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  • Writer's pictureMarnie Hammar

How God Spoke through a Stubborn Heart

By Michelle Layer Rahal



Hear Him Louder Essay Series: Michelle’s Story


When I was growing up in rural western New York, the word “missionary” conjured up images of sixteenth-century Franciscan priests crossing the Atlantic Ocean in Spanish galleons to convert heathens to Christianity. Though I assumed there were still people today who devoted their lives to sharing the Gospel in foreign lands, I certainly didn’t know any.


Then I met my husband.

 

Just to be clear, Greg is not a missionary in the true sense of the word. But from an early age, he developed a heart for serving others and was taught to abide by the Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” (Matthew 28:19-20, NIV).

 

As a child, this meant attending Christian summer camp. As a middle schooler, this meant caring for the elderly within the community. As a high schooler, this meant participating in summer mission projects across the U.S. As an adult, this meant building churches in Mexico for a week or two every summer.


I was impressed with his commitment, but not influenced by it. Pouring concrete in the sweltering heat and sleeping in hammocks was not my calling.

 

Greg and I married in 2003. When our church announced the slate of summer mission projects each spring, I would listen for God’s call to participate.


When I heard nothing, I stayed behind as Greg went off to serve.

 

Then in 2010, a retired teacher approached me about the launch of a new mission project: professional development for teachers in rural Haiti. Having worked as a school district administrator for years, this project was certainly in my wheelhouse, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to participate. Haiti was hot. It could be dangerous. I didn’t speak Creole or French.


“Thank you for asking,” I said, “but I’m not interested.”


She didn’t give up. Emmy asked me again the next week, and again I told her, “No, thank you.” But this time, I turned to the Lord for discernment.


“God,” I prayed, “if you want me to go on this mission project, you have to make it perfectly clear that you are calling me to go—because you know I don’t want to!”


Weeks passed with no word from Emmy and no nudge from God. I interpreted the silence as confirmation of my decision and assumed I was off the hook. I was wrong. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do,” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV).


Several weeks later, I crossed paths with the Director of Missions at my church, a woman I recognized but did not know personally. Susan surprised me when she said, “I heard Emmy has been asking you to go on the mission trip with her to Haiti.”


I laughed. “Yes,” I responded, “but I told her I wasn’t interested.”


She asked, “Are you sure you won’t reconsider?”


Without hesitation, I said, “I’m going.”


Susan looked at me strangely. I gulped. Did I really say what I thought I said? This was not the first time words had come out of my mouth that I did not recognize as mine.


I had asked God to make it perfectly clear if He wanted me to go to Haiti, and He used my vocal cords to reveal His desire.


Strange? Yes. But if God can make a donkey speak (see Numbers 22), He can certainly make a stubborn woman speak.


The God of the universe is creative beyond measure and His communication toolbox is overflowing. When I did not respond affirmatively to Greg’s invitation, to Emmy’s invitation, or to Susan’s invitation, He responded for me.


I went to Haiti that summer, and I returned that fall. Over the next few years, I participated in over ten mission trips to this developing country. There I had the privilege of sharing best pedagogical practices with principals and teachers, who in turn incorporated them into their classrooms. In return, I learned more about compassion, patience, and humility in those few short trips to Haiti than I had during any other part of my life.


Jesus said, “Anything you did for one of the least important of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,” (Matthew 25:40, NIRV).


When I look back on this time, I see that God was not only calling me to serve, He was also offering me an opportunity to grow in relationship with him. My service in Haiti has led me to participate in other mission work in Mexico, the U.S., and in my own community. I still don’t like working in sweltering heat, but if God calls me there, I know He will show up if I do.


Photo credit: Unsplash, Jake Melara.

 

The Hear Him Louder Essay Series is a guest essay series where God's daughters share their stories of hearing God’s whispers in their every day. It’s meant to serve as an encouragement for the times when God feels far and seems quiet. May this series be an invitation for us to listen for His voice together.


Don't miss any posts in this series! Subscribe to receive each new essay in your inbox, posted every other Thursday. When you subscribe, you'll receive a FREE download of a Prayer Planning Worksheet, a resource to help you prepare your heart to listen for His voice in prayer.


New to this series? Check out the rest of the series!


Interested in contributing to the Hear Him Louder Essay Series? The call for submissions opens twice a year. To submit an essay outside of those windows, contact me.

 

 

About Michelle



A former radio news reporter and educator, Michelle now enjoys leading Bible studies, coaching aspiring authors toward publication, and singing worship songs at the top of her lungs. When not in front of the computer, Michelle can usually be found in the kitchen preparing a gourmet meal for friends and family. She lives in Virginia with her husband.


You can find Michelle at her blog and on Instagram and Facebook.

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