By Kelsey Sorvick
As a teenager, I seriously considered pursuing international missions. I looked into enrolling at New Tribes, read every missions related autobiography that I could get my hands on, and signed up for the first short term mission trip that came my way. The destination was Waco, Texas, and I was thrilled to go serve “the least of these”.
But my dream of becoming a missionary was rocked that first day on-site when we did poverty training. Although I had just journeyed across the country to serve the homeless population of Waco, we learned that MILWAUKEE, the city that our entire group called home, had a HIGHER poverty rate and a LARGER population of homeless than Waco. I had traveled all this way when there was a clear need right in my hometown, where God had placed me. God closed a door in my heart that day. In that moment, He began to steer me down a different path, which led to many opportunities to serve “the least of these” in my own community.
The missionary journey in Acts 16:1-15 reminds me of my experience in Waco. In this particular passage, God also does His fair share of opening and closing doors to guide this ministry posse's path. Paul and Silas begin their journey, stopping to add Timothy, and later Luke, to their group. While they go on their way ministering, the Holy Spirit closes some doors to the team, making it clear that they are not to go to Asia, nor Bithynia. Finally after a vision in the night, they wind up in Macedonia. The passage does not explicitly mention how the Holy Spirit made it clear which regions to avoid. Regardless, the men had the discernment to heed the Spirit's guidance.
The passage also does not give the reader insight into what these men were thinking whilst facing several closed doors. Were they frustrated? Confused? Questioning? I have found that it is not until I look back upon different seasons or moments that I have a sense of what God was doing. Perhaps the men in this passage felt the same way at different intervals in their ministry.
Because of Paul and company's readiness to walk through the doors God opened for them, as well as their willingness to change direction and keep moving when God had clearly shut a door, they were led to exactly where God wanted them to be: speaking to a group of women from Philippi, including Lydia. It is clear from the passage that Lydia was perfectly primed by God for the arrival of Paul and the others; she is noted to be a “worshiper of God” and “the Lord opened her heart”. The arrival of Paul's missionary team and their teaching was the final catalyst to Lydia's conversion, and she later became an instrumental part of Paul's ministry.
What doors has God opened in your life to lead to where you are today? What doors might you be trying to force open?