Untrained. Unqualified. Unconventional.

They say that hindsight is 20/20 and my, my, is it ever true. I would like to think that had I known then what I know now, I would have embarked on this overseas life a little less reserved, much more objective, and way more prepared. But there is a part of me that wonders – had I known then what I know now, would I have even embarked at all?

Because can I just be honest with you?  It has been HARD – sometimes hard to the nth degree. I had little support emotionally going into this.  My only insight into cross-cultural work came in a class that met every third Wednesday night for middle-school aged girls. Oh, and let me not forget those two short-term trips that I’d take on the cusp of my twenties. I went to a secular college, had no formal ministry training, and erroneously thought being a pastor’s wife meant a cornucopia of trusted connections, not this liberal ache of unspoken lonely.

So how on earth did this untrained, unqualified, unconventional girl from the foothills of Kentucky end up in an overseas life of ministry, you ask? And going on twenty years, nonetheless? No worries. I ask myself those same questions at least once a day. Partly because the enemy still has a way of creeping in and sowing doubts in my mind. And partly because, by asking, it causes me to stand amazed at how God has one-upped every doubt that I’m not good enough, every fear that I’m not capable enough, and every hesitation that I am not readied enough. He’s eclipsed them all with the one tool that teaches me, that rebukes me, that corrects me, and that trains me up in righteousness – His Word. (2 Tim 3:16)

When I look into His Word, it’s chock full of people just like me. People that had no formal training yet still heeded His calling on their lives. People who the world would deem unqualified yet still were willing to go. People who may have been unconventional yet were deliberately being molded in the hands of the Potter.

People like Peter and John. Acts 4:13 tell us, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” When Jesus called Peter and John, they were untrained, having no degrees or prior experience. They had the privilege of on-the-job training by walking with Jesus, experiencing His will and His way firsthand. These past twenty years taught me that I have the same opportunity as Peter and John – to daily walk with the Word through the Scriptures so that I, too, may be trained in righteousness.

Then, there are people like Moses. I so relate with Moses’ reaction to the calling of God. I mean, didn’t you make some of these same arguments when God called you to this overseas life?

“Who am I that I should go…?” (Exodus 3:11)

“What if they will not believe me or take seriously what I say?” (Exodus 4:1)

“Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past…” (Exodus 4:10)

 “Please, Lord, send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13)

Moses argued every reason that he believed should disqualify him from the call of God. And I have too:

“Who am I that I should go? I never attended Bible College.”

“What if they don’t take me seriously because I am a foreigner?”

“Surely, Lord, my strong southern accent may impede any efforts to evangelize.”

“And surely, Lord, isn’t there someone younger with more talent and energy to do the work?”

I could go on and on with arguments that come from a place of my own strength. But this continual training in righteousness is a supernatural place to be. It has nothing to do with my aptness or my credibility or my own abilities.

In fact, it has everything to with God supernaturally transforming me from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18) – in whatever way He so chooses. So if you are feeling unqualified, be empowered by His words to Moses in Exodus 3:12, “Certainly I will be with you.”

And for good measure, there are people like Abraham, whose family must have thought he lost His mind to leave everything and everyone when God called him. Abraham went, even though, Hebrews 11:8 tells us, he did not know where he was going. I don’t know about you, but where I’m from, people don’t leave. So I might have heard those five stinging words before venturing out to the unknown: “Have you lost your mind?”  

We surely serve a God who uses the unconventional though. He used Rahab, a prostitute, to protect the spies. He used young David to defeat Goliath – with just a stone. He used timid Gideon to conquer the Midianite army, despite a huge numerical disadvantage. And He used the virgin Mary to birth the Messiah, the Savior of the world! It seems the more the unconventional, the greater His glory is revealed.

So yes, there will be days in this overseas life that you deem yourself untrained, unqualified, and unconventional. And that’s okay. On those days, thank God. As Corrie Ten Boom rightly states, “God is training you for something.”

Is there a particular passage of Scripture that the Holy Spirit is using in this season of your life to train you in righteousness?  


  1. Jenny August 27, 2021

    Stephanie! Ugh these words. Thank you for your honest and hope filled words. Especially the reminder of those in scripture who followed, regardless of their training. We are in the company of many men and women who did and do the incredible, all because of Jesus. Thank you

    1. Stephanie Clarke August 27, 2021

      Thanks Jenny! I feel like there are so many in the Word that were untrained or unqualified or unconventional or all the above. It gives me great encouragement that God did not waiver in using them, but instead did the impossible through them.🙂

  2. Regina M Chari August 27, 2021

    I felt this post so deeply. Thank you for sharing your heart and the experiences of others who have been unconventionally used by God! I feel like our stories have lots of similarities! I am so grateful to God for the way He is always training us for something <3

    1. Stephanie Clarke August 27, 2021

      Always!! I believe that when we remain pliable in His hands, that is when we see our immeasurably more God do what more than we could ever ask or imagine.

      Keep going, Sister! God’s training you for greater!

  3. Bethany August 27, 2021

    Thank you for your words! I can most definitely relate right now as I get ready to go in a week and a half! In my time with the Lord, I’ve learned so much from Moses and the Israelites from both their obedience and disobedience. He’s let me see that it was never about me to begin with, but that He wants to work in me so that His name is renown.

    1. Rachel Mutesi August 27, 2021

      Thank you for these words!!! I’ve had a week of ALL the doubts and insecurities and fears. I so needed to be brought back to the Word and to truth

      1. Stephanie Clarke August 29, 2021

        He’s so sufficient! Just keep walking in His truth!

  4. Stephanie Clarke August 27, 2021

    Yes!!! Yes!! and YES!!!

    Praying for safe travels for you, Bethany! May God go before you, behind you, beside you, all around you and within you!!!

  5. Kathleen Smith August 28, 2021

    Love this post! Love to hear more about what you do, but most of all I just thank you for your approach to living overseas. Even those of us who have received considerable training feel inadequate in so many situations. As soon as I thought all was well I was smack in the middle of my first hurricane.We were supposed to have training on disaster relief but the weather didn’t read the training schedule and came a week early!

    1. Stephanie Clarke August 29, 2021

      So glad you guys are okay!!! Was that Hurricane Elsa that you experienced? I’ve been through my fair share of tropical storms, but when Elsa came, she changed to Cat 1 Hurricane right as she was over the island. I definitely wasn’t prepared to experience that, nor be without electricity for a week, but God protected and provided for us. Lots of structures were damaged, but thankfully no injuries or loss of life.

  6. Phyllis August 28, 2021

    Thank you. I’m right where you are: going on 20 years and so untrained, unqualified, and unconventional. So far, it’s been a good journey, and I have gotten experience and learning along the way. I hope there is much more to come, too.

    Still, when people ask us for advice, we often say not to do what we do: go for the training, take the time at the beginning. You can’t be fully prepared beforehand, but it wouldn’t hurt to have more preparation than we did!

    1. Stephanie Clarke August 29, 2021

      I agree! Preparation, and especially connection, would have been such an advantage going into this.

      Living an overseas life was never on my radar. Most days I still feel like Peter…I’m usually bold enough to step out of the boat, but take my eyes off the One who is surely sustaining me.

  7. Elise August 29, 2021

    Thank you for this post! I was especially encouraged to read Moses’ doubts and to resonate with his insecurities. Considering Moses’ life, seeing his doubts but knowing how God used him in amazing ways, it sort of gives us permission to be our messy selves and confidently step forward anyway. Thank you for your post. Super timely in this season of my life where I am wrestling with a lot of feelings of inadequacy.

  8. Stephanie Clarke August 29, 2021

    Praise God! And yes!!! I think Paul says it best:

    “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God” – 2 Cor 3:5

    Isn’t that verse just freeing? 🙂

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