An Unexpected Direction

A friend, whose name means Mohammed’s daughter, found and opened Tess’s Bible. “This is kind of thick. There is so much to read. Is there a summary of this thing?” “I guess somewhere,” Tess’s roommate answered. “But you should start in Mark.”

When the girls opened the book to Mark, Mohammed’s Daughter quickly jumped into the text, plowing through four or five chapters before remarking, “Hmm.” Trying to downplay the fact that, where they were, the girls could lose their lives for that book, Tess’s roommate asked, “Why are you reading that, anyway?”

The answer would shake them: “Well, my god isn’t really working for me and you seem pretty happy with yours so maybe I’ll try it out.”

For Tess, this was a turning point. She was only a few months into her ministry in a land halfway across the world from her Austin home. Tess grew up going to church, but she didn’t become a believer until her senior year at the University of Texas when she got involved in a small group from The Austin Stone. After graduation, she worked at a public relations firm. Initially, Tess hated her job with “a deep and fiery passion.” She prayed most nights: God, I’m not going to ask you to take me out of Austin. I’m going to ask you to give me direction.

In January 2009, Tess had a dream about an arrow that looked like a street sign with the name of the country where she is now living written across it. “Nope,” she told God. “I didn’t feel like I was called to go overseas. I told my small group and I freaked out. I was in tears for the next two days.” Over the next year, she poured herself into her job. Then in March 2010, she approached a period of transition at work. “I was considering moving to Seattle. My best friend lives there.” But her friend encouraged her to pray about the Middle East instead.

Tess didn’t want to move to the Middle East, though. She put off praying about it for months, scared to hear an “affirmative.” Nevertheless, she eventually heeded her friend’s advice. Almost immediately, the leadership at The Stone asked if she would consider going to the very country she had dreamed about. The father of a guy in her small group was a missionary there. He had met Tess while in Austin visiting his son and was struck with her passion. He had written The Stone requesting that Tess join a team of teachers he was assembling.

From there, she explains, “everything sort of fell into place.” Five months later Tess headed to the Middle East to start a new life. “People here are great, and the culture is hilarious, and the food is, well, interesting.” She explains that ministry there is difficult. It can be years before you see any fruit. “It’s been hard, but it’s cool to see that we serve a faithful God, and a God that provides, not a God that sends you some place where he’s not going to answer your prayers. Really since we’ve gotten here, God hasn’t stopped blessing us.”

Tess tells how important it is to rest in God’s joy in the present instead of longing for the past. “The disciples never complained about wanting their old lives back. That’s been a huge challenge to me. Am I complaining about wanting my old life back? Because that’s not very disciple-like. Am I really finding joy in following? If I’m [wanting my old life back] then I’m not. There are things I miss, sure, but is my joy contingent upon that?

It’s been difficult at times to find joy, but when you look back, you realize, ‘Oh my goodness, I am so blessed. I have come so far.’ I feel blessed that I’m being taken on this journey, and humbled that God would even consider my hands worthy.”

Two women walking on the city streets in India