A Letter to My Sending Churches

To my dear Sending Churches,

We are coming to the end of our six-month furlough, and my heart is full. It is full of thanksgiving.

I am thankful for how you opened your homes and your lives to our family, loving us while we were here temporarily. Thank you for the boxes of winter clothes that awaited us when we arrived from the airport underdressed for the cold weather. Thank you for being willing to find us a car, research public school options ahead of time, and surprise us with food boxes at Christmastime.

Thank you for your love and support, which have spanned both the ocean and the years—your prayers, emails, and snail mail have been a lifeline for us. Thank you for welcoming our children into your Sunday school classrooms, embracing them with love and patience. We have experienced Christ’s love through you all.

Thank you for trying to understand our stories, for the times you asked open questions and let us try to find words to answer. Thank you for the invitations to meals, the conversations over tea, and the kite-flying birthday parties.

We are coming to the end of our furlough, and my heart is full. It is full of grief.

I grieve the painful conversations and moments of feeling judged as insufficient. Some questions reverberate in my head, leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. Comments like, “So what are you actually doing to fight poverty?” Or, “From your newsletters it sure seems like you focus more on communicating the gospel through deeds rather than the gospel in words.” And, “If your students do not become Christians, aren’t you just educating them for Satan?”

I want to answer graciously, lovingly, and patiently. I want to believe that you ask these questions out of love, that you still support us even if you do not understand our context or our methods. I want to try to help you understand.

But I am also exhausted. I am tired of being on a pedestal. Missionaries are not superheroes or magic-workers. We have no short cuts in solving the world’s problems. We are just trying to follow Christ, as we believe we are called to, in a different culture than you. We are figuring it out as we are going along, and surely messing up as we go—but we are trying. Please, believe that we are doing the best we can. We are on the same team—team Love Jesus.

When we share openly about our ministry, we’re not asking you to observe it with a magnifying glass, looking for errors. We’re not asking for a “grade” or a “rating.” We’re asking you to listen, to hear the pain as we share disappointments and heartbreaks on the field. We’re asking you to be patient, as we also are learning to be patient, and remember that we cannot force results. We’re asking you to be gentle with us, because we feel fragile as we prepare to cross the ocean again and re-enter all the painful realities of our other home.

Recently, a member care friend from our sending organization came to visit, and she brought two rubber duckies. A “yay duck” and a “yuck duck.” A pair-of-ducks. A paradox. We discussed the yays and yucks of life on the field and the challenge and invitation to hold them together.  I am realizing that this pair-of-ducks is not only for when I am in Indonesia, but also true for all of life. And definitely true of furlough. There are beautiful memories and painful memories. And as I think of these last six months, I will try to hold this paradox with open hands.

Thank you for loving us. Thank you for sending us. And please, keep learning about the pair-of-ducks with us.

As our furlough comes to an end and we say our goodbyes, please do not forget us. Know that your letters, your emails, your WhatsApp messages, and your times of praying for us are very important. Even as the years continue to pass and our sending churches change, it is important to us to know that halfway around the world, you care.

With laughter and tears,
until we meet again,
Anita

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Anita Rahma

Anita's high school years were spent as an American TCK in the Philippines. For over the past decade, Anita and her husband and two boys have lived and served in a slum in Indonesia. She enjoys learning piano, playing in the rain, and devouring Amy Carmichael books. She is the author of Beyond Our Walls: Finding Jesus in the Slums of Jakarta. You can learn more about the organization they serve with at servantsasia.org.

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