A few years ago, a friend attended an IF:Local in Des Moines, IA. She could not stop talking about what an amazing experience IF was for her and that some year I, too, must attend. The next year I was working on the weekend of IF but ended up being able to watch some of the livestream at home. When I found myself on the floor of my bedroom on a Friday night alone weeping, I simply could not stop watching. I just remembered listening to the women on stage and thinking about how real and authentic they were with their lives. And in that moment, although I was alone, I felt like I was present in a room with dear friends who were sharing their heart and life with me. I knew these were women I would love to learn from because of how genuinely they walked out their faith. They were vulnerable, authentic and real. I feel the world needs to see more of Jesus in this way. So to be taught from these women felt like a gift from God.
Last year a group of us started leading an IF:Local in our community in Northeast Nebraska. We kept the group small purposefully to keep it intentional. We had 4 full tables, and it was a huge blessing to all who attended. Since then, several IF:Tables have been started in Norfolk. We also now do all of the IF:Equip studies for Bible study on Monday nights in my home. We’ve all really enjoyed the community and conversation that have been created around the IF studies.
This year, we are opening up our IF:Local from a private to a public event and pray that more women around our region would be able to attend to hear the good words from God that will be shared.
I’ve been to many women’s conferences, and IF:Gathering has always seemed different. I love the authenticity and vulnerability of the women leading IF. It feels organic, original and approachable to anyone looking to know Jesus. I love the focus on Scripture as well. One of my favorite parts is the ability to do this locally. I love sitting with women in my own community and discussing the topics and questions given. When done locally, it really does feel like we can learn to disciple, and it makes the work of the Great Commission feel tangible in our daily lives. We can all go to a conference and get ourselves fed, but to me the greater challenge is always to go and do after. With practical ways to invest in my own community, I feel this model is so beneficial. If we can learn to weave a net in our own communities, then we can take it to the world as well.
I have seen friends in my community and myself make decisions to step out in faith in places we wouldn’t have had the space to do otherwise. One of my dearest friends had sensed God calling her to gather women in our community, and ever since she was introduced to IF, she has been using all of the tools and resources to gather women. It’s been amazing to watch her gifting come forth as she took a step of faith to be the leader of small group. As she did, the group has grown to be a blessing to so many women looking to find deep connection in our community. She leads, and I host. I’ve always known hospitality to be one of my giftings, and this has given me a great opportunity to serve the women in our community in this way as well. Our IF:Local group has really provided a safe space for people to share their hearts and dialogue about the difficult topics facing our world today. I’ve even loved watching how hosting an IF:Local is drawing out so many women’s gifts as they help lead in the ways they were called. It’s been a beautiful outlet for many to serve right at home.
One of the most amazing ways I’ve been impacted by IF in the last year was the opportunity to go on the IF:Rwanda trip last summer. It was a life-changing experience for me. I’ve spent time in Africa and even in Rwanda serving medically, but this trip was different. I honestly wasn’t sure when I leapt at the opportunity to go why I was so excited. This trip wasn’t medical, and I wasn’t really sure what my purpose would be in going, but I knew God was stirring my heart to be on this trip.
It was a big step out in faith in the season of life I was walking through. The beginning of this year was filled with a lot of grief after making one of the most difficult, but healthiest, decisions for my life. I had walked a very close road with people here as I made an obedient step God was calling me to take. I realized when I got on an airplane to fly to Rwanda that I wasn’t okay in that moment, and I couldn’t figure out why. I’ve traveled domestically and internationally a lot alone, so why was I scared to be on this plane? I realized as I prayed through the entire first plane ride that it was the first time I had left my safe community, trusting God that there would be people who would love me on the other end of the journey, no matter where I was emotionally. But not knowing where my heart would find safety was an uneasy feeling. After spending time gazing out the window, I looked down into my seat pocket in front of me, and through the tears in my eyes, I read the words “Be Safe” on the airline brochure. In that moment, I realized God was telling me I was in the safest hands I could possibly be in — His. And from that moment on, I moved forward with confidence that He was in this trip with me every step of the way.
I met a friend on the plane to Rwanda who has now become one of my dearest friends. I was able to meet so many other incredible women on this journey, and God showed up in them in so many tangible ways in my life. We laughed together, cried together, processed the horrific nature of genocide together, and did life in another country for 8 days so well together. I realized it was a huge leap of faith for me even to show up there, but God was so incredibly faithful to bring all the right people to be His hands and feet.
I still wondered why God had called me to Rwanda. But it didn’t take me long to figure out why. I knew meeting my sponsored child would be a life-changing experience, but I sensed He had more. And He did. Day one, I was faced with what has been one of the easiest decisions of the past year. As a physician who is passionate about international medical missions, I have always desired to help build a hospital in Africa. The first day in Rwanda, we toured all of the ministries of Africa New Life in Kigali. The last place we stopped before going back to the guest house was the building under construction that will someday become the Dream Medical Center. As we learned about the vision for the medical center, our group was told about the team of people going up Mount Kilimanjaro in January 2017 as a fundraiser to help complete the hospital. In that moment, I think my heart nearly stopped, as I knew I was supposed to join that team. I couldn’t have felt more confident that that was what God also had called me to Africa to be a part of completing.
The next day, I had the blessing of meeting my sponsored child and learned that she, too, wanted to be a doctor. I thought my heart might come clear out of my chest, not believing the story God was weaving right in front of me. Back in 2005, on my first mission trip to Tanzania, I worked in a hospital at the base of Kilimanjaro. From that moment on, I had always desired to return to summit the mountain one day. And here, years later, God was weaving the most beautiful story I couldn’t have created myself. I took a step of obedience to Him, took a leap of faith to be in Rwanda, and now knew He was calling me to one of the most amazing challenges of my life — and the person inspiring me to climb the mountain was a dear 11-year-old Rwandan girl named Kevine who, just like me, dreamed of being a doctor from a very young age. As the tears flowed out of my grateful heart after meeting her family, I was inspired and motivated to help be a small part of building a hospital that would help take care of people in her country and possibly be the place where she would someday grow up and work. God and only God can rewrite redemption in ways we never saw coming.
Ever since I stepped off the plane in July to come home from Rwanda, I have entered into a season of training my body and my mind for one of the most physically challenging things I have ever done. Nine days in the wilderness to summit a 19,341-foot mountain will be no small feat. I have no idea whether or not I will summit that mountain, but I can tell you I have never been more grateful that I said ‘yes’ to God. This journey of training to climb a mountain has brought more healing and joy to my heart than I ever could have imagined. God has brought community and people in the most unexpected places. There have been literal God-sightings for me everywhere I turn on this journey. I’ve made friends I never would have without this, and for that I am forever grateful. God has opened so many doors in a place I nearly thought He had closed them all. Once again, He is the author, He is the writer, and I am blown away and humbled to be an instrument aligning with Him to write the amazing stories only He can create. He truly scripts the best, most unexpected stories.
I said ‘yes’ to IF. I said ‘yes’ to IF:Rwanda. I said ‘yes’ to Kevine. I said ‘yes’ to Kilimanjaro. And He has been faithful to every ‘yes.’ So I trek on and pray I keep saying ‘yes’ to the places He calls my feet to wander until it is finished.
If you’re inspired by Jocelyn’s story and want to join her in saying YES to God, there are three ways you can get involved in IF:Gathering: