Last year she was a student at NTM’s Missionary Training Center and looking forward to a life of missionary service in Africa. Now she has graduated from the training and has begun what some consider the hardest part of becoming a missionary—partnership development.

But she is committed to the long and sometimes bumpy road, to finding “that lovely core group of people that I’m deeply connected with” who will make up her prayer, encouragement and financial support system.

Joanna admits that all the tasks and choices she faced after graduation were overwhelming.

“I was definitely burdened by the weight of the decisions to be made, and struggling to trust the Lord with them entirely. The Holy Spirit has really worked in a crazy way since then. He’s definitely turned my ‘weeping’ into joy and blessed assurance that He’s got things under control.”

Joanna is so thankful for the wise counsel of her instructors at the training center as well as her pastor and other faithful friends. She is already seeing the blessings God uses to encourage her along the way, like getting an encouraging email, a friend giving her a Kindle “just because” or receiving a gift of $500.

“Sometimes I laugh out loud at how astonishing God is,” wrote Joanna.

Each blessing strengthens her resolve to persevere.

One particular encouragement was getting to experience life with a real missionary — her sister Kathryn, who serves in the Asia-Pacific region. They had a great reunion, hiking mountains, riding motorcycles and eating boatloads of rice.

“It was tremendous to see, hear, taste, smell and touch the world in which Kathryn has been living for the last three years,” she wrote.

In February, Joanna met one of her long-term goals by finalizing her membership with New Tribes Mission. Next, she hopes to travel to Africa in the fall to gather more information about missionary life and help confirm a decision she believes she will be making shortly about where to serve. Her pastor and possibly a few others will accompany Joanna to gain a more accurate understanding of what life will be like for her, in order to be a better support system from home. Then she will return and continue building a team of people to join her in her future ministry.

“I’ve had so many chances to tell people what I’m doing, and several more have caught the vision of what God is doing in Africa! He is amazing and surprising.”

Whenever Joanna’s not on the road, she will be reaching out, serving and continuing to learn and grow with her own body of believers.

“God has opened up several opportunities for discipleship and serving in my local church. It’s been a huge blessing. And I can also see how those opportunities to interact with women my age and older will be such incredible training for when I get to the field.”

What Joanna desires most now is clear direction from God concerning which place in Africa to go.

“I’d love to be done making decisions,” she wrote, “But by His grace, God will walk me through this season of my life, just as He has walked me through every other one — in His time.”