Abigail Strand (left) served with Sam and Rene in Mongolia with Navigators iEDGE (International EDGE Corps) from 2018 to 2020.
On my own, I probably never would’ve become deep friends with either Rene or Sam. Rene was too popular and Sam was too cool—I definitely felt lacking and weird.
Real, imperfect people
But this was the team that I was going to be working with closely for the next two years in Mongolia, so I had to get over my first impressions and jump into getting to know them better. Even though Rene and I had few similar interests, our deepest interest was the same: a deep love of God and His Gospel. Sam, though often light-hearted and humorous, had deep thoughts about God and the Bible that challenged me. They both turned out to be real, approachable people, not aloof beings in the social hierarchy I’d created in my head. The more I got to know them, the more highly I esteemed them, appreciating their distinct abilities, personalities, strengths, and interests. The mind-blowing thing was that these awesome people were also interested in me and desired to know me better.
Growing up, I did not have many close friends. I had been hurt by friends leaving me in elementary school, and I was so focused in school, music, gymnastics, youth group, and Girl Scouts that I didn’t pursue friendships very deeply. When my freshman year of college came around, I became very lonely because I didn’t know how to invest well in friendships. I desperately wanted someone to initiate a friendship with me, but no one seemed to. Through discipleship, a Navigators summer training program, and a dear college roommate, the Lord began to teach me how to invest in friendships with others. This was a wonderful breakthrough, but while I would initiate friendships with others, I didn’t really expect anyone to seek me back. I deeply believed that God faithfully pursues me, but I couldn’t trust imperfect people to do the same.
A new level of trust
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
Through Sam and Rene, the Lord opened a pathway for me to more fully understand John 13:34-35. When Jesus loved His disciples, He pursued them and gave them of Himself. He told them to love not “others” but “one another.” I was astonished at what level my teammates reciprocated my desire to know them. As we walked through fun times, mundane times, and times of conflict, we built up a level of trust that I’d never experienced in friendship. I began to believe that I could share my desires and areas of hurt with them because I saw that they truly cared. In fact, I could honor them by letting them care for me.
God showed me that because I was created to be a relational being, I need friendship to thrive, and one of the major ways He chooses to pursue me is through imperfect people. This was one of the biggest lessons that I learned from God during my time on iEDGE on Mongolia. I am trusting that God used these friendships to show those around us that we are His disciples.