Thursday, September 24, 2015

Confessions of a Missionary

I have been writing this in my head for months now… not quite finding the courage to put it to paper…. But I guess the time has come.  Supper is sitting cooked in my new kitchen while it waits for my very favorite person to walk through the door..
so I guess this is as good a time as any right?
Sometimes I choose a name for each new post after the last letter has been added and I have read it through.. but this one…. I guess you could say that the title has been the inspiration!
I hope you can read this with an open mind and a laugh about to bubble from your throat… cause that is the spirit of the typist.
I have found that laughter is paramount in this crazy life I lead!! {..It counteracts the onslaught of insanity!! }

This is my confession… and I hope that it will give a glimpse.. a greater understanding.. and Glory to my King!!
As I packed just over two years ago, preparing for this plunge of faith, I had lots of thoughts and ideas in my mind.  I had dreamed and imagined for years…. And had reached several conclusions of how life as a missionary would be.  I think this is a common problem we humans suffer from.  In short, its called- “Jumping to Conclusions.”  Or- “Assumption.” 
And… Oh God,  we need your deliverance!!
How many tears could be stopped short of forming and falling… how many wrinkles could be saved for another day… how many nights laying in bed with eyes held open by that annoying little man called fear could be replaced with sheets spread over sweet dreams.
I digress..
back to the story I was to be telling today.
So, I pretty much thought I had it figured out.  I was going to go, and live, walk, and breathe FAITH.. and watch as God did wonders.
And this is not to say that God doesn’t do wonders…. HE DOES!!! But often the wonders take on a different form than we had imagined.. and involve a whole lot MORE of Him working, and me resting.

Short-Term Delusion
I had been to Kenya three times before…. The longest I had stayed was three months.  And that extended time was great!! But let me just say… it couldn’t prepare me for LIFE here.  Short term missions are great!! And the impact and transformation that can happen to the individual and the served are huge… but those sweet memories you have.. that mountain top experience, isn’t a day to day reality.  The stimulus of 24/7 activity… new sights and sounds.. people eager to meet and talk and serve along with you, It isn’t a constant.
On short trips all our Kenyan friends would clear their schedule and serve right along with us.  We visited their churches… went on trips.. took walking tours.  They took us shopping.. made sure we were under their watchful eye everywhere we went.
I guess the stars in my eyes distorted my vision and understanding.. and I drew the conclusion that this is how it would always be. I thought that when I wanted to go, they would be there with me.. cheering me on, and dropping everything to come help. 
But they have lives too… they have families to take care of and jobs to hold down and bills to pay.
Every previous ministry experience had been one of camaraderie and laughter and companionship.  But what about when that all fades into the background?  Will ministry continue when it is just you and the One whose name you are claiming to do it in? 
And if your anything like me, soon after this discovery you begin to find little parasites called loneliness are starting to dig their teeth into your soul.  And you wonder how they are getting in… and its not until later that you look within and discover “Assumption” standing there at the door of your heart with a welcoming smile… inviting them to come and dine.
And I have discovered there is only One known Exterminator in the whole world.  And His work requires your participation and discipline. It is quite a process.. can take weeks and months for complete restoration I have heard.
Lets just say…. It would be easier to keep a clean house!!

Financial Dependence
Now this one… its kind of like that ugly bruise you have on your leg.  It is a little painful… and you try to keep it covered so that no one asks how you got it.  Because, heaven forbid you have to tell them how your right foot had tripped over your left foot and introduced your face to the floor. (Now, this has never happened to me!!! But it is alleged that I have been seen in the dirt by the side of the road…not standing…. With a red face.  But that’s just hearsay.)
Money.. such a funny little green piece of paper.  So unmoving to look at… but once taken in the hands, it boasts such great power and sway in our lives.  A skill that I was blessed(?) to discover that it holds, is that of architecture. 
It is a builder. 
Once obtained and possessed, it builds invisible walls and fences and soon we are safely contained in the security it “provides.”  One is seemingly made to forget the (actual) position of their feet upon that IMMOVABLE and UNSHAKABLE Rock, Jesus Christ. 
With a job, and bedroom at my parents place in the cushy suburb called America, I couldn’t see the invisible fortress in which I was entrenched.  But let me tell you… the surest way to assess your position is in the removal of the ability to earn and keep that mighty dollar.  Suddenly the light is flipped on and you scramble and grab at anything close to cling to, and cover yourself with.  Nothing is surer to bring fretful nights and nail-biting days than the lack of control in finances.
And how many times had I stood with hands raised high, singing “I Surrender All” on Sunday morning......   
Rubber, meet Road… how does it feel?
At first… awful.
But when eyes are able to dry up and LOOK up, they discover That ONE.. and you realize you have been held the whole time!  And you learn to laugh at fear because you KNOW.
Money comes and money goes.  There will be weeks of ugali and spinach and as you scrape and save.. and nights enjoyed over coffee in a little cafĂ© as you lean back with ease.  There will be days of wondering and serious prayer.. and mornings of triumphant rejoicing as you read your email and discover there is money waiting at the bank. 
It has been a bit of a ride for this young twenty-something.  It has brought my faith and trust under the microscope and I have cringed as I discovered what it was made of… and yet I rejoice as it has brought about the opportunity to go back to the Designer and ask for the original material.
…..p.s. its awkward to ask for money.. I get that!! And also…when your home everyone will back you up %100 percent.. and even give money… but once overseas.. it can kind of become “out-of-sight out-of-mind.
Just prepare yourself for that.
And maybe budget for trips home to jog their memory ;)
The Missionary Mindset
One night I sat at the table with my good friend who is now is my husband.. and he opened my eyes to this reality.  
You see we missionaries are a particularly zealous and determined breed.  When we set our minds to something we do it wholeheartedly!  We feel called, or decide to move…. And throw our whole being into performing this task of sharing and living Christ.
And hallelujah!! Isn’t that what we are called to do?!
But, suddenly a life filled with family and friends and job, will become ministry. Ministry alone. 
We stop going out.. we save every penny.  We stop watching movies on Friday night… we feel it isn’t redeeming the time.  We stop making friends… we view everyone as someone who needs Christ.  We stop soaking in The Word for our benefit.. and instead read for our next message. We stop looking nice and dressing up… and begin blending in with our environment.
We don’t necessarily intend to… it just seems to happen.
And why???
Because this new “vocation” requires more man-made holiness????
I don’t know… maybe we just feel like we aren’t the real deal if there isn’t some kind of “suffering” in our lives.
But it doesn’t work..   Soon, sabbaticals and weekends and weeks away will become more and more frequently needed.  And we begin getting worn down and worn out.
To all you young single missionaries out there….
KEEP MAKING FRIENDS.  Genuine ones.  Find them in church.. at the organization… and go out. And laugh. And share. Talk about real life and how you’re REALLY doing.  It will breathe a vital life into your soul.
DRESS NICE. Maintain your appearance. You are not more humble with your hair up in a ponytail with jeans and a T-shirt and no make-up.  You are just blending in and doing what everyone else does when they come to a third world country.  Are the people you are ministering to not worth the time and effort you would put into a nice dinner invitation at The Smiths?  Why is it we dress normally at home… but when it comes to third world ministry.. its a trip to goodwill and rubber boots and face masks.
Notice… taking the time to look nice, will make you feel better.
(this is an exception if missions for you is in the middle of a jungle.)
GET AWAY.  People know when they donate money that every coin is not going for ministry.  YOU have to live too.  And living doesn’t just mean breathing… You need to REALLY be living to be able to give Life.  Go to that hotel for a weekend. Dress up and go out to that Restaurant.  Lock the door… lay on the couch with a book and act like you don’t hear the knocks. 
This is not NECESSARY per-say… but if opportunity allows… TAKE IT!
The native missionaries might seem to have more energy and ability… but bear in mind… this life-style is all they have ever known.
If you drop everything of your previous life and try and adopt a whole new way of living right away… you are going to get tired.

The Race for Results
I thought we would surely have an orphanage within the first year.  I mean, there were so many needy kids and orphans.
Let me tell you…. The first, oh…. Three months were spent in the house.  Reading the bible and books and looking at each other with despair in our eyes. 
We thought we had come to change….
But it became evident that God had brought us here to BE changed.
People will ask what you are doing.. what programs you have.  But remember dear soul, Who it is that you are serving.. and remember that it is HIS opinion that counts.  He works in ways that we don’t understand.. and He is the only one that we need to be pleasing. 
So… don’t come up with little things to busy yourself… wait on Him.  He is in no hurry… and it will all fall into place.

I love to read! And in my late teen years my eyes devoured biographies of missionaries. And from these I formed a vision of what my life in the foreign field would entail.  I expected hardship, yes! But I didn’t make provision in my mind for the ordinary.
For the ins and outs of life with a roommate.. and the refining that would bring.
For those days when the combines are running and leaves are turning back in Indiana.. and you just want to be there. Or how much you would give anything just to sit on the couch with your family and watch a Colts game.
I hadn’t considered how it would feel to sit in a church service and not understand a word… and even when you start to understand… get confused and end up STANDING UP(for the whole church to see) when they want to recognize the mothers on Mother’s Day.(You can imagine)
There is dirty laundry.. and dirty floors.. and tasteless food.. and difficult people.. and LOUD matatus.. and those days when you just might get horribly lost.
Dad isn’t there to fix the toilet that wont flush… and curb the belligerent muscly landlord man.
Remember… LAUGH! Let it always to be there beneath the surface ready to escape…
Because laughter…. It isn’t as messy as tears.
and these things are not bad.  But they exist! Its not day after day of holding sweet babies and feeding hungry mouths. 

And finally…
the realization that You are still human.
A magical transformation doesn’t occur on the plane ride over and turn you into a super human.  A always loving, always giving, always caring angel in human form.
Some days… I knew there was this little man that needed some lovin and some nourishment… and when my alarm went off at six in the morning I switched it off and rolled over.
And that old man that walks around with his pants falling down… when you walk out your gate and see him sitting in the garbage pile at the end of your lane…. You might just turn your head and quickly walk past.
You are still going to have inner battles with all those fleshly tendencies. 
At Saturday feeding programs.. I don’t always smile sweetly as I hand them a plate full of steaming food…. Sometimes I’m more of what we could term “a hot mess.”

But don’t despair… Christ is always working.. and drawing… He is holding you.. and He is going to KEEP holding you. 
You won’t have all the answers.. and sometimes life and ministry will look so humongous that you will wonder if it is possible or even worth it. 
Take heart dear one… you are not required to fix it and find all the solutions… there is someone Bigger filling that docket.(And he actually does a far better job than we ever could!)

He who called you is FAITHFUL!!!

so this is a little of my story…
and I can honestly say

God Bless us as we stumble after Him!!!