A year ago my life could be described as a constant state of exhaustion, amoebic dysentery, language learning brain mush, and heat rash. I fought daily with my husband, picked bugs out of our food, yelled at bully neighbours, and told anyone who asked how I was doing, “Oh, I’m ok.”
Yeah… I was not ok.
Last year I needed friends. I needed to hear someone else’s awful stories. I needed a good dose of camaraderie and to hear someone say, “Girl, look. Here’s what Jesus did with my sucky stuff.” Call me naïve but without any sort of reference to how others struggle, I’d just thought they did it better.
Today, friends and I are here to share our struggles and what we’re learning. One thousand validating words of, Yeah, we’ve been there/are there too. At times this whole thing sucks for everyone, but don’t worry. Jesus has got this.
“When we left home and country and culture it was for a specific purpose and when God didn’t allow us to fulfil that purpose it felt like a betrayal. I had taken my goals and convinced myself that they were promises from God. What I’ve learned is that His ways are far different from mine and that I need to let go of my plans and, instead, wake up every day yielded to God and what HE has for me in that day.”
“Every day I struggle with balancing motherhood, homeschooling, cooking from scratch, language study, spending time with the people, doing medical work, etc. I’ve struggled with it so much that a couple years ago my health fell apart and I’m still suffering the consequences of that. I’m learning to trust that, as I walk with God, I can step out in faith in each moment and do what I feel led to do and then I have to let go of the rest. Because, I’ve NEVER had a day in here when I got everything done that “needed” to get done.”
“One of the hardest things is everything. I can’t communicate with people around me, my husband and I seem to have different opinions on everything, I’m so consumed with trying to learn the language that I feel like a horrible mom, I can’t go for a walk any time and anywhere I want, and it’s too hot to think. What have I learned from it? God is still in process on this one….”
“The hardest thing was feeling like the outsider! Having to smile and nod all the time and fake laugh along when everyone else laughed. Lesson learnt: Spend time with the kids. The parents love you as you babysit, the kids love you and have no expectations or judgements on you as you fumble through the most basic words and learn the language at their level in small simple sentences. Eventually you can move from toddlers to kids, to teens, and then to adults, after all that’s how we all learn to talk.”
“For me, I’m still asking a lot of questions for which I have very few answers. What of my own culture, ways, methods, desires, conveniences, pleasures do I need to keep and which ones can I keep, or should? How do I want to adjust? What have I learned? Not one way fits all. Who am I now? I am nobody (other than the positions and roles I fill as dad and husband and etc…). Where do I fit in? I am really different than my wife! I’m not sure if I’ve learned anything yet.”
“The hardest thing about being a single woman on the mission field is when it seems like God is silent, especially when every decision I have to make seems like a major life decision. It’s lonely, and it’s hard to know how to follow God when I’m the sole person responsible for hearing him and making those decisions. I’m learning to sense God’s leading, to be more aware of the still small voice and the less-than-obvious ways that God speaks. I’m learning to trust God, and myself, in different situations. I know sometimes there are more than one “right thing” to do, and maybe no wrong choices. All I can do is choose a direction and take a step.”
“For me (it’s) been to step into their culture without fully understanding their worldview. I know about it, but I don’t think like they think or talk like they talk. It will take years to adapt. What I have learned from this is that what I think I know, I don’t know at all. I’m a square peg in a round hole in the process of getting the corners sanded off to eventually fit the hole God has called me to.”
“The hardest thing was actually coming back to my home culture. We were not prepared for the grief of losing our African home, all that we held dear for years. Most organizations and churches spend considerable time preparing missionaries for life overseas, but what about a life “after” overseas? Putting back together the pieces when things don’t work, don’t make sense and you don’t know what is next; and doing all that in a culture which seems more foreign than Africa ever did. What about when supporters desert you, friends don’t understand you, and others betray you? It is difficult to keep going.
Our family has learned a lot about our “home culture” and more about each other. We’ve grown into a deeper dependence on our Lord, as we turned to Him when wrestling with issues. We’ve learned that the Lord has good plans for us, even though they might be different than what we first thought.”
A year later there are still bugs in our food, frustrating neighbours, language brain mush, and occasional stomach issues. How am I doing? Oh I get by, pointed right back to Christ, with a little help from my friends.