In the summer of 2015, Abby Horvat was on her way to an internship at the NorthStar Alpine Lodge in Matsumoto, Japan. She thought back to the countless memories and answered prayers that brought her to this point. One thing was certain: if her younger self had been told she would be on this plane today, she wouldn’t have believed it.
Abby grew up in a small Christian community. Her parents always called her their little evangelist because of her eagerness to share Christ with anyone willing to listen. In high school, though, the pains of depression and self-hatred stifled her love for Jesus. By seventeen, all she wanted to do was end her life. No one but God knew about the battle that waged inside Abby’s heart. She was still the little evangelist on the outside, but on the inside, she doubted that God was enough.
Around Christmas of 2012, Abby gave God one more chance to save her. She spent two hours reading scripture and praying for Him to show up. He did. For the first time since she was a little girl, Abby felt the overwhelming love of God triumphing over her depression and self-hatred. Abby’s heart was filled with love for Jesus which reignited a passion for missions.
Her life could not end because God still had plans for her.
After that day, Abby fought a long, uphill battle. She knew she was called to pursue full-time vocational missions, but she had no idea what to do. When high school graduation approached, she found herself tempted to pursue comfort and possessions over her call to missions. God gave her peace and reminded her of the holy ambition He had laid upon her heart. As Abby searched for direction, her small group leader, Jordan, who had previously served in Japan with Encompass World Partners, suggested that Abby contact Encompass. That suggestion was the first step in Abby’s journey.
Abby connected with the Encompass Mobilization team, and they recommended she attend one of the Encounter Atlanta trips. After graduation, Abby spent all her savings to buy a ticket to Atlanta. She arrived alone and with no direction other than her desire for missions, wondering if she had made the right choice or if she was just plain crazy.
During her time in Atlanta, Abby faced many cross-cultural settings and learned from them. Her call to missions solidified every day. She heard about The NorthStar Alpine Lodge in Japan, which uses outdoor activities as a platform for the gospel, and her interest was piqued. It sounded like exactly the kind of ministry Abby could excel in, but the timing was not yet right.
Before she went on the Encounter Atlanta trip, Abby had considered attending the Great Commission Bible Institute in Sebring, Florida. The Encompass Mobilization team encouraged her to take part in it. At GCBI, each student goes through the entire Bible, studying every chapter for one whole school year. Abby attended, and it was an amazing experience. Again, her missional calling was confirmed as she studied God’s Word.
Then, at the start of 2015, an opportunity to serve with NorthStar opened up. Abby was overjoyed. She flew to Japan on a 3-month summer internship to help with the daily operations of the Lodge. The community there welcomed her with open arms, and Abby began to form relationships. As she saw the heartbreaking spiritual blindness of the country, her heart was filled with empathy for the Japanese people. When the director of NorthStar asked Abby to consider staying another three months, she knew she wanted to say yes.
As excited as Abby was by the offer, she had no idea how she could get the funding to stay or if it was even possible. She began to pray, and God answered with immediate grace. The funding came in, and Abby was able to stay. At the end of her time, Abby returned to the States with a heavy burden for the Japanese people and a desire to someday return to Japan permanently with more to offer in experience and skills.
To that end, Abby is currently working on getting a business degree from a community college. This spring, she hopes to lead a small group from her church to Japan in the hope that others will bring back the same burden she has for the Japanese people.
Abby has very simple advice for those wondering if God is calling them to go. All you have to do is show up and be willing to do anything. The God who knows all your strengths and flaws will lead you where He wants you to be. Let your love for Jesus rise above all your fears and doubts. Life is too short to dabble with insecurities while the God of the universe is calling you.