Twenty years ago on August 8th (my mom’s birthday), my parents drove me to Denver International Airport, dropped me off (per my request), and I flew off to several weeks of new teacher orientation in California before heading to China.
Oh my word. Erin (my teammate) and Cynthia (province mate) seem to have dressed in a more timeless fashion than I did.
Remember when vests were the rage? Or pleated shorts? Or fanny packs? Or little bangs? I don’t think I have traveled internationally in shorts since that flight. And truth be told, we got all checked-in and our flight was cancelled so we spent the night at an airport. Then for the second day in a row I put that outfit on, thinking it was a fine way to travel.
One more photo from our first month in China:
Our school took Erin and me on a day trip soon after we arrived. In my photo album I’ve written, “Mr. Yao brought this man with us to practice English.” Ha :)! What I should have written was, “What in the world was I thinking with my sock and footwear choice?!” Notice how nicely everyone is dressed and I’m sporting a cow t-shirt? Erin and I, like good Americans, dressed for comfort. Everyone else dressed for the photos. Oh, sweet Amy, so much to learn.
This man-child was not even conceived when either of those pictures was taken.
I repeat, not even conceived. This is what twenty years looks like: a grown man.
This month marks twenty year of being on full time support. My first support raising goal was a couple of thousand dollars for training and a flight to China and then $650 a month. I remember wondering where $650 was going to come from, it seemed like so much money. Now, needing about four times that amount, I’m thankful God eases us into stages of life.
I’ll admit it wasn’t that hard for me emotionally to go on full time support because I thought it was only for two years. For someone to “eddy out” (using rafting terms) of the flow for how most Westerners earn money for a couple of years when I was young, didn’t seem a big deal.
But to have relied on supporters’ generosity as they’ve listened to the prompting of the Holy Spirit over the years, has not always been easy. There is a certain level of pride to have “worked for your money.” We westerners respect and understand pulling our own weight.
There is a certain level of humility and gratitude to have relied on others to have “worked for your money.” We Christians respect and understand living according to rules of a different Master.
I love my American side, but sometimes she does battle with my True Self, wondering if I’m doing enough, if supporters will move on to the next sexy Christian project (the need around the world is great and your resources are limited, I truly do understand), if they’ll think that a fanny-packed clueless twenty something is more endearing than a mid-life apparently not-going-to-get-a-real-job forty something.
We love beginnings and endings. Or I should say, I love beginnings and endings. But the middle? You can wonder where the shore is when you’re in the middle of a journey.
Twenty years. I never would have thought it. I imagine as you look around you, you’ve also got parts of your journey that surprise you. And humble and delight and have formed you. I’m flooded with gratitude for these twenty years.
For the faithfulness shown to me by friends, family, and supporters via letters, emails, calls, asking family members about me, their prayers, and their money.
For the faithfulness shown to me by God who has sat with me in loneliness, laughed with me at team meetings, grown me through his words and the words of others, and reminded me to live in the present with an eye to the future and a gratitude for the past.
Here’s to fanny packs, black socks, and the timeless love of God for people!
Clink (that’s our metaphorical glasses clinking).
And just because I can’t help my gregarious self, I clink again. To God and his faithfulness. To fellow travelers. To the Broncos winning the Super Bowl!*
What have been the blessings and challenges of others “working for your money.”
*You can take the girl out of Denver, but taking American football out of her heart is nearly impossible.