Hopefully you've already gathered it from the title, but my name is Analies Steensma. I joined Riversgate Church when I was 16 years old, and now I am a missionary. Yep, you read that right, a missionary. Now, don't get stereotypical picture of me in your mind, I wear normal clothes, go out on the weekends, I don't live in a shack in the jungle, and yes, I have wifi. But hopefully there are some things about being a missionary that you would think of that are synonymous with what I do: I love God, I love people, and I love loving on the least reached people the way God calls us to. That's all you really need to know, but if you want more details about my journey of getting to that point, keep reading below.
When I joined Riversgate as a high schooler, I was immediately immersed in younglife, youth group, and church. I spent most of my evenings joining in on service projects, worship, bible studies, small groups, and younglife ‘clubs’. I loved every minute I got to be a part of it; I came alive in those moments and as soon as one event would end, I would start counting down the minutes until the next one began.
During the spring break of my sophomore year, I was part of the team that Riversgate sent down to Tesoco, Mexico. Knowing no Spanish, and having never done a short-term missions trip before, I felt like I had a very tall wall in front of me, too tall to jump or climb over. I felt super unprepared, but God met me in that place. He taught me that there is no such thing as a language barrier, because my actions were much louder than any Spanish word could have been. He showed me that He was always going to give me the tools I needed, and that He was going to be with me every step of the way, so that no matter how tall the wall was in front of me, I was always going to be able to get over it.
Coming home and leaving Mexico left my heart raw and longing for more, so when a close friend of mine left for a six month adventure pursuing God in Costa Rica when I was a senior in high school, it got me thinking again. After trying the typical road of university and not feeling right about it, I decided to spend a gap year in Australia doing the same six month school my friend had done the year before. That school is called the Discipleship Training School or DTS, and is run by an organization called Youth With A Mission. I spent 12 weeks in Australia, in classes, doing workshops and community service, making life-long friends, learning about evangelism, and most of all, discovering who God truly was and who He said I truly was. I went to DTS feeling pretty confident in my identity and in my knowledge of who God was, but quickly realized my identity wasn’t formed out of truth from God, but rather what the world had defined me as. I also had a lot of problems of letting God into my heart, places I didn’t trust Him, see Him as good, or understand Him as my loving Father. Through my three months of lectures, the hard places in my heart towards Him were thawed, and my view of God totally changed. He showed me how treasured I was and that I could simply just be me for me, and I didn’t have to be someone for anyone else. The next three months were spent on outreach in India, a place unlike any other. In my time there, my team preformed skits for schools, did a lot of christmas caroling, taught english in slums, lead a women’s bible study, took care of babies, visited people in their homes, prayed for anyone we could, and much more. I got to witness incredible moves of God, and experience hearts change from darkness to light. I learned a new language and how to live in a new culture. I lived with people who had the most faith I had ever seen, and in turn, that grew my faith. God showed me His heart for India and for the people there, and how much He longed for them to know His love.
As I prepared to leave India, I knew so confidently in my heart, that God hadn’t called me into the season of discipleship for only six months, or even for just a gap year. I was on fire with what I had seen God do I my life, in my friends’ lives, in the lives of people in India; all I wanted was for other people to experience what I had experienced. With all of those things in my heart and more, I decided to join Youth With A Mission (YWAM, pronounced ‘why-wham’) as a staff member and move to Australia. My new role was very unique to other jobs and to other missions organizations. YWAM is a inter-denominational, non-profit, missions movement of Jesus followers from many cultures, age groups, and traditions, and it operates in more than 1,100 locations, in over 180 countries, with a staff of over 18,000 people. All the campuses are unique, but they are all united in a common purpose “to know God and make Him known.” At YWAM Wollongong (the campus I live and work at), we are passionate about living out a life that focuses on putting Christ first in our relationships - with each other, with the people in our city, with the people in our country and with the people in the countries we go to. Those are a lot of long sentences, but the bottom line is this: We are dedicated to living out God’s love through the way we teach, serve, learn, and live life. There aren’t any facades or masks that we put on, we are real and raw with the community around us, and we live to bring God’s love to the world. I get to serve in many different ways; in the past year, I have been a part of a DTS, lead an outreach to Bangladesh, worked in base operations, and have run the kitchen. Each job offers different opportunities and has taught me different skills, from patience to grace, flexibility to boldness, but most importantly, how to rely on God.
I think the biggest thing I have been learning, in the last month especially, is how far am I willing to trust God? I’ve grown and experienced enough where I can trust Him with a lot of things, but every once and a while, something will come up and test my trust; it usually is something I hold close to my heart: my family, deep friendships, my dreams. It’s a funny place to be in too, because I’ve spent the last two years of my life living in a place of having to trust God in everything I do, yet there’s still doubt. That can either provide an opportunity for condemnation to come in, or it can be a chance to draw close to the Father, and I hope that more often than not, I chose the latter. I’m never going to get to a perfect point of complete and utter trust in God, but I’m never going to stop pursuing His goodness, and I’m definitely not going to stop sharing about His goodness either.