When we joined AgriCorps, we said that we would be going to Liberia for one year. One year later we were packing our bags for a flight back to Liberia.
When we joined Hope in the Harvest, we said that we would be going to Liberia for two years. Two years later we are once again packing our bags for a flight back to Liberia.
This year as we join Hope in the Harvest again, we aren’t saying when we’ll be coming back to the US (for good) because it’s kinda starting to look like we are liars anyways….
“Why do you keep extending? Why do you keep going back?”
This is the question that I hear at least 2-3 times a week, so by now you would think that I would have myself a perfectly cultivated answer, short and sweet, clear and to the point, easy to deliver, something that summarizes it all up. That’s what they tell me I should have by now….that most people I encounter will mostly likely only have an attention span of 2-3 minutes to dedicate to hearing about life/ministry in Liberia and that I need to have my “elevator speech” prepared and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
That’s what they say at least. However, I can’t seem to do it….I mean I can… and I guess I have…you may have even heard me do it….but every time I boil it down to those few simple words (“agricultural and spiritual transformation”) I feel like I’m tying a pretty red ribbon up on the outside of a shiny white box that is filled with an absolutely colorful mess inside, about to burst open and explode everywhere!
How do I explain why I am going back in just a few simple sentences? How do I explain in just a few simple sentences all the things that God has laid on my heart and all the ways that God has broken my heart? Good, bad, beautiful, ugly, messy, clean, tangible, intangible, real, fake, and everything in between? How do I explain it all at once? How do I summarize things that I myself don’t even understand? That I can’t even explain? Things that seem like they make no sense?
I’m going back because Liberia feels like home, but also Liberia is nothing like home and that’s why I love it, but that’s also why I miss home.
I am going back because Liberia is so far out of my comfort zone, and yet I am going back because Liberia is exactly inside of my comfort zone.
I am going back to Liberia because in Liberia I feel joy more fully than I ever knew possible, and yet I am going back to Liberia because it is there that I feel sorrow deeper than my heart could hold on its own.
I am going back because I love some of these people more than I can put into words, and yet I am also going back because I want to understand what love really is because it feels like I still don’t know.
I am going back to teach, and yet I am going back because there is so much left to learn.
I am going back to finish what I started, and yet I know that there is no finishing this thing here on earth.
I am going back because I am not afraid of the things people think I should be afraid of, but I am going back because I am afraid of the other things.
I’m going back because I love the work that we get to do there, but also the work that we are called to do there scares me and I don’t love things that scare me.
I’m going back because I’ve found immense purpose there in the work, but also I’m struggling to understand my purpose on a daily basis when it comes to other things.
I’m going back because I have skills/knowledge that I believe are worth sharing and can make a difference there, and yet I know that every good thing that is done and every change that I see happening is all from the Lord’s doing.
I am going back because I want to share with people about how they can have eternal life because I believe eternity with God is what all of us are living for, but also I see people with real needs in front of me now…with whom I cannot talk about eternity if we cannot address the very real hunger that is in their stomachs right now, the very real fears that keep them up at night, the very real diseases that keep taking their children away from them too soon.
I am going back to Liberia because I love agriculture, and yet I am going back to Liberia because agriculture means nothing to me at all in comparison.
I am going back because I feel like I should, and yet I am not at all going back because I feel like I should because I have lots of people telling me I shouldn’t.
I am going back because I feel like I am needed, but I am going back because they don’t need me at all.
I am going back to Liberia because in some ways it is simpler, but I am going back to Liberia knowing that I am leaving the simplicity behind.
I am going back because I have hope for Liberia, but also, I am going back because some days I don’t have hope, but others do and they draw me towards them like light to the darkness and darkness cannot hide from the light.
I am going back because I am selfish and I like to feel good about helping others, but also, I am going back so that I don’t succumb to my own selfishness.
I am going back to be with my family, and yet as I go back, I am missing my family intensely.
I am going back to Liberia because I feel called to go back, but I’m also going back because it is my desire to go back. God has given me a desire to serve the poor, to teach agriculture, and to share the good news of His salvation. He has placed those desires on my heart as I have sought to delight myself in Him and His presence. He has and is giving me the desires of my heart; they are fully His and yet they are fully mine all at the same time. Finally, there is no juxtaposition here.
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11
And that is why I’m going back, because the desire of my heart is simply that I want to walk with the Lord on this specific path for a little while longer…to fulfill the desires of my heart. This is not the only path for me, I know that there a number of paths that I could take and serve the Lord anywhere in the world doing a number of different jobs. I know now that it is not necessarily about the specific path that I take, but rather The One who holds my hand and guide me as I walk along that path. And somehow that’s what makes the freedom to choose this path….this rugged, winding, wide, confusing, long, beautiful, joyous, painful, fulfilling path of ministry abroad…even sweeter. My husband and I don’t know exactly how long we will be on this path, but we know that if we cling tightly to the Hand of God, that He will be with us along the way…and that’s all any of us really want or need out of this life…isn’t it?
So once again, we are packing our bags for a flight back to Liberia.