Facing the oceans in South Texas and finding strength in the Lord


A lot of really great people in my life encouraged me to do Go Now Missions this summer. My BSM directors, my friends, pastors and loved ones encouraged me to take a step of obedience and to go wherever I was called, to leave my 'yes' on the table for God no matter what. It seemed like such a daunting task and I was in denial, although a small part of my heart never allowed me to just say "no" and walk away.

I remember having an epiphany one day over Christmas break, that I could no longer change and grow spiritually if I was going to try and stay within my comfort zone at school and at home. This "aha" moment lead to prayers for big changes in my life. Throughout the past eight months, I began praying and asking God to have complete control over every area in my life. Looking back now, I know that I didn't quite understand what I was asking for.

For quite some time, I had held onto these areas out of disobedience and fear of what might happen if I gave them over and was a broken mess that looked alright from the outside. My issues were within my own heart; the part of me that I thought I could keep hidden from the community around me and even from God Himself. I found that when I let God have control of my heart and over every single area of my life, small steps of obedience lead to huge changes.

Six months ago, I sang the song "Oceans" at Discovery Weekend and I sang it loudly, proclaiming my faith in God's plan and begging Him to take me out of my comfort zone. This song has swept through the church as we realize our plans for our lives are nothing compared to the intentional and fulfilling life God has called us to. Leading up to this summer, I took steps of obedience, which prepared me for more and more change: I served at Beach Reach, was open to new ways of ministry, and made difficult choices concerning relationships in my life at that time. These small steps of obedience and opening myself up to what God had in store for me helped prepare me for the continued change this summer.

As a summer worker at the South Texas Children's Home Ministries, I discovered my own ocean in a town of 1,700 people. In Pettus, Texas, I found myself in a place where my trust was without borders and a place deeper than my feet care to wander.

While working at STCHM, I was stretched and changed in ways that I wasn't aware of until I was removed out of my ocean. Coming home from this challenging and moving experience, I felt like a fish out of water. Countless hours of swimming lessons in the pool, figuring out who hit who, playing Phase 10 and changing diapers had taught me so many lessons that have affected the very core of who I saw myself as.

This summer, I experienced spiritual warfare in a new and personal way through nightmares and the darkness of night. I learned God has created so many of us to be so drastically different, but no matter our differences we are called to love one another for we are made in the image of God. I recognized I like to think I am in control and that I am only fooling myself. God is the only one in control and He cares about my heart, my obedience and my responses in life. I have rediscovered I am just as broken as the people I was trying to minister to this summer–everyone's greatest need is Jesus, including my own.

To me, STCHM campus is an ocean and only God could keep my head above the water this summer. He is my one true hope and He defines who I am–the world does not.

So many times this summer, I associated myself with Peter, walking out of the boat and onto the water as Christ asked Him too. All of sudden, I would see the waves and then get overwhelmed with fear and a lack of belief in God's timing and control of the situation. Each time, Christ would catch my hand and say "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" Time and time again, I would recognize His strength, His might and His power, and know He was the Son of the living God (Matthew 14:22-33).

Prayerfully singing the words to this song and following through with steps of obedience lead to huge changes in my life. It is not something to be taken lightly; when you ask for big things, God WILL deliver.

The process of giving God control over my life was not an easy one, and at times it was and still is painful to go through. Scripture reminds me, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11). When we prayerfully ask during worship that God would "Take me, break me, mold me, make me into something new" or "Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders" He will hear our prayers and He will deliver discipline so that righteousness will be produced.

I cannot put my experience of undergoing discipline and stepping out onto an ocean at STCHM fully into words, although I have tried in my journal, this blog post and as I share with family and friends about my summer. All I can say is that I feel different in my bones after God has used my time at STCHM to continue to mold me into what He has deemed best for His purpose and glory. "But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him" (Jeremiah 18:4).

I don't know what your ocean is or where you stand at with it. I know that I never imagined my ocean being here in Texas of all places. I can say that if you pray for big things and follow through with obedience, God will deliver. He will change you in ways that you never knew were possible. You won't be able to fully explain it, but just like I am, you'll be waiting in anticipation to see what the next ocean will be.

Katie Burkhead, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, served as a Go Now missionary at South Texas Children's Home Ministries this summer.

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