many belongings as she could into a few suitcases and drove over icy roads to the airport.

Joyce had been diagnosed with stage-four ovarian cancer.

“Although I had no energy to send out a newsletter, word spread quickly to many churches and individuals through family and friends. I can attest to the amazing power of prayer, as I sensed a great peace most of the time. I felt only a deep sadness for my children and grandchildren as I faced the reality of leaving their lives so much sooner than I wanted. I also realized how blessed I was to be surrounded by an entire family of strong believers who supported me in so many ways. Though I knew it was the beginning of a long and painful journey that would probably end in death very soon, I truly had a ‘peace that passed all understanding’ that comes from God alone.”

Joyce underwent surgery to remove the tumor and woke up to an excited room full of people. “The surgeon and everyone involved in the case were amazed! While I did have a large, cancerous tumor, the additional lesions had disappeared. They told me it was a miracle!”

After recovering from surgery, Joyce could have easily retired and enjoyed living near her family in the US. Instead, she signed up for another term, this time in South Asia.

Joyce traded a freezing climate for temperatures that can reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit. She served in a hospital alongside Asian doctors, witnessing horrific situations daily.

“This is a place surrounded by hardship, discouragement, struggle, and frustration,” she wrote in a newsletter. “This is the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus is sweating great drops of blood here, and I want to be with Him.”

After six years in South Asia, Joyce returned to the US. She continued to serve with TMS Global, traveling to different fields to assist with various ministries. In 2021, after 25 years of cross-cultural ministry, Joyce is retiring.

“God proved to me that He never left the place I left behind,” she said. “He was with my sons when I wasn’t there. He clearly showed me that He could and would care for my family if I was obedient to go and do what He asked of me. It was not easy as He allowed many struggles in my sons’ lives that I wished I was home to ‘fix.’ But they have grown into godly men who love the Lord and have wonderful families.

“When I finally began to realize that our God really is who He says He is, that He really can and will do all that He promises (whether or not it looks like I expected), and that He really does know me and love me better than anyone, life became much easier and certainly more joy filled.”