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The Winding Path of God’s Will

previously published on September 2004

“For I know the plans I have for you, plans for good and not evil, plans to give you a future and a hope.”  (Jer. 29:11)

In December 1993, I came back from Mongolia, where I had been working as a frontier missionary, to Loma Linda to get my master’s degree in Public Health. I would only be in the States for about a year and a half, and then I would head back to Mongolia for another three years. Everybody thought I was crazy to waste so much of my “prime” marriageable years in the middle of nowhere. My mother thought it would be wonderful if I found the “right” man and went back to Mongolia married. It would make her worry less about my safety.  I admit I thought it was a great idea too and managed to convince myself that it must be God’s plan for me. But the months passed quickly and none of my friendships developed into anything more. By the time spring rolled around, I had finished all my coursework and there was still no Mr. Right in sight. Being out of the loop for three years (possibly more) meant there was a legitimate chance that I was headed for permanent singlehood. I was having trouble reconciling my wants with God’s will. I questioned God’s plans for me, then I argued, then I pleaded, and finally I acquiesced. It was rough going, but I was finally able to accept that if God’s will for me was to serve Him as a single, then I could and would. Obviously, it would take a special kind of grace to be satisfied staying single, but I truly felt that if God expected it of me, then He would provide me with the support I would need.

For three months following the completion of my coursework, I did a field practicum at Weimar Institute in northern California, helping with the Korean NEWSTART program. There were many young people during that spring session, both patients and volunteers. A group of about ten of us did everything together. At 23, I was the youngest, and the oldest in our “gang” was 40-something. We played, we ate, we cried and laughed, and we worshipped the Great Healer together. There was one man in particular, who had been a student at Weimar but had just finished his studies.  He wasn’t exactly an official volunteer, but he was always around and helping out. We became good friends and spent lots of time hiking and talking, mostly about how we wanted to serve as missionaries.

When the session ended, we shared tearful goodbyes with promises of a reunion sometime in the future, but my last night at Weimar didn’t bring the closure that I had expected, rather it brought something new. It was strange that after wrestling with God so long about not having someone special in my life, when God finally saw fit to send someone, I fought almost as hard against it as I had before when I had no one. This time I argued that the timing wasn’t right and that a relationship now would just complicate things. I didn’t want the heartbreak of saying goodbye in a few months, nor did I relish the idea of maintaining a long-distance relationship for three years. But God admonished me again: If I could accept His will when it meant I should be single, why couldn’t I accept His will for me to be part of a couple? I still had so much to learn. God does not always reveal Himself in a single glimpse. And the road He leads me on will not remain static. There are so many intriguing twists and turns in the Christian walk. I just had to trust that God’s ultimate plan for me is “for good and not evil, to give [me] a future and a hope.”

Enduring a long-distance relationship was not easy, but it was lovely and rewarding in its own way. That particular young man from Weimar was Jongsung (Jon) Kim, and we have now been married nearly seven years. I’m beginning to learn to accept God’s will for me WHATEVER it is, and to do so with grace.
In retrospect, I have no regrets, though I do feel that I am no longer able to do as much as I used to do in His service. Being a wife and mother take up so much of my time and energy that I have to re-organize my service priorities. I gave up my position as assistant pastor at Upper Room Fellowship and also resigned from my role as editor at the Compass. Some people say that I have “wasted” myself because of the new direction I have taken, but I know that if my heart stays true to the Lord, then I can continue to witness for Him and serve Him in more subtle ways. I may not be on the frontlines of mission work these days, but I can and do continue to support those who are through prayer and finances. And who’s to say that I won’t pick up where I left off when my children are older? Regardless your status in life:  single, married, married with children, if you choose to serve God with all your heart, He will find the right niche for you. I believe and I am satisfied.

Joanne (Park) Kim, is the recently appointed Education and Development Director for the Mongolia Mission. Please pray for the new school project, check out the website, and see how you can become a partner in this special ministry:  gatewayiec.org

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