I am insufficient.

Reflections from Parque Okayama (Yes, a gift from Japan…?)

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.

Ecclesiastes 7:14

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10 thoughts on “I am insufficient.

  1. Just an encouragement.

    “To those who have had no agony Jesus says, “I have nothing for you; stand on your own feet, square your own shoulders. I have come for the man who knows he has a bigger handful than he can cope with, who knows there are forces he cannot touch; I will do everything for him if he will let Me. Only let a man grant he needs it, and I will do it for him.” – Oswald Chambers

  2. There is a saying in Colombia that goes like this: “A la de Dios.” It is used when you are challenged or when you are living through tough situations. It means living by faith, when it seems there is no other way. I am praying for you guys.

    “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 NIV

  3. As I read your comments this morning several thoughts came to mind. First, know that there are many praying for you guys. And in those prayers I trust you will see in very real and tangible ways God. My problem is I tend to look for God in the wrong places.
    Secondly, your description of yearning fro home and dependency on others reminded me that is how I should really feel living here on earth. No matter how hard I try, this life and place should leave me feeling like this is simply not home.
    I pray each day will be a little better than the last. That in every unfamiliar face you encounter you will see a child of the Creator and be reminded It is no accident that you and James are there. And lastly, He will not give you more than you can bear. Blessings to you both.

  4. 10 days after we were married, my husband BJ and I moved to Quito, Ecuador for two years. One of the things that helped me was this advice: EMBRACE everything that is different… after a while, it will become “normal.” …It will help you to “ride the waves” — AND appreciate the culture.

  5. Psalm 94:18-19
    18 When I said, “My foot is slipping, ”
    your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
    19 When anxiety was great within me,
    your consolation brought me joy.

    Praying for you both as you serve the Lord in a new and unfamiliar place. God will meet your every need as you already know. May He pour out His peace and joy all along your way. I hope that each day will be easier than the one before. You are special to God and to me! In His love, Lisa Williams

    • We are praying for you and know that God will not bear more than you can handle. You are still an inspiration to my family in the work of God’s kingdom and what you are spreading about the love of our king, Jesus!
      May tomorrow bring an easier day and peace for your mind!
      In Christ, Lisa Davies

  6. I know God is blessing you and James and you are touching lives that may have never heard of God’s kingdom. Don’t give up – you are an inspiration to us and I know God will not place more on you guys than you can bear!
    In Christ,
    Lisa Davies

  7. J & S,
    I am humbled by your comments and feel your longing to be settled. There have been so many times in my life when I have felt overwhelmed with feelings of being unsettled and of wanting to feel safe, secure and away from the world (and Satan). It is exactly those times when God wants to remember whose we are. We are His creation and He wants us to rely on Him when we feel lost and alone. A couple of weeks ago in Bible class we were studying Philippians and were in chapter 3. I was teaching that Sunday and brought my US passport. We discussed all the implications and benefits of having a passport. Then I focused on verse 20 in ch. 3, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” This world is not our true home as Christians. You currently feel like a stranger in a stranger in a strange land…understandable. Just remember, this world is not our (your) home. So, today pull out your passport and remember where you’re from…but more importantly, where you are going. I proud of you guys knowing are trying to bring others along with you. Hang in there….we believe in you!! P & L

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