I felt called by God when I moved to the Middle East. I had served as a missionary as a school accountant. During those years I had developed a close relationship with my Creator; my communication with my Lord was frequent and rich. I had learned to appreciate the precious gift of life and trust my life to Him. I heard Him calling me.
So when I made the decision to work in the Middle East I took God as my companion. I knew I would need His protection and sustenance. I claimed His promise in Matthew 28:20: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”
But life in the Middle East was totally different than anything I'd ever experienced. In fact, I felt like I’d stepped into another world, a very opposite world. I was confronted with circumstances I wasn't prepared to meet--the culture, the restrictive living, the work situation, even the people.
I had gone from the tropical jungle rainforest to vast, barren sand dunes. From easy communication in my mother tongue to a strange language and limited interaction. From commonly traveling cross-country to see friends and family to restricted movement and no reason to travel and nobody to visit. I had gone from warm spiritual fellowship and easy witnessing to limited religious activity, secluded worship, and a ban on any public sharing. I felt I was living in the Dark Ages when believers worshipped God in caves and hidden places.
So as soon as I arrived, I looked for an Adventist Church and some fellow believers. I couldn't find anyone. Those first few months were a struggle.
What bothered me most was the job I had contracted for demanded that I work on Sabbath; the company work days were Saturday to Thursday. All my life, since my birth, I had attended church each Sabbath. Now it wasn’t even remotely possible. Going to work every Saturday instead of going to church became my inner battle. I saw my life torn between principle and survival. Every Saturday I worked with a heavy heart knowing that I wasn’t honoring God’s fourth commandment.
To appease myself in the midst of what looked like an impossible situation to me, I made sure I wore a Sabbath suit on Saturdays, as if I was going to attend church services. Those around me at work would naturally be curious, so I felt by explaining to them I was sharing my faith. While I was working, I would tune my heart by listening to religious music, or singing hymns in my mind. When I wasn’t busy, I’d read my Bible on my phone.
It was during this time that I began to ask myself, “What am I doing here?” I talked long and hard with God about what His purpose was in sending me to this place. I still felt that coming to the Middle East was His specific plan, but I couldn't see the plan. I begged Him to help me to understand, to know what He wanted me to do here.
Not long after that I was passing by the desk of one of my co-workers and noticed that he seemed to be preparing a sermon. Hesitant to ask him directly what he was doing, I asked an officemate what church he attended. To my pleasant surprise, I learned he was my brother in Christ. He introduced me to a group of Adventist believers who worshipped regularly. Even though I continued to work on Sabbath, I was excited and joyful at least knowing in my heart that I had found “my brethren.” I knew I had a place to worship my God. I started attending the vespers service they held.
For several years, Sabbath work continued to burden me. A few times I got up courage to talk to my supervisor and ask if he could excuse me from working on Saturdays. Each time he denied my request. I even made an internal arrangement with him, but to no avail. Occasionally I would skip work and attend church on Sabbath morning anyway.
Then the company I was working for began to struggle financially. For six months we didn’t receive our salaries. It was terribly unfortunate for some, but I saw in it God’s encouragement to me to look for different work. A transfer to another company was finally possible because the delayed salary officially broke the contract they had with me.
Fully assured God was leading, I applied for a job at a company that did not work on Saturdays. I felt surely God was opening the door for me. But I didn’t even get an interview. I applied again, with the same result. Even after a third application, another person was selected for the interview. Had I misread the opportunity? Wouldn't God want me to find a place where I could honor His Sabbath and worship Him?
Just hours before the person who had been selected was to be interviewed, I got a call. The person had backed out without explanation; the management was willing to consider my application. Would I be available for an interview?
At that moment, I knew God had intervened. I sensed He was opening the door for me to go through. I decided I would do whatever I could to cooperate with what He was doing. So I studied about the company. I reviewed interviewing tips. I sought God’s guidance and wisdom. I knew that only through Him could I be successful; I entrusted everything to Him. And I claimed the promise in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
I interviewed. I was offered the job. I accepted. The long journey was over.
For six and a half years I had struggled. I had tried to adapt. I had worried and wondered. And while I never let go of God’s presence in my life, it had been a long journey to finally be where He wanted me to be.
Today I attend church freely, regularly. I have the chance to actively participate in outreach programs, clean-up drives, caring for fellow believers under trial. Today I have the privilege of serving as a spiritual leader, a church elder. Today I thank God that He has been patient with me and has been present during my entire journey. Indeed He has worked “all things together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”
Today, when I hear that question, “What are you doing here?” I can testify that God has been persistent in moving me along to where He wants me to be. He has been patient with my struggle to see how He can provide. He has led me this far in my journey, step by step, to reveal that I have a mission here to work for Him. --GNS