"God's called me to teach dance to children in Afghanistan as a form of worship."
It took a while for the words coming out of 17-year old Grace Robson's mouth to register in my mind. That was the last thing I'd expected to hear from her!
At the time, I was having dinner with her & her family in their dining room. Before meeting her, I'd heard stories from them about her dancing history, and had mentally formed an image in my head of who these experiences had shaped her into. It turns out, however, that the image in my head was only partly true...
Grace and I eventually met this summer, and I remember thinking then how young she looked. From what I'd heard about her, I'd imagined that she'd look much older in person. We didn't talk much then, but after hearing about the vision she had received from God at dinner a few weeks later, I knew that I wanted to know more about her as well as her vision...
So we planned on a day when we could sit down and talk at length; and when we finally got around to doing so, she told me more about her dancing past as well as the full story of her vision:
"I started dancing when I was eight years old. A lot of girls in my class at school did it back then, and it seemed kinda cool... so I started out at the local dance school, National College of Dance in Australia. But at that time, I was more focused on violin, because I wanted to become a violinist & a violin teacher."
But when she was ten years old, Grace moved to the Netherlands with her family and started taking dance classes with a teacher called Mirella Simoncini. Mirella mentored her and encouraged her to start thinking of dancing at a professional level.
"She was just the best!" says Grace. "She saw my potential and really pushed me...pushed me hard, and pushed me to audition for the Royal Conservatory of the Hague. She put ideas in my head that this could actually become a thing."
Grace took her advice, and although she was late for the auditions, she got into the Royal Conservatory - on the condition that she learnt to speak Dutch in 3 months. She did so, and as she took more and more dance lessons, violin started fading into the background.
Her teachers at the Royal Conservatory seemed to echo Ms. Simoncini's sentiments. One of her coaches, a Ms. Katarina Wester described her as "a joy to work with" and "a special kind of student...who not only cares about the final result, but is genuinely interested in the process to achieve it."
After 5-6 years at the Royal Conservatory, a friend dared her to take part in the Prix de Lausanne International dance competition in Lausanne, Switzerland. This was in February of 2016.
"It's the most prestigious competition for ballet," Grace explains. "Directors of schools and companies all over the world come to watch and scout. Many that participate and get into finals become big names."
She accepted her friend's dare, participated in the competition, and ended up receiving an offer from one dance company - The American Ballet Theater Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School (ABT JKO) in New York. Seeing as this was Grace's top choice, she was thrilled with the offer!
It was at this point in her life that things started adding up for Grace: being mentored by the teacher who eventually urged her to audition for the Royal Conservatory; getting into the Royal Conservatory despite being late for the auditions; and eventually, accepting the dare to audition in Switzerland which led to her getting into the ABT JKO school in New York. What's more, Grace had received a slight indication in the past that she might be headed to New York in the future...
"A friend had prophesied over that two years before Prix [de Lausanne]. She was just about to move to New York, and she said, 'You know what, Grace? I think you're going to move to New York. In a couple of years, you're going to study dance in New York, and you're going to live with us part time...' And now I live with them on the weekends!"
After moving to New York, Grace started attending Hillsong Church, New York. It was at an annual women's event organised by the church called the 'Colour Conference' that she received her vision.
"During that conference, I received a vision from God. It was very specific. It was a picture of me teaching kids in the Middle East dance as a form of worship, and also English...more specific than just the Middle East...it was Afghanistan."
The experience changed everything - from how Grace dances in school to how she spends her summer holidays. Grace even taught dance lessons this summer, through which she got a taste of what she'll be doing in the future.
As a way of mentally preparing herself for what's ahead, she's also developed an interest in a different genre of literature from what she's used to.
"I've been reading this amazing book called, 'Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus'. It gave me way more understanding of where Muslims are coming from, what they believe, why they believe Islam is a religion of peace, what Jihad is..."
Grace is determined to learn as much as possible about Afghanistan and its people before she goes there.
"If you don't understand where people are coming from, people will not listen to you. Because it's unfair to assume that you know it all, and put no effort into understanding what they're talking about."
As we spoke, I wondered whether Grace's previous plans for her future correlated at all with the vision she'd recently received, and decided to ask her about it.
"I had a much more selfish view of my future. I was very set on really just becoming the best dancer I could be, being in a company & all the glam, which is great...well, a lot of it I still want. I do want to become a professional...But God's opened my eyes to the fact that dancing is a form of worship, and we're made to worship God. That is our main purpose on earth - to glorify Him. Dancing is also for sharing...and I love that, I love sharing..."
All in all, Grace seems to be at peace with the vision she received, and is even somewhat relieved now that she has an idea of what God has called her to do.
"It's so nice to know that your life is supposed to glorify God. It's doing something good for people, and most importantly for God. I know that I'm on the right path. God sent me to New York, and He's teaching me so much in New York."
When asked what advice she'd give to others about his/her individual purpose, Grace had this to say,
"If you receive a vision, don't be set on it. Make sure you confirm [it] with the Holy Spirit. Ask God to confirm things to you. But really, just don't take it into your own hands. Let go & let God. Be ready, be listening. So don't just [think], 'Okay, well it's in God's hands now.' If you don't act on it, it's not gonna happen either...But it's all in God's good timing... things like this - God visions - you can't do them by yourself. You'll like, die on your first day (laughs). That's not the plan."
"Make sure that God is your priority the whole time. Don't forget it. Don't let it pass by. Write it down. Put it in a place where you'll see it all the time."
She also admits that telling other people about her vision helps a lot - be it family or close friends. She's found that it's highly important to have people around you who can keep you accountable, as well as pray with you.
"The main thing," she concludes, "is just to keep seeking God, and He will definitely reveal Himself to you. He says that. He promises that, and it's true."