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God placed ‘a burning passion in my heart that still remains’

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–Janella Griggs grew up learning a great deal about missionaries throughout her years in missions organizations like Mission Friends, Girls in Action and Acteens. The stories often were invigorating — and sometimes heartbreaking as she began to learn how many people in the world do not know Jesus.

A tiny seed was planted, even before she completed elementary school, which has grown into a full-fledged passion, with Griggs now working in Guatemala as part of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board’s Journeyman program.

Griggs credits the people at a small Southern Baptist church in Notasulga, Ala., with helping her discover God’s plan for her life.

As an Acteen at Salem Macon Baptist Church, Griggs was encouraged to participate in missions as an Acteens Activator, a program through which Acteens ages 15 and older serve as short-term missions volunteers.

“There were only three girls who came to our [Acteens] group faithfully,” she said, but it didn’t dampen their missions spirit.

Her years at Samford University in Birmingham offered various opportunities to serve stateside as well as overseas. It was during a senior-year missions trip to the Baptist Mission Centers in Houston, Texas, when she discovered that her heart was designed to love and serve a particular people group.

“It was supposed to be my last ‘hoorah’ as a college student, my last spring break missions trip,” Griggs recounted. “But as I was focusing on all the ‘lasts,’ God was converting them into a long list of ‘firsts.’ How very much like him!”

Although many missions trips had come and gone, Griggs remembers God stirring something in her heart as she introduced herself to a Latino person for the first time.

“During the course of that week, he placed a burning passion in my heart that still remains,” she said.

After graduating, Griggs worked for a year at mission centers in Houston before returning to school to earn a master’s degree in advertising. She continued to serve in short-term missions to Mexico and other Latin American countries while pursuing a career, but it could not quench her heart’s desire for serving the Latino people.

“Every time I had to leave, my heart would break again,” she recounted.

On one of those short-term missions trips, Griggs was involved in a serious van accident, something that she says helped her realize that the Holy Spirit was not going to leave her alone until she decided to obey.

“There was no doubt God had spared my life for his purpose,” Griggs said. “After that, the still, small voice became a big, booming shout. I could not escape the clear command to go and make disciples.”

After praying through several options for overseas service with the International Mission Board, she felt led toward the Journeyman program for single college graduates under the age of 30. The Journeyman program is a two-year assignment, a perfect opportunity to test the waters of missionary living.

Only this time, Griggs is fully experiencing the adventure.
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  • Stacey Gish