What Happens Between Two Cities by Elisa Johnston

by | Nov 17, 2022 | The Love Offering Guest Blog Series

Tijuana is a lot like where I live now, in San Diego. The sun smiles down on us daily and the temperature is almost always within a degree of perfect. We have the same dry dust, rugged plants, and we are both situated between the sea and low coastal mountains. Our cities would be one, except for the border running through them.


I stand on one side, speaking one language. A woman whose first language is Spanish stands on the other. She is also married, with four kids. She also craves to make a difference in the world because of her love for Jesus. 


I’ve never met her, but I know she is there. She’s in every city and country I’ve ever visited. We might live by a different set of laws, and have our unique customs and traditions. But they are still my sisters, of one spirit and mind. You might be one of my sisters, called to serve God too.


I used to go to Baja California frequently. My parents had multiple friends there, in some ministry or another. When I was three I even lived in Tijuana for a summer. I have two memories there. The first was that I wasn’t allowed to swim in the ocean because of pollution. The other was of a boy who choked on a wax covered nail representing a candle on a birthday cake. 


From my toddler to teenage years, Mexico ignited a passion in me to bring God’s Kingdom to earth, changing the world. In Mexico, I had a close-up of poverty and many other social issues. And within them, I saw our service make an impact. After being challenged by a sermon for youth at a mission-base in Tijuana, I committed my life as a love-offering to full-time service when I grew up. My worldview was limited, and as I didn’t know of any girl pastors, I figured I’d become a missionary.


But there was a lifetime between my days visiting south of the border and now, living just north of it. I’ve seen many of my sisters have seasons of formation between when they were first called and when they saw it fulfilled, just like many heroes of the faith. And even after, they never stopped growing. But I didn’t think about these things.


For a decade I found myself outside of Washington D.C., in the richest suburbs of the U.S. I didn’t fit in, nor did this fit with my plans to change the world as a missionary. I tried to find fulfillment as a wife, and then as a mother. But really I was pacing in frustration, biding my time to fulfill what I believed was my real world-changing calling. At least a few times a year I’d fight with my husband about why he should quit his job and become a missionary with me to some far-off-fetched place and start an orphanage–or do something. 


I found no significance serving where I was. It was never enough. My life didn’t match the calling that I had when I was fourteen. By then I had experience as a missionary doing humanitarian work in other countries and had studied global and cultural studies. My passion to change the world was a flame within me and yet I only knew how to feel angry at injustice and others’ indifference to them.


I probably would have gone on like this forever, except God met me where I was, as he does. First, he showed me that what I did mattered, from right where I was. He helped me love the people around me who seemed indifferent, coming alongside them instead to help them to discover and fulfill their own callings. I began leading women’s ministries, various community projects and began founding nonprofits. My full-time ministry didn’t fit perfectly in one of the five boxes of Ephesians 4, but here I truly began loving others and equipping them. I began to believe that it was really the everyday people who change the world–not just those who have great titles or do big things. 



“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…” Ephesians 4:11 NIV


Despite the fact that I did make an impact and I received many years of experience, God was preparing to do something new in me. Often, we believe that there is this arrival moment, when we are finally living out our callings. Yet, in reality, what we do shifts during various seasons, with different roles and responsibilities. Calling is first about who we are called to be, not what we do. This means the inside matters as much as what fruit is produced outside.


At the end of that decade, I ended up burning out from my busy life of doing good. So much of my identity was tied to how I served. I had inadvertently taken the burden to rescue others on my shoulders, as if I was God. There was always more suffering to alleviate, more people to minister to, more being asked of me that I didn’t believe I could say “no” to. I also needed to learn how to love my family deeply, heal from wounding, and give out of overflow–constantly renewed by God. I could see everyone else’s value but my own. 


In a rapid cross-country move, God unhinged the life I’d build between the cities. He brought me to San Diego, less than thirty miles from where I dedicated my life to ministry. As I settled in, I took a Sabbatical to focus on letting God change these areas. Being a love offering–giving all of yourself for God’s glory–isn’t just about serving others. It is also about accepting his own love and view of you. 


Between first being called in Tijuana and restarting in San Diego, God was busy shaping, modeling and preparing me. And even now, he is still forming me for the next season.


See, God isn’t done with us. He will forever be moving into all he has called us to–both to be and do. So, sisters, as you offer to Him, let him form you as you make a difference now, in between the here and the there. 


“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 NIV


About the Author:

Elisa Johnston empowers ordinary people to be fully alive while making the difference they were born to make at Average Advocate, procrastinates on Instagram, and brings freedom to the exploited through Blackout Trafficking. Whenever and wherever she can, she explores with her four littles. Thankfully, God, her husband, and other favorite introverts are all particularly grounding, because otherwise her Enneagram 7 passions would compel her into a creative oblivion.


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I’m Rachael Adams

I’m an author, speaker, and host of The Love Offering Podcast. My mission is to help women find significance and purpose throught Christ.

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