Here at the Bigger Picture Project we want to highlight ordinary people who are living in the bigger picture and doing extraordinary things for God’s kingdom. I (Megan) am excited to introduce our very first person to highlight: Kristen Wagoner. She may call herself an “average 17 year old”, but she is anything but. I met her a couple of years ago when she joined the group of high school girls I lead at my church. From the very beginning it was clear that she loved the Lord and she LOVED the people of Zimbabwe. Take a minute to read her story and be encouraged to live your own life in the bigger picture!
“I am no one special, just an average 17 year old senior at Hillgrove High School. However, unlike most teenage girls, instead of spending my summers at the lake or beach, I have spent the past two summers serving in a small, rural village called Siabuwa, located in northern Zimbabwe. For my 9th grade reading class I chose to write a report on Kisses From Katie, an autobiography of a southern girl just like me, who decided to move to Uganda and start a nonprofit. Ever since reading that book, I was inspired to go to Africa. My plan was to go sometime during or after college, but as He often does, God showed me a different plan. I was facetiming a friend I had met a couple times, and out of the blue she tells me about how her church is going to Zimbabwe, and how she feels I should go. The invitation was completely unexpected, and to my surprise, after a few days in prayer, when I briefly mentioned it to my parents they said if I could raise the money I could go. As I quickly learned, money is an insignificant part of the journey; God will provide.
Fast forward two years and I found myself sitting on a plane to Zimbabwe, returning for a second trip, or in my heart, returning home. The summer of 2015 I was blessed to be able to spend a month working with a mobile medical clinic, visiting and teaching at schools, and building relationships with the locals. I feel as though an entire book could not hold all the stories and testimonies of God’s goodness and providence I experienced and continue to experience. I learned that the mission did not end when I landed back on American soil. There are countless opportunities here to just be love. One of the pastors in Siabuwa challenged me in saying, “What if we lived like others will die today, and like I will die tomorrow?” At first I was confused, but the more I thought about it from a God perspective (the bigger picture), the more it became blatantly clear. If we lived by this simple piece of advice, then we would no longer be “planners.” Reputation, fashion, the kind of car I drive, none of it would matter anymore because it would all be gone tomorrow. Relationships are eternal; relationships – love is all that matters eternally. If we thought or somehow knew the person sitting next to us was about to die, then would we not do whatever it takes to tell them about Jesus and the resurrection and the hope of the Holy Spirit? Also, if I knew I would die tomorrow, then it would no longer matter what anyone thought of me, so would I not be shouting from the rooftops? Christians, this is how God challenges us to live. It will not always be easy, and we will face rejection just as Jesus did in His time on Earth, but even if just one person comes to know God, it will be worth it.
Although my heart aches to be with my brothers and sisters in Siabuwa, I know that once again God’s plan is going to better than what I plan or imagine. What started as me considering someday spending a week or so in Africa then returning and getting a corporate job, getting married, having a couple kids – living the “American Dream”- has now become God nudging me out of my comfort zone and towards the vast world He has called each of us to go into and spread His love. Since stepping out of the limits of cultural expectations, I have discovered God’s calling for me to pursue a college degree in Art Therapy to one day serve orphans and refugees in Eastern Europe. Society emphasizes physical comfort, but in Galatians 5 God tells us to abandon selfish ambition and pursue love, joy, kindness, goodness, faithfulness… Ask anyone who has ever been on mission– you are completely emptied of yourself and you find that it is not objects that create happiness. The people I met in Zimbabwe had nothing, barely enough food to survive, but just by the smiles on their faces you could see pure and unadulterated joy. This joy came from knowing that God loves them, just as He loves us, and that brothers and sisters, is enough.”