I don’t know if you ever asked yourself about the meaning of life? Although I grew up as a happy child, I always felt that something was still lacking. As a teenager, I often ask myself, what is life all about? What are we here for? What is our purpose on earth? Life had to be more than just growing up, getting a family, making money, and dying! I could not find any answers to my questions and tried to find meaning and fulfillment in the pleasures of this world. Every weekend I would go with my friends to disco and parties, thinking that the music, dancing and girlfriends could give me joy and fulfillment. To be honest it did give me pleasure but it was only temporary. I would crave for more but it never satisfied my inner need for meaning and purpose.
One day, I visited our family friends who recently became “born again” Christians. I saw that they were overflowing with joy and fulfillment, something in that couple’s life that I desired too- something that I missed in my own life. That Sunday evening I talked to the wife and she explained to me how she came to know Jesus and what difference He has made in her life. She gave me a little booklet that explained the way of salvation. When I read it through, I realized that is what I need in my life- the key to real joy and fulfillment that I was searching for. That night I prayed and decided to follow Jesus. This happened more than 20 years ago now and since then I have never regretted my decision.
To be sure life has not been easy as a believer. There were days when I wondered if it is worth the effort following Jesus but the joy and sense of purpose that He brought into my heart cannot be compared to anything else in this world- not parties or girlfriends. The biggest joy in my life is having a personal relationship with God through Jesus and the biggest purpose for me is to serve Him and to obey Him.
As a believer, my life was not anymore about what I want to achieve. Instead I started to pray, “Lord, show me what You want from me? I only want to do Your will for my life.” I became very fascinated with biographies of missionaries. I thought it must be the ultimate way of serving God: Going to the ends of the earth…
After attending a Youth Mission Conference, I felt that God is confirming His calling to me to serve Him as a missionary. I got to know about OM Ship ministry during that conference and wrote to them. They suggested that I first complete a short-term outreach programme before making longer term decision. Well, the outreach just re-confirmed exactly what I would like to do and so the next year I joined one of theOMship, the MV Doulos. My Doulos-experience gave me plenty of exposure to different countries around the world and I saw and experienced first hand what God is doing in East Asia, the Sub-continent, East Africa, the Middle East and evenEurope.
After my time on the ship, I wanted to go immediately into full-time missions but was advised to enroll intoBibleCollegebefore I launched into church planting work. I took his advice to heart and went to study in Singapore Bible College. I got married to Keiko and as a couple God also showed us that He wants us to go as fulltime workers to our present field. We have been here for nearly 6 years now and everyday is a new learning experience for us. I think God has sent us here more with the purpose of teaching us than for us to teach others… I am excited about what God is doing in the mission world and in my own heart!
Stephan Smithdorf is BC Adopted Missionary serving with OM Japan