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Logo of ASI 2018: Business Unusual

Faithful to Complete It

Maria Kennedy
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Maria Kennedy shares the story of God’s faithfulness in her life through adversity, questioning, missions, and a life plan that went contrary to her own. 


God changed Maria's heart and life by bringing her to Thailand as a 17-year-old rebel. Seven years later, she found herself still there in the country she now calls home. From the years of doing medical work in a little bamboo hut to the daily mundane activities of life as a happy wife and mom of three little boys, God's hand has been with her guiding, growing, and challenging her every step of the way. 




  • August 3, 2018
    9:00 AM


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Day I want to share with you about how God has shaped my life through Mission work. This is a story you probably don't often hear it probably sounds a little self-centered right. I think for the most part we think of mission work something that is supposed to be all about the impact we have on other people rather about rather than about us usually. But I fully believe that God does ordained and command us to serve and share the gospel with others and by His grace we will have an impact on their lives but really what I've seen again and again is that I'm doing God's work usually has a far greater impact on us than any mesure measurable impacts that we can see in others. And in my life things happened a little bit backwards God graciously planted me in the mission field and then worked on the willing heart part so I realized that most of you won't fully relate to my story today. But hopefully by God's grace you will relate to the heart struggles and the points of surrender that God has brought me through. Will you please join me in praying. Dear Father Lord I pray today that this won't be about me but it. Will honor you and. The people that will be able to see the way that you have pursued me and your faithfulness in my life. I pray that you'll give me the courage and the clarity to share their thoughts that you've given me to your thoughts today and thank you in that. It all started the year that I was 17 and I thought I was ready to begin my life. I was going to be an Alaskan bush pilot and I had intice a painted this for years and I had spent at least the last couple of years are running out all of the details of how I would accomplish this. So that as soon as I hit the magical age of 17 when I would actually be able to get my pilot's license. That I could begin flight lessons. And be well on the way to achieving my dreams but something happened not too far into that year that put a little bit of a kink into my plans. My family started talking about mission work and they wanted our family to have a mission experience before. Us kids left home and they decided we're going to Thailand. Now obviously this was pretty disappointing for me I argued and played with them about it a lot. But it was all to no avail they really thought this would be a good thing for our family so tile and it was. So the thing was that we were calling this a mission trip but we had only purchased 1 way tickets. So you can probably put 2 and 2 together and what my family was hoping for here. But in order for you to understand how this was affecting me and where I was spiritual at this point in my life I'm going to go back a little bit further and without going into too much detail I would I'm going to mention some of the things that happened through my growing up years that had impacted my view of God. I was born to a wonderful Adventist mom and I have 3 lovely siblings my father was not a Christian and when I was 5 years old he chose to step out of our lives due to our faith a couple years later my mom met and married a wonderful Adventist man that soon won my heart and in my ice he was my dad. But our happiness came to an abrupt halt. When he was diagnosed with brain cancer. And died 18 months later and this was where the course of my life really began to shift from a girl who loved God and followed all the rules and spent time studying the Bible to the new me I still followed all the rules but I was angry and bitter You see I had grown up to really think of God as the God of miracles through the unique circumstances of my. That I had experience growing up we were often extremely poor often we didn't know where. Our next food would come from or are and I had seen God work again and again pretty much like the stories you read about in books. And I think sometimes we think we feel like God doesn't really work that way anymore and that's like the way God used to work but I have seen it firsthand often and so I fully believe that God was a god that did work miracles but he had it healed my father and I didn't understand that and I became very bitter I remember lying in bed late at night as a young teenager and. Out have tears streaming down my face and just silently mouthing the words I hate you God again and again. I quickly spiraled down from that to the point of saying I'm not sure I even believe in God. And it was kind of easier that way rather than feeling hate and bitterness towards God I could just feel like I don't believe in God Now I wasn't really your typical rebellious teen I did a pretty solid job hiding what I was experiencing for my family it was really important to me that I didn't hurt them. Through my struggles or unbelief but things weren't going very well for me at this point I was still attending the Adventist Church my with my family and I was still pretty compliant. To family rules and standards but I was deeply depressed and even suicidal at this point. I remember spiraling down to the place where it felt like life was just completely dark I had extreme struggles with social anxiety and thoughts of ending my own life. I remembered it reaching this I remember this 1 night where finally I was at this point where I felt completely hopeless there didn't seem like there was any point in going on. And at that point I could look back and recognize that the only times in my life I had ever been happy was when God was in my life and so I was like I can't do this anymore I don't want to live like this I guess I'll give the God thing another chance and this was pretty much just what it sounds like it wasn't a recommitment or a decision to follow Christ I was simply just saying I wouldn't deny God any longer and I was pretty much just figuring out give him another chance to prove himself to me this all of this probably took place about 2 months before in our part your date fertile and so that was where I was that spiritually. On October 13th of that year we boarded our plane for Thailand and I was I was really devastated it wasn't just that we were going to Thailand a 3 week mission trip would have been a grand adventure to me but I had lost control of my life I no longer knew what my future would look like. I remember those 1st few days in Thailand and being completely set in my mind to dislike everything a few weeks into our stay though something changed things up for me I met Jesus through the eyes of little refugee kids. We were invited to visit a small bamboo boarding school which was actually located right across the river from the which is the border between Burma in Thailand and if you're not familiar with the Qur'an and Burmese situation look it up later I don't have time to share details about that today. But this school is mostly filled with this place refugee kids and while there wasn't any currently any fighting going on it wasn't really a secure situation as it was always under the threat of attack we arrived that 1st evening and the little kids immediately ran out and grabbed our hands and led us into our 1st bamboo hut and before long they taught us to wear bathing sarongs and taken us to take our baths down in a little creek and they had served us an amazing feast of rice and vegetables which we were expected to eat with our hands long story short when we were about to leave 3 days later they asked if I'd be willing to stay and teach and something made me say yes these kids and their situation had really captured my heart but it was really watching these kids worship that began to change things on a deeper level for me every morning and evening we would they would have worship in the hut that I was currently staying in and it just really impacted me to watch the way that they worship God they would throw their little heads back and close their eyes and totally sing their hearts out. There was no self-consciousness or worries about what anyone else thought about them and I would sit there and watch them apostle of the things that I knew had happened in their lives. Many of their stories were absolutely horrific they had watched their homes being burned down they'd seen their parents brutally murdered. They had run for their lives not all of them but many of them and they had grown up with maybe rice and chili paste to eat if they were lucky. So here I was refusing to commit my life to God because I wanted to nurse my hurts and and hang on to my anger at God for something I perceived this obviously his faults and here were these little ones who had experienced so much more evil and pain than I ever had and they were adoringly worshipping God I wanted to facing God that I saw in these kids I wanted that joy that wasn't dependent on my circumstances. Through the months through the few months that I spent at the school God is a large work in my life my heart began to soften and open up to a plan other than the ones I had made for myself and I began to for the 1st time in years actually seek after God but the struggle wasn't finished yet I had a lot of ways to go for God to break down the barriers in my heart. The time I spent at this little school and just observing the whole area and the huge need. Really gave me a decider to be able to serve them through medical work so at this point I eventually chose to return to the states to pursue E.M.T. training I thought that would be the 1st step. In and so when I got back to the States I really started strong I was on fire for God at this point and so excited for this opportunity to finally receive some training I was excited to share what I had experienced in the mission field but unfortunately it didn't take long for my old doubts to start creeping back in then I slowly began sliding back down the slippery slope of rebellion and unbelief. I completely threw myself into whole mess work scene which for me wasn't very conducive to a growing relationship with Christ and on top of that within a relatively short timeframe I attended a number of quite her ex her ific accident scenes I was kind of nowness her ambulance there was this black cloud. It but what it really brought back up for me was all my doubts and questions about why God allowed this so this took place probably over the course of about $9.00 to $10.00 months and towards the end of that time. I was once again in this really dark spot I was depressed and. I. I remember at that point. I remember once again I was I found myself comparing my life right now to what I had experienced a few months ago and that fresh experience where I had had joy and hope in my life and I realized that once again that there was nothing in life for me without God in my life so this point once again I told God OK. And I gave my life back to him. But this wasn't the end of my struggle by this point in a mess that had. Become a huge passion for me. I was hooked on the adrenaline rush and being there for people in their emergencies and I wanted to continue my education and I did some day I wanted to return to the mission field but I wanted to do my stuff 1st and get the education that. I felt would make me more useable. But this. There was an issue and that was that when I left Thailand I had made a promise to both my family and the current people that as soon as I was done with my E.M.T. training I would return to the states. Sorry return to Thailand. So at this point my mom called me up and she reminded me of that promise I had made. That I would come back and. I was really a I was frustrated about it I didn't want to listen but I I agree that I'd return. So here I was back in Thailand ass and unwilling missionary for the 2nd time. I really was glad to be back in many ways but as I said part of me was still very grudgingly present there was still is in a wrestling in the over in my abandoned dreams over time the doors open for me the shadow of your nurse friend who had started working started a front porch clinic every morning the patients would pack that little front porch and it wasn't long till I found myself in positions where I had to use the little training I had to help out as I became more and more involved in the work there I did grow to really enjoy it and find a lot of fulfillment in it. But where we were at the time there was still a hospital that was accessible small hospital that was accessible within about $45.00 minutes drive and I soon became more and more aware that there was lots of hundreds of mountain villages around us in the surrounding mountains that had no access to medical care whatsoever so within a few months I moved out to a remote village up in the mountains to start a little clinic up there my 1st day in the village of many key I sat in the heart of new friends and I watched them roast this pile of fluffy dead rats. And the next house I went to they offered me. Which you may or may not have heard of and I in innocently took it into it I didn't even know what it was. The 2nd day I knocked down some boards from the house with my bike much to the amusement of some of the village men and then I fell down to my knees in the mud and slid my way down the slippery trail back to my house while the villagers roared and laughed with laughter at me. And the 3rd day I had 42 patients and I got a crash course in living with no privacy there wasn't even a bathroom without large holes in it but the bond of friendship I found there was very special I sat around there fires that night. And every day their kids ascended on my house on my left over food. I was obviously way out of my depth with medical cases but I was the best that they had at that point I remember many times climbing the hill to where there was a phone reception to call my nurse friend for advice but as I bonded with these people in my role as the medical worker for their village my heart was still really at war I love that here and I love these people but this wasn't what I wanted right now right now I wanted schooling I wanted to feel qualified I wanted to go complete my plans and know that I made something of myself while I was young but God and I didn't seem to be on the same page with this I had no money at the time and the $1000.00 around that I would need to get my ticket to fly back to the states might as well have been a 1000000 for me at that point. And I realized that I was stuck. And at that point I began to feel like not just an unwilling missionary but like I was actually a captive missionary. It didn't seem fair it seemed like all my friends got to make plans and complete them and I feel like I was the only 1 that didn't get a choice in my life. Ask ridiculous as I know this sounds at that point I was really a half devoted missionary and a half rebel often all in the same day. And at this point mission work was completely in my heart after I had the opportunity to go do my own thing in the summer of 2010 I attended a month long Bible and medical ministry training that was held by 1 of the pastors in northern Thailand and this is where the struggles really came to a head for me I couldn't listen to the Bible being read all day and hear this about surrender surrender surrender and I knew that these things in my heart that I had these things in my heart that I was stubbornly refusing to give up. At this point I was tired of being good tired of trying to surrender and follow God I just wanted to permission to go do my own thing for a while. About half of excuse me about halfway through this month long program I came to a point. Where I distinctly heard God speak to me and say that it was time that I made a decision I couldn't continue to do this halfway thing anymore I couldn't be holding back on God I will still claiming to be a Christ follower I couldn't be arguing with him about the decision about the way I wanted to run my life and as I realized that God had told me to make that I needed to make this decision I actually became quite angry because I knew I couldn't walk away from God completely that wasn't an option for me I knew my own weakness I knew what happened with God out of my life so I want to God in my life but I wanted him in my life on my terms and I wanted him to give his approval and blessing for my plans for my future I was like a small child that puts their hand in a vase and you know to grab a treasure and refuses to let go of it in order to not need to break the vase. So there was this period of about 3 days where I really wrestled with this I refused to give up these dreams I held I couldn't picture my life without them but as I bonded with these people and grew my sorry I. Lost my place. I remember reaching a point of complete mystery at this point I couldn't rest or think about anything else other than this surrender God was asking me to make and finally I gave up it's really exhausting to argue with God and in that moment. So I made this so I finally I said God you can have my plans you can have my dreams you can have my future and all to whatever you want me to do and right then I really thought that my life was completely over. But the peace I felt was indescribable while I wrestled while I was wrestling through this with God. Unbeknown to me I there were just a few hours so away there was these 2 tiny little twin boys that had been born. Probably more than 2 months premature in their village. And they wouldn't receive any more medical care for the next 6 weeks meanwhile I returned down to the border area where I'd been living before and I just got to say that for the 1st time ever I experienced so much joy and fulfillment in the work I was doing for the for the 1st time this was actually my spot the 1 I had chosen to work for God in so about 6 weeks later these 2 little twin boys were finally placed in my arms they were tiny at probably less than 2 pounds each and extremely malnourished as they'd been given sugar water in place of milk their little bones were poking out. They looked barely more than just skin covered skeletons and they had sores covering their tiny bodies I'm not going to go into all the details on their back story right now but their family was unable to care for them. Sorry and I sent my notes. So ass I was in the so we took them to the E.R. that was closest to us and. As we sat in that little E.R. with them the doctor told me we have to have a mother's name on record to be able to care for them and at that point I didn't know what the mother's name was so the doctor finally said could we please put your name down and I didn't feel like there was anything else to say so I said yes in Thailand they require a caregiver to stay with any patient that's been admitted and they pretty much do the work that a nurse would do here in the States so I stayed with them there in a hospital were on a little cot between their incubators for the next week or so I remember looking at their tiny wrist bands and they said on them Maria's baby number 1 and Maria's baby number 2. And the realization really hit me that these were now my babies. To begin with we didn't think that J. versus the older twin and I 2nd we didn't think that Davis Alderton would make it asks he was initially the less a less alert 1 and he also had a very large pressure so on his back they reached almost into the back bone and it being packed with feces so he was that huge risk for infection but he held his ground and but Isaac was a different story initially he seemed to be doing good but his condition slowly deteriorated eventually they had to transfer us to a larger hospital that had to pick you unit and once we arrived I was told that I said had both pneumonia and sepsis and that. His only hope was pretty much if he would make it through the next 24 hours that day I prayed like I had never prayed before by that point I'd completely fallen in love with both of these babies. And I really believed that God would heal I sick. Honestly I think I pretty much felt that I had a right to his healing I knew that God could work miracles and I pretty much thought that this was his chance to not let me down again but as that day dragged on I watched his vitals drop lower and lower lower and late that night his heart rate kept dropping and the nurses finally began C.P.R. and that was the most agonizing 30 minutes of my life I kept saying God I know you can save him I actually didn't have any doubt at that point I was like even after they declared him dead I just I was just telling God like I know you can still save him bring him back to life finally they shoved the papers under my nose and her just said we need you to sign the papers for your son's body at that point I felt completely broken and betrayed I had completely given my heart away for these 2 babies and I had 100 percent believe that God would make a miracle out of their lives. And they were already a total miracle there was no human explanation for how to completely very premature babies had survived with no proper care at all for 6 weeks. So I really didn't understand what God could be doing I went outside at that point and I think I paced in the dark for probably another hour and I came really really close to running away everything in me wanted to run the other direction and forget about loving anyone the only thing I knew right then was that love her but there was still a tiny baby lying on the word on the other end of the hospital and I knew that there was no way that someone else could abandon him this well I didn't open my Bible or even pray for probably a week after I said Steph. And late 1 night about a week later I remember sitting in the hospital ward that was packed full of patients and. So sitting beside Davis and once again I felt God's voice really clearly speak to me and say that I needed to make my decision that. I needed to decide if I was going to go back to the bitterness and doubt that I had come from or whether I was going to choose to trust God and what he was doing in my life regardless of the pain I experienced. So at that point. I told God that I would trust him. And regardless of what happened in my life and I really look back at that us 1 of the most pivotal moments in my life at this point although I had surrendered my future many other things to God I was still in many ways grieving for my father who had died and there was definitely still a lot of bitterness and questions in my heart that I hadn't dealt with yet it was all just kind of pushed under the rug I tried to go about God's business and serve Him anyways. But when I finally made this when I finally said OK God I choose you I'll trust you and your plan regardless of the things I face or the pain I experience. And. That decision make a bit made a big impact on me this is something that's God has brought me through several more times 9 months later Davis was again fighting for his life on this time he was battling Stephen Johnson Syndrome and I again had to let go of my fears and questions and God really challenge me through this time when he was so sick that I would regardless of the outcome that I would choose ahead of time to make the decision that I would trust him. Then later again I lost another baby girl who'd been abandoned and given to me and. In that same pic you that I say died and most recently I've lost 2 babies through miscarriage miscarriages and each time God has challenge me with that same choice. Each time I've had the temptation to turn away in bitterness and question God's goodness but thankfully it's a choice I already made and each time during that difficult time it's almost been like it's been a little pillar between me and the Lord a sweet reminder of the commitment that I made to trust in God's goodness regardless of the circumstances in my life so each time it's almost been like it's been a reaffirmation of my faith and strength in the commitment that I made before. And I pray that by God's grace I'll continue to break the cycle of bitterness and resentment toward the God who loves me. So often. I just want to say that. It's easy I think for some for us to look back we hear testimonies and it often seems like kind of a 1 and done deal you hear about how the dark place people were in before and. You know how God works a miracle in their lives and then everything seems perfect after that and in my life that hasn't been the case this is very much been a lot of ups and downs and I'm not sharing most of that today. But I do want to express the fact that I definitely still have I definitely still struggle and I'm very much a real person. I wish I had more time to share about the following 3 years of motherhood. Boy I don't have that much time today motherhood totally took me by surprise 1 day I was a single 19 year old traipsing around. For the next people are calling these little guys my sons being a mom was nothing I envision in my future or even decided by here I was James changed everything I lived for the 1st few weeks were with him were incredibly difficult. Over time he did grow into a strong beautiful baby. When I took Davis as my son life changed from Thailand being my surrender to Tallinn being my country for the future as far as I could see. As legal adoption is extremely complicated and even potentially impossible. About 2 years after this a young man walked into my life who was sold on God and medical work in the mission field and he didn't so much as blink ass at my kid or a girl who came with a country we actually got to know each other through our trips to do medical work together up in many key and of course you already know where this is going but we fell in love in the summer of 2013 Jordan got down on 1 knee and. On a mountain near the village where we were working and he asked me to marry him I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him my vision of how happily ever after at that point was that we would be living in a little bamboo trekking around the mountains giving medical care for there together for the rest of our lives that was both of our vision that we'd always be together working for God. So a about a couple months before our wedding we heard another little baby that had been born about 9 weeks premature he was born at 1 pounds 12 ounces and. God really put him in our hearts I remember. Talking to Jordan about we were a long distance at this point I was talking him on the phone and I would keep We decided to pray and think about this for a few days and I would keep bringing up. The fact that this was an ideal circumstances and it was a month before our wedding not really the greatest time to take in a. Premature baby and but finally after we prayed about it for a couple days turned into said I don't care about any of that I just want him and that was really where it stood for us he was God put him in our hearts and he was wanted. We named him Jesse Asher. And which means our gift of happiness and he's really been a gift of happiness in our lives. Since then God has added 2 more little ones through birth and we're a family of 6. I have to be honest right now and say that life looks 100 percent different for us from anything we've ever pictured we're not living in a village the way we dreamed of. Just just a couple months ago the story for a lives took another turn when God led Jordan to full time employment in Thailand. The point the point I really want to bring out here is the fact that. God is again and again lead my life in a way that's way different from what I wanted but it's. Always better than what I would have chosen for myself. So Jordan is currently employed in Thailand. In a regular job and had God's plan for us and for me the last few years has not been medical evangelism the way I had envisioned it. It's been raising poor for precious little ones. And it has been home schooling and pursuing legal adoption in a country that makes it very difficult it's been supporting my wonderful husband as he pursues a tent maker role. And we still value our village medical ministry but now that looks like day or overnight trips up to the village every few weeks. This time the surrender has really been switched off for me instead of being bitter about doing medical work instead. And fighting to be out of the mission field I struggle wishing we could be more involved and missing my friends and life in the village setting as we currently live outside of a city in a more suburban setting of Highlands through the last year or so both Jordan and I have many times talk with wishfully about some of our dear friends who have started amazing projects in different areas of Thailand and many times we both expressed that we wish we could be doing that we all want to do something we perceive as big for God But despite willing hearts God has made it clear that it's not our time right now. I found that it's really easy to start to feel discouraged him like my life is just in a holding pattern and that we've just got to stick it out a year or 2 from now to when God sends us again to the front lines of his work but the thing I'm realizing more and more is that I'm not in a holding pattern at all and I'm not on the sidelines of his work I'm right in the middle of the mission work that God has given me right now. Today I get to share my story with all of you but when I arrive home in a couple days life will be hugs and kisses from my family and. It'll be really special to be together again but they'll also be crying in a few tantrums from my kids and I'll be horrifically jetlag and there's always the house that I can never quite keep up with and trying to figure out what to make for supper. Slowly goddess impressing in my heart that this is my greatest form of mission work right now in this season of my life. A month or so ago when I was preparing to share with you here I was struggling with our current circumstances and wondering if I really had a message to share especially here at A.S.I. and I spoke with a friend who said some words that really encouraged me she called the watchman on the wall she said that everyone hears the Go tell the world message who is left there are so watchman on the wall to see the weeds growing in our own backyard and that my picture is really stuck with me who will be there as the watchman on the wall for our own families if we don't. But today I'm not really here to share just about motherhood or any 1 picture of what service to God might look like. I'm just sharing what giving my future to god has meant in my own life. In the theme of A.S.I. this year I want to challenge you to make an unusual surrender not just to giving your heart to Christ I'm sure the majority of us here have but the unusual surrender of giving not just our heart but our lives to guide our plans our dreams our jobs and family our future as we see it some thout trusting God with our hearts seems easier but our future we really want to keep a grasp on it and I do believe when you pray a prayer. Surrendering your life and your future to God that God will call you to Mission work when you pray that prayer you are all the setting God's commiserate but I also believe that no matter where else God send you mission work will likely start in your home. There's a text in officials to tend the says we are God's handiwork crafted in Christ Jesus to do good work which God prepared in advance for us to do. And I want you to think about that how could you refuse the plan that the God who loves you house prepared for you in advance. Let's live like God. God does have a plan for our lives and don't let the fear of what you're afraid God might call you to hold you back whatever call God calls us to he enables us for. I know it's a very popular verse and we all know it by heart but I always think of the 1st verse for I know the plans I think a few saith the LORD plans to prosper you and to give you a hope and a future. And I do believe that is not always about the way you can serve others but about the way God can transform your heart through that service remember how I said earlier that I felt like a captive missionary I honestly still feel like a captive missionary but this time I don't want to be free I'm held captive by God's grace in my life and God has been absolutely faithful in my life from beginning to end please trust him to be faithful in your life and given the same as you're holding onto trust him for me for your happiness trust in him make something out great out of your life even if it's in small places I want to close with a Bible text that God has brought to me repeatedly through my life many times at various critical points he who started the work will be faithful to complete it in you dear father Laura thank you so much for the work that you have done in my life I'm so thankful for it. I pray that you would continue that work in my life and that you would be with all of us here and. Don't let us go and tell it made a full surrender for life steal and made our country and that man. Please make us use it for you thank you in Jesus. This media was produced by audio verse 40 other avenues layman's services and industries. If you would like to learn more about. Please visit. The site. Or if you'd like to listen free online sermons visit W.W.W. body of verse.


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