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Modern Missionary Mamas

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suffering

Noise: A re-entry story

Hi ladies! I want to introduce you to Liz, who’s bravely decided to share her re-entry story with you as a series. Repatriating or re-entry can be a tough thing; it seems like lots of conflicting feelings are common. So it’s great to have some insight into her experience! Thanks, friend. Enjoy!

It’s mid-morning and I’m sitting in my living room, listening to the comforting drone of my neighbor-farmer’s four-wheeler; he is doing his daily movement of irrigation equipment to water the alfalfa field. I’m happy, with my coffee and my laptop and the chirp of robins out of my large living room window.

But there’s the ghost of fear, tension, and my chest feels a little tight. I gently probe the emotion. It’s raw, it’s hard, and I feel the first tell-tale signs that tears may threaten.

What IS this? What is going on?

It’s been 7 months since I returned from my African-culture overseas post and I’m just now feeling like I can allow myself to feel and explore this tension. Until now it’s been too fresh, too frightening. What if I dig into it and it’s too much for me? What if I start crying and I can’t stop – the homeschool day needs to start in a few minutes. What if it sparks a new wave of depression, and I learn that depression is something I will carry with me longer than my years on the mission field?

But with the comforting lilt of the birds and the fresh spring morning air wafting through the window to strengthen and comfort my soul, I allow the feelings to come. Welcome, troubling thoughts. You may come out into the open, fears and insecurities. I’m creating space for you now.

Flashback to sitting in my concrete block house. Also morning, also coffee. Also noises coming through the windows. But here the light is brighter, harsher, the sounds louder. Motorcycles, yelling. The crackling of fire, roosters crowing. My guard shifting his weight, the plastic chair grating against the concrete. He shifts his shotgun and it’s like an electric shock to the brain: adrenaline hits; danger is out there, possibly near, possibly imminent. Remember the bodies in the street last fall? Thieves are shot dead here. Remember the intruder on your property the first year here?

The Lord is my strength and my shield and I lean into him. My Bible is precious as it sits in my lap, its weight and threadbare cover are comforting to me. I thumb its well-worn pages and cling to the words of my days’ reading. Pink highlights the encouraging, comforting verses. They nourish me and sustain me.

But the fears still lurk, some days. What is that yelling? I can understand the local language when it’s spoken to me clearly at a normal pace, but when slang is tossed around amidst a cacophony of other sound, from the street, at full voice, it’s a discordant, clanging symphony. It’s a club of which I am not a part.

Motorcycles kick up dust and the burning trash sends smoke waves through my house; I tell the kids to go upstairs to play since it’s isn’t so bad up there in the center of the house if you close the guest room door.

I love my ministry, I don’t regret living here. Our family has made a choice and I stick by it; I would choose it again. But when they said missions could be hard, I didn’t understand it would make me feel like this. I’m under assault all day from the dust, the smoke, the repetitive adrenaline activations. It’s a chronic stress and I wonder sometimes how long it will take before my regularly high cortisol levels will start taking a physical toll on my body. I’m already on anti-depressants, thanks to an episode of trauma-induced depression and PTSD during my second year.

I don’t know what the voices are saying and I know sometimes people in the street might wish me harm if they could. Just remember what happened to the neighbors across the lane; they were watched by people sitting in the street and when the right moment arose, those same people brought guns and fists and made their desires known through force, violence. My kids are upstairs and Mama Bear is constantly on the alert. It’s better now that the guard is here, but his presence (or rather their presence, as multiple men rotate through my front yard in the course of a week) just veils the threat.

Jumping back out to the present, as the tears threaten harder now, and school really does have to start soon.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll be brave enough to try again.

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On Bananas and Bananaquits

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? – Romans 8:31-32

 

God’s been surprising me lately by answering prayers I thought were…unrealistic. A small example: I opened up my son’s preschool lesson for the week, and I sighed. On the whole, they are pretty practical, but this week, we were supposed go birdwatching. Really? I live in a city of 2.6 million people in one of the most deforested countries on the planet. I complained to the LORD, not expecting an answer…and as we’re sitting at the school table, near an open window, its sheer white curtain flapping in the breeze, a bananaquit came and perched on the iron bars. I whispered to my son, pointed it out, and we got a good 120 seconds of birdwatching, right from our own school room, and at a closer distance than I ever could’ve managed. I’ve rarely seen them do that. The next week, we were supposed to read the book Stone Soup, which wasn’t available as an e-book from the library. And what was on top of the box of books my neighbor sold me? Stone Soup, brand new.

Why do I act like so many things are too hard for God?

Do I think he doesn’t love me enough to go to the effort?

Do I think I should just be content with basic needs?

Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Diebler Rose is one of my favorite books of all time. It’s not a particularly easy read because of the subject matter: Darlene was held as a prisoner-of-war by the Japanese in New Guinea during World War II. At one point, she was transferred to an actual prison, when they suspected her of espionage. The conditions were extremely difficult, and the rations were meager. She was looking out her window, when she saw a woman receive a large bunch of illicit bananas from someone outside the fence. This is a long story, but it’s worth it. She recounts it this way:

I dropped to the floor of my cell. Exhausted from my efforts, I shook all over. Worse still, I began to crave bananas. Everything in me wanted one. I could see them; I could smell them; I could taste them. I got down on my knees and said, ‘Lord, I’m not asking You for a whole bunch like that woman has. I just want one banana.’ I looked up and pleaded, ‘Lord, just one banana.’ 

Then I began to rationalize–how could God possibly get a banana to me through these prison walls? …I bowed my head again and prayed, ‘Lord, there’s no one here who could get a banana to me. There’s no way for You to do it. Please don’t think I’m not grateful for the rice porridge. It’s just that–well, those bananas looked so delicious!’

…[She could hear the officers coming to her cell] My legs were trembling ,and I clutched the bars of the window to steady myself. ‘Lord, please help me to bow correctly.’ Finally, the door opened, and I looked into the smiling face of Mr. Yamaji, the Kampili camp commander [where she had originally been held]. This was early July, and it had been so long since I had seen a smiling or familiar face. I clapped my hands and exclaimed, Tuan Yamaji, seperti lihat sobat jang lama, ‘Mr. Yamaji, it’s just like seeing an old friend!’ 

Tears filled his eyes. He didn’t say a word but turned and walked out into the courtyard and began to talk with the two officers who had conducted my interrogations…[She couldn’t understand their conversation in Japanese]…Finally, Mr. Yamaji came back to my cell. ‘You’re very ill, aren’t you?’ he asked sympathetically. ‘Yes, sir, Mr. Yamaji, I am.’ 

‘I’m going back to the camp now. Have you any word for the women?’  The Lord gave me confidence to answer. ‘Yes, sir, when you go back, please tell them for me that I’m all right. I’m still trusting the Lord. They’ll understand what I mean, and I believe you do.’ 

‘All right,’ he replied; then, turning on his heels, he left. When Mr. Yamaji and the Kempeitai officers had gone and the guard had closed the door, it hit me– I didn’t bow to those men! ‘O Lord,’ I cried, ‘why didn’t you help me remember? They’ll come back and beat me. Lord, please, not back to the hearing room again. Not now, Lord, I can’t; I just can’t.’ 

I heard the guard coming back and knew he was coming for me. Struggling to my feet, I stood ready to go. He opened the door, walked in, and with a sweeping gesture laid at my feet–bananas! ‘They’re yours,’ he said, ‘and they’re all from Mr. Yamaji.’ I sat down in stunned silence and counted them. There were ninety-two bananas! 

In all my spiritual experience, I’ve never known such shame before my Lord. I pushed the bananas into the corner and wept before Him. ‘Lord, forgive me; I’m so ashamed. I couldn’t trust You enough to get even one banana for me. Just look at them–there are almost a hundred.’ 

In the quiet of the shadowed cell, He answered back within my heart: ‘That’s what I delight to do, the exceeding abundant above anything you ask or think.’ I knew in those moments that nothing is impossible to my God. 

This story always brings tears to my eyes. Mamas, you are precious to the Father: ask big. Ask him to increase the funds: he has the cattle on a thousand hills. Ask him to bring more help: he sends workers into the harvest field. Ask him to shepherd your child’s soul: he’s sent His Spirit to do just that. Ask him to comfort you in suffering: he’s well-acquainted with grief. Say with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: “Even if he does not, we will worship no other.” Stop praying sensible prayers and pray for what you really want, according to His will.

You’ve got this, mama.

 

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