You know that moment when you watch a movie trailer and think, “I have to see this”?
But then you find out it’s not on any streaming platforms you have? The worst.
That was me in 2019 when I saw the trailer of “Many Beautiful Things: The Life and Vision of Lilias Trotter”.
It’s just a short documentary about the British 19th-century artist-turned-missionary, Lilias Trotter. But I was smitten.
I wanted to know how a young woman on the brink of fame in the London art world decided to move to North Africa. I mean, I’ve read countless missionary biographies, just not hers. I wanted to know her story.
But I never figured out a way to watch it—until this March.
I was sick in bed, with a fever that wouldn’t break. I was just a few weeks away from traveling to Mexico and England, so I was on a British TV kick. That’s when I remembered Many Beautiful Things.
I smiled—and cried—my way through the whole movie.
The next day, I listened to two podcast episodes by Lilias Trotter’s biographer as I cleaned my kitchen. I saved one of her paintings as my desktop picture. Then in Mexico, I read her illustrated devotional book, Parables of the Cross—and copied down a dozen quotes. But that was just the beginning.
Three weeks later, I was standing in a vintage bookshop in London, not thinking of Lilias Trotter at all. I was planning on just grabbing a book, and not keeping my friends waiting for more than five minutes (my last stop there took 40 minutes).
So when I was ready to go (in record time—15 minutes), I was surprised to find them in a corner of the shop, lost in another world. They were holding 100-year-old missionary biographies of legends like Hudson Taylor and Gladys Aylward—the stories I was raised on.
That’s when it hit me. It wasn’t “another world”.
It started here.
Hudson Taylor, Gladys Aylward, Lilias Trotter—all from England. These weren’t stories about distant lands, not anymore. They started on the wooden floorboards and the cobblestone streets under my own two feet.
As a missionary? I was on holy ground.
Holy, also: set apart for a purpose.
In the following weeks in England, I couldn’t shake the thought that God wanted to do it again.
Spark a youth missions movement from the United Kingdom that would reach the farthest corners of the world. Not with proud dominion, but with humble, servant-hearted love.
Of course, telling people about missions looks a little different in this digital age.
But as I worked on building a website, I knew the vision was the same. Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.
Now I’m back in Hawaii, I keep thinking about how God is writing so many more stories than I realize.
I’m thinking of you and your story, all the beautiful complexities that most people don’t know about. And today, it’s my prayer you’ll be able to see your story in a new way, wherever you are.
As Lilias Trotter wrote,
“God only knows the endless possibilities that lie folded in each one of us!”
Watch the full documentary: “Many Beautiful Things” on YouTube
(I just discovered it was released here in 2020 and I’m stoked)