We have been blessed and burdened with the call to serve as missionaries overseas for the next two and a half years. There have been so many opportunities for us to witness God’s provision and the beauty of the diverse Body of Christ in the month that we have been here; for that gift we are grateful. However, this journey has not been without its struggles.
As we mentioned earlier, this is week number ten living out of a suitcase. That in and of itself has presented some frustrating and funny challenges, but perhaps the more difficult side of that reality is that we have also been living in other people’s space for that long as well. We have been eating their food, sharing their bathrooms, following their rules and customs, and awkwardly trying to become invisible during their family arguments. We are perpetual guests, and though we are so blessed to have such amazing hosts, it is exhausting. It makes “home” feel unstable and temporary in a time when everything else seems unstable and temporary as well. We long to feel settled and at home here.
A key part of moving to any new place, but particularly a new country is the feeling of dependence that follows you everywhere. We went from having a car and knowing where everything in the Wheaton/Chicago area was (or at least being able to use Google Maps to find it) to having nothing but our legs to transport us and not knowing where anything is. We are slowly figuring out how to navigate the bus system and have so many people who are graciously giving us rides, but we are dependent. We need them to be able get groceries, we need them to be able to go to the doctor, we need them to explain to us how to get everywhere in a country with no addresses. It is a tangible lesson in my strong desire to be independent and my complete inability to do so. I need my fellow believers to come alongside me for such basic things as going to the pharmacy and I need God’s grace not to scream every time I have to ask for help. We cannot do this alone.
Another struggle that meets me every time I walk out the door is constantly questioning, “Will I ever fit in here?” I look different than most people around me. I have freckles. I talk differently. I dress differently. (I couldn’t walk in heels to save my life. I think that’s a sin here.) I am different. It is rare for me to look up and not meet someone’s eyes staring back at me. It is rare for me to go anywhere and not be whistled at or cat-called, even walking down the street holding hands with James. I feel so other and I wonder if that feeling will ever go away. Will I ever understand the cultural innuendos or the jokes that just don’t seem funny? Will I ever have friends here, in a culture where friendships are so strongly family-based and we don’t have family?
So James comes home from class when I ate a huge lunch that consisted of salty potatoes and salty rice and a tough meat that I don’t recognize, which I force fed myself to avoid offending our host mom, and spent the afternoon speaking Spanish and making all sorts of cultural mistakes and he asks, “How was your day?” and I snap. Because I am insufficient. I am incapable of adapting to a new culture. I am incapable of loving James well amidst the stress of such a huge transition. I am incapable of having a good attitude about a job with so much uncertainty. I am not enough. I need God. James and I need God. The Church needs God. He is The Reason that we are here. Bringing Him glory is our purpose, but without His grace and His provision and His love for us, we will never be able to fulfill our purpose. We will never be sufficient without Him. Alone, we are not enough.
Please pray for us, that God would pour out His grace on us as we humbly seek to serve Him here. Pray that He would fill us with His love for each other and for the people we are serving. Pray that He would fill us with forgiveness for each other when it has been a long day and holding a grudge seems so much easier than extending forgiveness. And pray that we would remember the truly amazing ways that He has provided for us, rather than letting them fade away between the struggles.
In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.