God's Call to Missions - Lillian's Story

Tags: Canada, Philippines, Story
The Faith of a Child

The experiences and influences of childhood can be long lasting and often determine the road a child will take as they grow up. This was the case for Lillian Leyenaar. Lillian grew up in a Christian family that faithfully attended church. Their church put a great emphasis on missions, frequently inviting missionaries to come share about the work that God was doing around the world. It was no secret to Lillian that her parents were also very supportive of missions and gave of their financial resources to support missionaries. Though Lillian was young, these things did not go unnoticed by her. One day, at the young age of 9 or 10, Lillian declared to her mother, “Someday, I think God wants me to be a missionary.”

Whatever You Ask of Me


Lillian and Jake Leyenaar today.

As often happens, when Lillian grew older, her confidence in her call and in her dedication to Jesus experienced some doubt and resistance. During Lillian’s years in high school, it wasn’t so easy to give her life wholly and completely to God. Rather than feeling confident that God wanted her to be a missionary, Lillian grew afraid that if she did give her whole life to God, he would make her be a missionary. And she wasn’t sure she was ready for that. One week at Maranatha Bible Camp, in Western Nebraska, Lillian’s struggle couldn’t be ignored. She was faced with a question that many of us struggle with - “Am I going to run my own life, or will I completely surrender my life to Jesus and do whatever He asks?” A deep sense of peace filled Lillian as she was able to say, “Lord, I’ll do whatever you ask of me.” From that moment on, Lillian felt sure that God was calling her to be a missionary and she didn’t question her call again.

Using the Gifts God Gives

Of course, one can decide to be a missionary but one still needs a skill set to be one. Lillian’s question became, “Where should I go? And what will I do?” As she contemplated her future, Lillian began to toy with the idea of being a missionary nurse – it seemed like a practical choice, but the more she learned about nursing, the less she liked the idea. Nursing wasn’t for her. Lillian had always enjoyed music. Her mother had taught her to play the piano as a child and Lillian had played the piano in her church. Having completed a 3-year Bible course at Grace University in Omaha, Nebraska, Lillian needed to decide what the next step was. What skills did she need to equip herself with to serve on the mission field? Feeling no strong pull any other way, Lillian decided to enroll in Music Education at Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana. She wasn’t sure how God would use a degree in music, but it felt right and Lillian knew it was something she would enjoy.

The Perfect Fit

At Grace College, Lillian served with the student missions committee in her junior year. Every year the school held a missions conference and Lillian was given the job of assisting the missionary representative coming from SEND. He inquired of Lillian what she was studying and what her future plans were. She explained to him that she felt God calling her to the mission field and that she was studying music. To her great surprise, he responded with, “Well, do I have something for you!” The representative handed Lillian a flyer advertising the opportunity to teach music at Febias College of Bible, located in the Philippines. Was it possible that God had created the perfect opportunity for Lillian?

Following the Call

Throughout the conference, Lillian learned more about SEND and about the work of Febias in the Philippines. After taking some time to pray over the opportunity, Lillian felt confident that this was God opening a door for her. And so Lillian took the next step and applied to SEND. After completing a mandatory Missionary Internship and raising her support, Lillian packed her bags, said her goodbyes, and started the 3-week journey by ship to the Philippines.

God’s Good Gift


Lillian and Jake in 1971.

Lillian had made peace with the idea that she might spend her life as a single missionary woman, and trusted that God knew what was best for her. But God had a surprise for her! Two and a half years after Lillian arrived in the Philippines, a young, single Canadian man arrived to serve­ a two-year term with SEND. Lillian caught his eye, and as they followed God’s leading, they decided to marry and continue serving together. Although Lillian’s new husband, Jake, had only come to do a short term, SEND invited him to return as Business Manager/Treasurer, and Jake said yes to God’s leading and accepted the long-term position.

Lillian has learned through these experiences that God is faithful and therefore we need to be faithful in return. God called Lillian to full-time, overseas missions, but He didn’t leave it there – He provided a place for her to use her skills and passions. Instead of giving it all up for Jesus, Lillian was able to use it all for Jesus.  

Read Jake's Story.

Read Some Life Lessons from Jake and Lillian.

Discover Ministry Opportunities.

Interested in using your career skills in missions? Watch video "Using it All for Jesus".

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