by Janice Yu
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.
I said yes to being a missionary when I was 17 years old. I remember watching my dad bedridden from cancer and barely having the strength to speak, desperately calling his best friends in Korea to share about Jesus and tell them to go to church. It was strikingly evident to me that nothing else was more important than knowing Jesus. Consequently, what I studied at university, whom I dated, and eventually married all had to do with the Great Commission. Fifteen years later, my family and I moved to Mexico City in 2007 to live out our dreams!
The first years of our missional life were relentless. Since my understanding of missions was about ultimate sacrifice, we poured ourselves out as a drink offering. We opened up our home for the locals to come at any hours of the day and night. There was a local pediatric hospital nearby and as there was no facility for the family members to rest and shower, we invited them to our home to eat, nap, shower, and learn about God’s love. I would often find myself cooking at midnight and counseling people until three in the morning, while still taking care of my own baby and a small child. Although we worked in a team, the workload of serving the needy was endless.
All this sacrifice came with a personal cost. Sharing my home with strangers without a healthy boundary made me susceptible to sickness, and eventually, I ended up with a terrible infection that required surgery with the threat of cancer. I felt deeply defeated and truly concerned about my life and my family. At that moment, I heard the Lord say to me in His gentle voice, “Janice, you are so good at dying. When are you going to start living?” I was bewildered yet awakened! I came to die for Christ, but Jesus wanted to give me an abundant life and even rescue back what the enemy had stolen, destroyed and killed.
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (Jesus, John 10:10)
To live a full life, God did not need my sacrifice as a servant, but my obedience as His daughter. Christ died so that I can live. His gentle confrontation completely shattered my concept of serving God. I allowed the Holy Spirit to re-examine aspects of my culture that were actually opposing Kingdom culture. His divine intervention set me free from the misery of the imprisonment of my own cultural stigma of sacrifice and false humility. The impact caused a paradigm shift in the way we live and serve in three specific ways:
Humanity began with rest! On the seventh day, Adam and Eve enjoyed the rest with God in His beautiful creation before they began their commission to multiply and reign (Genesis 2:3). We are called to be family with him and experience wholeness and peace and out of the richness in intimacy with God, we are to serve. God blessed the sabbath and work. When we dishonor the sabbath, it dishonors work, and work which is no longer operated in blessing has the capacity to make slaves of us. God wants us to operate in a healthy rhythm of rest and work. We need to be as obedient to rest as we are to work.
God gives each person a different assignment. Jesus was moved by compassion in His heart for many, but only did what God did (John 5:19). Although Jesus was surely consistently compassionate throughout his life, he withheld taking action until he started his public ministry at thirty years old because he honored God’s will and timing. In my early years of ministry, I had zero boundary and allowed the visible needs to dictate me. I was exhausted, doing way more than what God called me to do.
Not everything that moves our hearts is our assignment. We are to pray, discern, confirm, and receive wise counsel before creating new ministries.
As a minority Christian woman, I was taught to be modest, stay back and let others shine, and support my husband’s dreams rather than mine. However, God prompted me to rescue back permissions that He didn’t prohibit. He was inviting me to say yes to things I’d thought were off limits. We are all invited to break our glass ceiling and redeem our voice as women, our influence as leaders, and our permission to discover and dream big. God gave us incredible potential to do good work and He wants us to use all of that to be the salt and light in this world.
Jesus didn’t die on the Cross so that we can live a mediocre life, but an abundant life. He still is in the work of saving, rescuing, healing, and redeeming our lives. He wants to teach us how to live. He is a wonderful father who loves to see His children thrive!
Janice Yu is a collaborator with Propel Ecclesia ministry cohorts for women. She and her husband are missionaries to Mexico City where they founded El Pozo de Vida, a non-profit organization that fights against human trafficking, and also serve as pastors at a local church, Vereda.