Even Jesus had a boat.

“Ok, this is what life is like there. You can’t change all the stuff happening around you. So what can you change to help you continue living there?” asked my counselor friend.

I just finished unloading a story about breaking up a racially motivated street fight and chasing my knife wielding friend down the street begging him not to stab anyone. Life was intense and for several years we’d simply been tumbling from one crisis right into the next. I developed a constant twitch in my left eye, would startle at loud noises or if someone came up unexpectedly behind me, and generally lived in a state of high alert. I could not shut off the adrenaline.

No amount of conviction and resolve to stay overseas would save me from the mental, emotional, and health breakdown I was heading for. We needed change, and fast.

Until that conversation, it hadn’t dawned on me that there were things I could change. Wasn’t this just how mission life goes? If I can’t hack it, should I really be here? This is really stupid thinking.

These days we are spending more and taking more breaks than I initially thought we would need. Like everything else, how to live well also needed reframing when we moved overseas.

As the reframing of living well began to take place, doubts and unease were constant. Before coming overseas I filled my mind with stories of missionaries who faced unfathomable suffering and counted it as nothing in the face of what Jesus had done for them. Who was I to ask for relief? Wouldn’t God ultimately work everything together for his good? Wasn’t the sacrifice worth it? Anyway, when I wrote publicly the stories of what we faced I was only ever encouraged to press on. You’re so inspiring! God is using you! Keep your eyes on Christ!

One evening I came to Mark 3:9 in my bible reading:

And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him…

In the margin of my bible I wrote, “Sometimes even Jesus needed to set boundaries in ministry. He had a boat! What do I need?”

Many people told me, “Jesus retreated to the mountain to pray.” as if all I really needed was a better quality quiet time. But up to that point, no amount bible reading and prayer changed the physical signs of stress in my body. How could it? I needed a boat, just like Jesus did. I needed a real, physical place where I could be protected from a very real, physical crushing.

My boat turned out to be a motorbike. Just as Jesus stepped into the boat to continue ministering without being crushed by the crowds, buying a motorbike allowed me to move through and around town without harassment.

 In the years since, we’ve made other changes as well. The stress in our surroundings remains at just the same high level, but we’ve moored other boats along the way. Well placed respites to protect us from being crushed.

The streets are still just as crazy as ever. Only a couple of days ago I pulled my son and daughter close to avoid getting caught in a fight between a mentally ill man stealing breakfast from a cart and the scissors armed cook jabbing at his head. “Come on, let’s go.” I said to the kids and we quickly got on the motorbike and rode away.

This is what a well-placed boat will do. It doesn’t change the difficulties of what we may encounter, but a good boat does keep us from being crushed- in this case a crushing likely from being followed, grabbed, and harassed by a mentally ill man who at some point would probably attempt to steal my bag as well.  

We are not wimps. We are not frivolous with money. We’re in this thing for the long haul. We want to stay and stay well. We just need a boat to do it.

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Anisha Hopkinson

Anisha was born to Chilean and Texan parents, first tasted missions in Mexico, fell in love with an Englishman in Africa, and now lives in Indonesia. She journals about cross-cultural life, helping people, and loving Jesus on www.namasayamommy.blogspot.com

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