Lisa Lehman is currently the longest-serving missionary in the Southeast Asia Field. Lisa shared how at a young age, she heard God’s call in her life to serve as a missionary and how God remembered her prayer and fulfilled His plan for her life.
“I was blessed to grow up in a Christian family and a mission-minded church where Work and Witness Teams happened regularly. When I was about seven years old, I remember the pastor was preaching. I felt like I had heard someone calling my name. As I looked around, no one was looking at me. It took me a minute, but I realized God was speaking to my heart, and He was saying, “Lisa, would you be my missionary?” I got so excited. I immediately said, “Yes!” I had been telling my teachers and others in the church that I wanted to go on the next mission trip. But they were telling me that I was too young. As I was listening to God, I realized that I was too little. I wondered, “God, when will I be old enough to serve?” So, I thought of a really big number and said, “Yes, I’ll be your missionary by the year 2000.” I picked this number because I thought certainly by 2000, I would be old enough to be a missionary.
God did not forget that prayer. Over time, I went on two mission trips to Mexico. I was convinced that God wanted me to go to Mexico. The only problem was that I couldn’t learn Spanish no matter how hard I tried. When I was in college, God gave me Isaiah 49:6, which says, ‘I will make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth.’ When I thought about ‘the ends of the earth,’ that wasn’t Mexico. The end of the earth was the other side of the world. While I knew nothing about Asia, I knew God was calling me to go there. It was the beginning of another part of my journey.
Some years passed, and I was teaching at a public school. During that time, I lost contact with Global Missions. Then in 1998, I was in a revival service at my home church in Illinois. The preacher spoke from Isaiah 49:16, saying, “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands….” Despite all the different things that had happened in my life from the age of seven to that point, God had not forgotten my prayer. If I would just take my hands off and give my life back to Him and let Him make the decisions, He would work things out. So, I did that. I recommitted my life to Christ that evening.
I was teaching special education, and my students and their families had become my mission field. I loved my classroom and my students, but at this point, I felt disillusioned. I thought I needed to write one more letter to World Mission. I wrote to them about why they should not consider me for missionary service. First, I was a Special Education teacher. I had never heard of special educators being on the mission field. Second, I didn’t have any interest in seminary. I told them I had gone on several Work and Witness trips, but it was not enough. I didn’t know what else to do. I remember saying, ‘This will be my final letter to you,’ and signing my name.
I put it in the mailbox on Monday. Then on Wednesday evening, as I was getting ready to go to choir practice, I received a phone call from our headquarters in Kansas City. It was a secretary from our candidate office. I was surprised by this call because I knew there was not enough time for my letter to arrive. She told me that Gary Hartke, who was the Candidate Coordinator, would visit ONU at the end of the next month. She asked if I would be available for a meeting. In my teaching role, the date she offered was a Parent-Teachers Conference Day which concluded at noon, so I was free to meet with Gary in the afternoon. I could see God’s hand in this.
The meeting was encouraging. I had already completed everything necessary to join Nazarene Missions except for one thing. Nazarene Missions wanted to see how I adjusted to new cultures alone, without being part of a team. He asked, “Is there any part of the world where you feel God is calling you?” I told him I felt that God was calling me to Asia. Gary sent out a few requests and received a response from Michael McCarty, the Field Strategy Coordinator of the Southeast Asia Field. He said they could use me to teach English in Northern Thailand. That was for the summer of 1999. This trip started my journey to Thailand.
My first trip lasted eight weeks. I wasn’t even in Thailand long enough to be a volunteer missionary. During that time, I fell in love with the people. I loved the language, the food, and everything about this experience in Thailand. After returning home, I continued to teach for another year and finished my master’s degree. During that year, I prayed, “Lord, you can send me anywhere, but if you put me close to Thailand so that I can still visit, I would be thrilled.” In June of 2000, I received a phone call from Gary Hartke. He said, “We want to invite you to be a missionary for the Church of the Nazarene in Bangkok, Thailand.” I was thrilled! As I hung up that phone call, I recalled being seven years old, sitting in that Central Florida church pew. God remembered the prayer of a little girl who said she would be ready to go into missions in 2000.
In the Fall of 2000, I went to Kansas City for a semester of training, and I arrived on the Field in January of 2001. So now, I have been on the Field for twenty-one years.”
Just like Lisa, if you feel that God is calling you into missions, you can visit opportunities.nazarene.org to know more about how you can explore and start your journey to missions.
Lisa Lehman is the Regional Literature Coordinator and the National Director for the Chapman Institute of Theology in Thailand. To learn more about Lisa, please click the link below.