It’s been a month now since my husband and I took “the trip” into our daughter’s land. She and her husband have been serving for a year in a sensitive field, and have completed their first year of language and cultural studies in a local university there. Unlike many “M’s” they are the students, not the teachers, and their long term plan is to plant seeds of faith and hope while working with some of the poorest and least educated in their country by creating businesses to supplement their meager farming incomes. That plan is down the road and for now, they focus on learning one of the most difficult languages on earth for our English tongues; a tonal language that is challenging their eyes and ears.
The original plan was for us not to venture their way until the year after they had returned from their first furlough. This way we would not distract them from their learning and immersion in the culture, and when we did go, we would get to see their first real home and the community they would be in for several years. Our ways are not always HIS ways, and I was really surprised when my husband suggested that I plan on taking this trip to see them.
Not surprisingly, the timing of his thought was at Christmas, when our emotions were running low and the thought of a trip was a great distraction. My first thoughts were along the lines of, “Why waste the money? As soon as I get back home I’ll miss them as much as I did to start off with!” Shortly after verbalizing that thought, my daughter’s mother in law reminded me of how defeatist a thought that was. I’d never make the trip, certainly not alone, yet soon God placed in my heart the desire to make the journey. My prayer for the season became “more of Jesus, less of me,” and I set off to pray about this great opportunity.
Financial limitations were carving the plan for me to make the trip alone, but a surprise cash gift from my mother-in-law to cover the cost of my husband’s airfare quickly changed OUR plan. This set the path for my next life lesson: Get rid of all your expectations.
We had overheard this teaching during a training session when Mark and I were cooking for the summer interns with a missionary sending agency last summer. I never thought that it would be a lesson I would need to put into practice, but it was so fitting for my life now that I couldn’t pass it up. Had I not taken this to heart the whole trip would have been a disappointment. This not only allowed us to live in the minute, but to fully enjoy each and every aspect of the surprising journey!
If not for this wise teaching, things on the trip would have been very different. The start of the trip would have been overshadowed by the horror that our last leg of flight was cancelled, something that we discovered the morning that we began our 3 day journey to get there. If that had not happened, we would not have seen the hand of God move us, at lightning speed, across an airport from terminal to terminal by an English speaking employee in a completely foreign land. We would not have found out that “squatty potties” are much easier to use than we anticipated.
Perhaps the most amazing expectation I had is that I would have come home with some sort of stomach ailment that would have kept me tied to a toilet while we were there! Never would I have wished that, but I had accepted that expectation to ruin my trip! We ate the most amazing food, cooked in the worst of conditions, and not once got sick!! I never ate anything “special” (thankfully, this culture serves many things all at one time and you can pick and choose what you want), and I never went hungry. If there was something I tried and didn’t like, I simply left it on my plate and didn’t get more. There were plenty of things I DID like to make up for it, and I didn’t lose a pound on the trip.
All of my exercising to prepare to go was used….and then some. I knew that we would be walking a lot, so I had started to use the treadmill to walk a few miles each day. I warned the rest of them though, all the training in the world would not make my legs longer, but I could catch up with them eventually. What I didn’t know was that I also should have been doing bleacher runs too! We ran into so many stairs, or walking uphill roads in their town. I survived though, and pushed myself in physical ways I did not expect to. I think I was more surprised than anyone!
I knew that we were going to see our children, whom we love very much, and might have missed the opportunity to fall in love with so many more people. Knowing that there is a small community of believers there that are all from different backgrounds, from places all over the world, reminded us that they are not alone. Their jobs are all different, but their goal is all the same; to bring Jesus to the lost. Some of the people we met had been there for close to 20 years! What peace it brings to me that our daughter and son in law have that wisdom to draw from. It was also fun to see them assist other new comers to the community, to share what they have learned in their first year there. For them to explain the culture and native community to these “newbies” helped us to understand some of the challenges that they faced when they first arrived. To see them thriving in society as a foreigner was amazing. They embraced their language skills, local customs, and day to day life with flair and ease. When issues arose it was not terrifying or horrendous, it was just life. This allowed us to confirm in our hearts how God had prepared them for this field and this field for them.
The hardest expectation to let go of was leaving them. I would have expected to have a few days of crying, carving memories of our final, tearful, good-byes at the airport. In actuality letting go of this expectation allowed me to fully enjoy each minute of our time together. Instead of tears, there were a few sighs. There was no long sobbing embraces at the airport, as we opted to say good-bye at the curb and handle the check in on our own.
My daughter, a bit surprised, asked if it was enough “closure” for us to leave this way. It caught me off guard. I had not thought of needing closure from our visit. Another time, another place, it would have left me sobbing good-byes. I could have gone to that emotional place very easily….I have been there many times. Remembering that I was allowing “more of Jesus, less of me,” I chose not to go there. I wanted this trip to lay the foundation for future travel there. I didn’t want them to be a burden on them, making them feel relieved that we had left. I also wanted MY memories to be good and positive, and not an emotional drain on me.
This has proven important as we’ve been home, learning not only did we go there on this great trip, but that we brought some of that place home with us. Not a day goes by that I haven’t thought of some aspect of their home, good or bad; the people stopping us to take photos with them, the delicious food we ate, lack of personal space, pollution and smells of the environment, crowded busses with curious stares and smiling children, the colors of fresh foods in the marketplace. If I had attached sadness to each of these memories, the last month would have been spent in a daze of depression. My sleep schedule is not back on track, the weather is wrecking havoc with allergies, my husband has had a cold, but depression has not seeped into this home.
I miss my daughter, her husband, and the joy that they brought into our daily lives when we lived together, but I have a new found joy in sharing a passion for this place that they now call home. This too, was something I had not expected.
copywrited by Marina Bromley March 29, 2008