Much to my disappointment, I never did become an Olympic figure skater or gymnast or mother like I had dreamed of when I was a child. In the first pages of my School Days Treasury book are pictures of me wearing my mischievous grin and a named dream of what I wanted to be when I grew up. My answers changed with each year – most of them unrealistic.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” – this is our standard forward-looking question that we ask children to help them dream of their future! We want to help them imagine their place in the world. We want them to dream.
As a part of the year 2000 crowd I was poked and prodded a dream shattering method of determining who I would be. We were tested and analyzed to the point where I felt like a guinea pig, particularly when grade 8 rolled around. The hour long career and personal planning classes did very little for our career and personal planning. Even the teachers thought it was a bit much. But there we were being asked each day, “what will you be when you grow up?” Sometimes the tests we took just told us the answer we should choose if we knew ourselves well enough. I never felt comfortable writing just anything. My usual i-can-do-it attitude dissolved in this class and I couldn’t really describe why I just couldn’t write an answer down. I couldn’t make something up or just get on with it. For some reason I needed to know! My teachers didn’t care what I wrote. They just wanted me to write something. We were all frustrated.
God had already worked miracles in my life by that time and I knew I could trust him. Each night I went home and prayed, “God, can’t you just tell me what I’m supposed to do so I can shut my teachers up?” … nothing. I’d hear nothing. The next day the whole story would repeat itself.
One February evening I arrived to a friend’s house for a sleepover with the girls. She handed me the book Run Baby Run by Nicky Cruz. I started reading it and was finished by morning. Suddenly I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what I would write on my Plan A worksheet the next day – Inner-city missionary. Plan B … that remained empty. Throughout high school that was the only response I ever gave. It was the only one that had ever made sense. My heart cried for communities caught up in the hurt of negative assumptions and stereotypes. Even as I walked with friends in the community I grew up in, my heart cried for the despair and hopelessness I saw in their eyes that drew them to befriend addictions that only made them feel worse. All I saw was beauty when I looked at them. I knew that God could restore broken hearts and unrelenting circumstances by making the wastelands into gardens again. God confirmed this calling over and over again no matter what question I threw at him.
With only a few months to graduation a teacher responsible for career development sat me down with a large stack of papers – the work I had completed on my career goal of being an inner-city missionary. With one hand on it he looked at me and said, “Liesel, you are a smart girl. We would be irresponsible to let you do this.” Or was had he said, “we can’t let you do this.” That was what a lot of people thought – irresponsible, vulnerable, unsafe … too young, a girl. I knew it was the most responsible thing I could possibly do. Those who knew me well agreed.
Powers Creek Community Church in West Kelowna help me carry this dream. They walked with me through the discovery of it and through the reality of it. They encouraged me (once they realised I couldn’t be talked out of it) and sent me out. How many kids can say that? I am so profoundly aware that I am a privileged one. I am living my dream … and it is so worth it! Wastelands are becoming gardens.
Then how did I end up in Ireland? Check out “why Ireland?”