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  • Writer's pictureJeff Kaldahl

Embracing The Call: A Missionary's Journey of Living A Surrendered Life

“If he snatches away, who can stop him? Who can say to him, ‘What are you doing?” - Job 9:12

Life often drives us with our dreams and desires, striving to shape our future. But it's important to know that God works in mysterious ways, guiding us towards His divine purpose, even if it means letting go of everything we hold dear. This amazing story tells the journey of Leah Malone, the founder of The Rising International Ministry, who chose to give up her worldly possessions to follow God's calling.

Embracing heritage: Leah beautifully adorned in traditional Filipino tribal attire.

Back in 2012, when Leah arrived in the Philippines, she had no idea that this country would become her home for the next 11 years. She never planned to build an organization like The Rising. She simply wanted to help a remote village that captured her heart. In obedience to God's prompting, Leah and her teammate Jeni started a village outreach and sponsored two scholars to attend school in the city. This was the modest beginning of what is now The Rising with its full-time staff, incredible scholars, and over 100 Life Group members in the village who are passionate about knowing Christ.

The remarkable part of Leah's journey is realizing that God used her in a profound way to expand His kingdom in the Philippines among people who were initially not her own. Interestingly, Leah never even considered becoming a missionary during her younger years. She humorously describes her past self as "the girl in the middle row, passing notes back and forth with her friends about where they would eat after the service, rather than fully absorbing the sermon from the pulpit."

Looking back on her transformation, Leah humbly admits, “I didn’t grow up thinking this [living in the Philippines] would ever be my life.”

When The Breaking Becomes Necessary

Leah's life had been carefully planned. As she finished college, she had envisioned a future with achievements: earning her degree, marrying her boyfriend, and working at a camp in Colorado. But fate had different plans, and none of these dreams materialized. She graduated with empty hands and no idea where her life was headed.

“That year was painful, but I absolutely wouldn’t change it now,” she expressed.

“I know God was intentionally stripping me down and breaking me of myself to get my attention and put my whole life in His hands,” she added.

Unforgettable moments: Leah cherishing the company of The Rising scholars.

In a transformative year, God took away everything tangible from her life, making her realize what truly mattered. This experience led her to embark on a mission trip, serving with various ministries in 11 different countries. Freed from her past, she became receptive to God's leading, allowing Him to use her where she could make a significant impact. Saying yes to God's call overseas changed her life forever.

“It was over that year that God burdened my heart for his people around the world in other countries, especially those who are hurting or don’t know about the hope we have in Jesus… I’ll always be so thankful he let me be a part of His story in the Philippines,” she shared.

Safe in her arms. Leah lovingly babysits this precious child whose mother is a Life Group member in the village.

How Everything Works Together For Good

Leah's leadership, characterized by empathy and resilience, deeply resonates with the Filipino people, who are also known for these qualities. Though her life hasn’t always been easy, she recognizes how each situation has shaped her.

“I know God deeper because of moments in my life that were difficult. And He has turned it all around and used those exact things to serve me well during my years here in ministry.”

As she looks back on her life, Leah marvels at the unmistakable fingerprints of God. Even her childhood dream of running her own camp holds a deeper significance in light of The Rising's journey.

“My favorite moments growing up were spent at camp. I went to camp every summer, and then as I got older, I worked at camp too. My dream for a while was to one day open and run my own camp somewhere beautiful in the mountains. The Rising isn’t a camp… but I do think it’s been God’s version of that heart’s desire he wired me for.”

Most Meaningful Experiences

When asked about her two most meaningful experiences, Leah took a moment to reflect, as every moment in the Philippines held deep significance for her. However, she eventually identified her top two experiences:

Nicole, A Testament of God’s Miracle

Leah vividly recalls the time when Nicole underwent surgeries, and the electricity went out unexpectedly in the middle of the procedure. In that moment, her maternal instincts kicked in, surprising even herself, as she urgently wanted to ensure Nicole's safety on the operating bed. Later, the doctor delivered shocking news: had they waited six more months for the surgery, Nicole might not have survived due to the infection's proximity to her brain. Initially, Leah had planned to wait longer, concerned about the financial implications. However, God worked through His people to provide for Nicole's surgery.

“Now her life since then has been an everyday walking miracle. Only God could write her story this way. I love the verse that talks about God restoring more and above what the enemy has stolen in our lives. Getting to be her person and fight with her and for her to overcome and grow and get to a person who is loved and cared for in this world has been the most meaningful.”

Life Groups, Reaping in Joy

The growth of the village Life Groups is another incredibly significant experience that fills Leah's heart with tears of joy. The Rising started with just a few women washing clothes together in the river, uncertain about trusting a foreigner. Now, over a hundred people from two villages eagerly gather outside the church each week.

“Their lives are not easy in the village, but their faith is so pure. The way they pray, worship, walk for miles to be at Life Groups, invite us into their homes… it's all so meaningful and beautiful to me. I have been the lucky one to get to know them and be welcomed in as part of their village family.”

Persevering Through Experiencing The Nearness of God

When Leah answered God's call, little did she know the battles that lay ahead. The challenges at times seemed overwhelming, but she found strength in the unwavering faith of her fellow believers. The incredible Filipino teammates who journeyed alongside her over the years were a true blessing, providing the support and hope she needed during tough times.

“I think that’s how God designed it. When one of us is weak, the others are strong. When one is tired, the others carry more of the weight. When one doesn’t have the words to pray, others do the speaking out loud… There has been a real nearness of God… of His Spirit here… that I treasure so much. That has gotten me and the team through the hard days.”

Leah with The Rising Filipino staff.

Advice To People Thinking About Doing Missions

To those contemplating serving in a different culture, place, or among people unfamiliar to them, Leah offers a valuable piece of advice: approach the experience with a humble and teachable attitude.

“I always love the moment when people felt loved because I knew the language or the culture. I encourage you to take time learning about them; you might feel unproductive on the outside, but it’s one of the most loving things you can do for them,” she explained.

Leah with the pioneering women members in our village Life Groups

Conversely, she warns against seeking special treatment or elevating oneself to a position of superiority. Instead, Leah encourages aspiring missionaries to immerse themselves in the community, embracing their customs and traditions.

“Don’t desire a seat of honor. "Be where the people are, meet them where they are comfortable. If they sit on the ground, sit on the ground. If they sit on a mat, sit with them. In the end, we’re all children of God– we’re all the same,” she passionately emphasized.

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” - Romans 14:15

What She Hopes The Rising Would Be 10 Years From Now

“TRIM is nothing without the people in it.”

According to Leah, the true essence of The Rising lies not in its name or organizational success but in the lives of the people it touches. It is such grace that God has used The Rising to reach so many through discipleship and education.

“My prayer is that those impacts would start to multiply in the village, the church, the girls, etc. I can’t wait to see how God uses these first-generation believers from TRIM at House of Hope and in the village to start to reach others on their own with the hope of the gospel and to see it spread farther than TRIM or this team could ever go on our own.”

Celebrating her legacy! Leah is surrounded by love from The Rising staff, the scholars and their families, the Philippines Board, and her church pastor during her send-off party.

Leah's surrender to God's calling led to the birth of The Rising International Ministry, a testament to how saying yes to God can open doors and change lives. Through her inspiring journey, we are reminded that embracing God's call can lead us to unexpected places and fulfill us in ways we could never have imagined. May her story encourage us all to seek His purpose in our lives and embrace the call to live a surrendered life.

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