It was the first morning of my 10-day vacation in Cambodia. It was hot, and I was jet-lagged. Phnom Penh swirled around me as my friend pointed, shared, and advised our way to the café for breakfast. I felt like my brain was a half-mile behind my body, so I developed a survival skill that spared both my brain and body: just watch my friend, and do whatever she did.
My friend Sonya, the local expert of a year and a half, told me that when you cross the street, “you have to commit.” Basically, all the scooters, tuk-tuks, cars, and people will find their way around you if you maintain your walking speed, but if you hesitate, it can throw off the flow and you might get hit. That sounded logical, but I knew myself. My parents made fun of me because I was so excited about the “yield” sign when I was learning to drive. I can’t help it—I just naturally want to defer to others in the road. So, I quickly learned to forget about the traffic, and just watch my friend. If Sonya walked, I walked. If Sonya stopped, I stopped. I became her living shadow.
This kind of trust in my friend didn’t end with crossing the street. If she thought it was safe for me to ride on the back of her scooter through the chaos of Phnom Penh, I fully enjoyed the ride. If she recommended a restaurant, I was confidently hungry. If she said this wasn’t the best place for souvenirs, I saved my money. If she trusted the driver, I climbed in the front seat. Whatever she said in the local language, I knew it would be to our advantage—mostly because it always made people smile or laugh.
The ability to trust this way comes from a long history of friendship, but also from a place of vulnerability. I had no idea what to do on my own. For the most part, trusting helped me fully relax and enjoy the trip. But every now and then, my pride struggled. I wanted to be in control. I wanted to know what was next. I wanted to be the expert.
As many of you are wrapping up your time as student missionaries or volunteers, you might recognize this journey of trust. You’ve spent this season getting to know Jesus in a whole new way because you have been forced to trust Him like never before. Sometimes that’s awesome. That trust has allowed you to try new things, to overcome fears, to become more confident in who God is and who He is making you to be. But sometimes that’s also been incredibly humbling and frustrating, and you have longed for a familiar setting where things were more predictable. Where you knew how the game was played, and you were in control. But whatever emotions you’ve encountered along the way, you’ve probably learned a lot about trusting Jesus every single day in surprising ways.
Maybe now, as home gets a little closer in view, you again have questions about your future. How much have you changed? How will you fit back into life at home? Who are you when you’re not a teacher, pastor, medical assistant, piano player, driver, coach, or whatever your role has been? How will you navigate all the questions in the road ahead?
You will survive by taking the same journey you took during your mission assignment: by keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus and trusting Him with every single step. When He walks, you walk. When He stops, you stop. When He talks, you listen. As you trust Him, He will navigate you through the beauty, the heartache, the healing, the excitement, the restlessness, and the deep calling He has put on your heart as His child. Just watch your Friend, and wherever He goes, you go.