David: Welcome to Your Meaningful Life, where we explore two strategies and tools that help you unlock meaning in every season of life.
Today’s guest calls herself a global nomad who has served the poorest of the poor and the riches of the rich all around the world. She has followed God into unknown places.
She also published a great book called ‘Kiss My Fish - Tales of Chasing God Around the World.’
It’s my pleasure to welcome Bethany Anderson.
Hey, Bethany, it’s so good to have you on the show today.
Bethany: Hi, David. Thanks for having me. I’ve been looking forward to this, so I’m excited.
David: Absolutely. So good. To start us off, I have a question because you are doing this thing called The Hope Adventure. What I understood is to spark God’s hope all around the world. Tell us a bit more about how this started.
Bethany: I was the kind of kid who did every possible activity under the sun, and my whole life, I always had a diversity of interests and passions. And everyone always told me to pick one thing.
I in my spirit fought that my whole life. I say that because what I’m doing now is the culmination of all my gifts and talents in one creative, messy package. So, the back story is that I was a missionary for several years.
I worked with different mission agencies globally. I worked across Europe and Africa, and the UK. I spent some time in Australia as well. My travels just ignited something in me. I became passionate about following God into unknown places.
It’s kind of like a blank canvas with a lot of possibilities. So, last year, I did all sorts of things. I was back home in Texas, and I launched this ministry called the Hope Adventure. It started out as a podcast by the same name.
The idea was to share stories of hope and God at work around the world. So, out of the podcast, I launched what I thought would be the Hope Adventure, which was me running retreats and leading worship and singing and preaching and doing all sorts of things.
But then I spent a month in Hawaii when I launched it, and I felt like the Lord said, “No, I want you to trip back and take everything off the table. I will take you into a season of incubating the Dream Church. I want to take you on the Hope Adventure first and give you a vision of what it will be.
David: What are these unknown places? Are these undiscovered places or what?
Bethany: It’s the idea that we are not in control of our lives, that God is, following us into those unknown places is almost just like a posture of life to say, “Hey, God, whatever you have, wherever you have it, I’m willing, and I’m available to go and be there.”
I just said, “God, just take me to where people need hope.” And last year, I spent in 13 countries across ten months. That’s culminated really into what the Hope Adventure is.
David: Tell us about some of your experiences at the Hope Adventure.
Bethany: I was in Europe for a season, and then I quickly realized I needed to get out of the country because of something called a Schengen visa, as an American. And so, on the last day of my visa, I was in London. I was sitting on the train, and I looked over and heard this homeless guy. He was asking for some money, around £10.
For whatever reason, I just felt like a prompting from God to pay attention to him. And so, as he came closer, I started a conversation with him.
He told me he’d raised £6 since yesterday. This was at 6 p.m., by the way. He said he’d been doing this all day today and hadn’t earned anything. I thought, £4, I could make up the difference, so I reached into my wallet, but I didn’t have anything but a £20 note. But I was kind of wrestling with God at that moment as to whether I should give him the money or have him follow me out of the train as I got the cash.
I just felt like I wanted to ignite hope, so I said to Thomas, “I’m going to give you £20, and hopefully, that’s going to give you more than one night’s sleep and one meal.” And I said, “Can I pray for you?”
Thomas looked at me with an air of shock on his face, and I could see the tears welling in his eyes. Right after that, it was my stop. I got up to get off, and he followed me off the train, saying, “10 minutes ago, I was cursing your God because I used to know him. But he sent me you, and you gave me money, but more importantly, you gave me God.” And He began to weep.
How often have things changed in your life because you asked yourself a question or someone else asked you? So, I carry that story with me.
David: That’s an amazing story. And what I love, Bethany, is that you responded to God’s calling.
And I like that you invite people to discover God as their greatest adventure. And I think that’s exactly what you are experiencing in that moment and other stories.
Bethany: I don’t think people necessarily describe a relationship with God as an adventure, but like I’m an adventure junkie.
That’s kind of how I see the journey with God. You don’t know what’s coming up around the curve. You don’t know when to pull on the brake or go faster.
He knows He’ll lead you and guide you to provide for you. He’s the one who created you. I’m curious about you, though, because you also seem to like adventure. So what do you think about your journey with God?
David: I think adventure describes my journey as well. And if I look back, I’m just in wonder because I would have never imagined getting where I am right now. I left the corporate career.
I had so much fun working also. And then, I felt God calling me to the next chapter, and I resigned. I left a great job and great people, great company, for an adventure. I moved to Cambodia, and it’s been so great. I never regret that decision.
It all comes down to having the right mindset and being open to that.
Bethany: Mindset is not something we necessarily talk about in Christianity. But one of the things I’m working on right now with my ministry is I’m going to be leading pilgrimages for women worldwide. I’m writing a curriculum in the form of something I’m calling a Hope Journal.
It’s all based on posturing your heart with God. We must be intentional about our mindset.
One of the questions I’m always asking is, “God, what do you want to teach me? What do you want to show me? What do you want me to notice that I haven’t noticed before?” And after this experience, I was talking to someone, and they said that this was God’s reminder that He’s not going to let you go. He’s not going to let you go barrelling down the mountain, and He’s with you.
David: Adventure is fun for you, but I’m sure there are times when it’s hard. You’re traveling all alone by yourself around the world. So how do you navigate these ups and downs that are sometimes extreme?
Bethany: As I mentioned earlier, I was gone for ten months last year and traveled to 13 countries. I think I had four infections. I had COVID twice. I had three stomach bugs and all sorts of issues like headaches and migraines, but all that is part of the adventure.
But at the moment, when you’re lying in a strange, wonky bed in the middle of South Africa and you have COVID, and you can’t breathe, it’s not fun. And it doesn’t feel like you need adventure. It feels like survival. I don’t want to discount the real and raw emotions that come with those kinds of situations, whatever the challenges in your life.
David: And speaking of loneliness and mindset, it’s not a secret that we are both seasoned singles. When you’re traveling, you spend a lot of time alone, and yeah, you have friends who know you well. But there are still times of loneliness or times of a lot of challenges. Single life is not always easy. How do you deal with it?
Bethany: For me, it’s cool because everywhere I travel, I feel like God provides people. So, I used to live in Switzerland a ton. I used to have a strong community here. Now, a lot of those people have moved away. But it’s been so cool because I have met so many new people in the last couple of weeks, and yeah, it’s just the Lord provides that for me.
I’m curious about you. How do you deal with the same situation? Because you also travel a lot, and I know you’re more stable in your community now, but I still want to know.
David: Yeah, it’s probably a bit like you because I now have stable friends. Sometimes we meet in person, and when I’m in Switzerland, we meet over a camera. As you said, it’s not the same, but it’s still great.
Even though we don’t spend every single moment together, we pick up wherever we stopped the last time. I do have a community here as well, in the ex-pat space. It’s not always the same people.
Bethany: I realized that my focus was on the wrong place. I just had to live where I was called to live and be who God created me to be. I have had to fight the cultural expectations growing up in Bible Belt, where everyone gets married before they’re 25, they have a bunch of babies, and, like, that’s the life you live.
I tried playing the “picket wife housewife” role because that was painted for me.
I was in a relationship for two and a half years. It should have ended on day three. I don’t know. He was a great guy. But I just knew that this was not for me.
We all should try to thrive in the way we’re meant to. We are who God says we are, not who culture says we are. I think that’s key to living with meaning and purpose and recognizing that life is never always perfect.
Living a life of meaning and purpose looks different for everyone. But start with what you love.
David: I love starting with who you are and what you love. Straightforward and sound advice. That’s awesome. Thank you so much, Bethany, for all the insights and the great stories. Thank you for being on the show today.
Bethany: Yeah, thanks for having me, and good to see you.