Sunday, April 26, 2020

A Whole New World

                                  - Christina Black

Some of our dearest friends on earth eat dinner with their whole family almost every Sunday. The other day, though, I was looking through Facebook statuses and saw them, those precious friends, pictured on video messenger with their children and grandchildren. They had taken screen shots of their whole new world experience!

Video family time is such a typical activity for us on the mission field, but I knew it was highly unusual for them, and the separation they no doubt were feeling deeply pulled on my heartstrings. I rather jokingly told them, though, as I hit reply, that they were getting their missionary training! But feeling slightly sobered by the whole event, I began to think. Could it be possible that almost everyone we know, and love will now identify in some new, significant ways with their missionaries? Will recent weeks make a difference in the way we pray for missionaries in the future? Did it even cross our minds that we might be living a “missionary’’ lifestyle during our time of quarantine? As I pondered these ideas, a post appeared on another Facebook page. It was a blog that I read and considered for days. I reached out to the source and asked if I could share some of the ideas his blog had inspired. He readily agreed, and here are some of my recent thoughts:

  New Rules of Life

  1. I am a busy missionary, but I take time, daily, for emails, Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, Line, WeChat, Marco Polo, and iMessage; because they are my only options if I want to stay connected with my family and friends around the world.
  2. My home is the center of my universe. My office is across the hall from where I sleep. It is where I often teach by Zoom or work online. We cook and eat most of our meals at home. We have to keep ourselves busy during our free time, so sometimes we read books, color, do puzzles, and play games.
  3. We don’t greet people in the same way on the mission field. At home in the States I instinctively know who to hug warmly, who prefers a handshake, and who might just like a smile. I remember when we moved overseas, that I suddenly didn’t know how to greet people! I had to learn new ways to show pleasure when seeing someone.
  4. Especially when we first arrived, on both fields where we have served, I fought to overcome a lot of fear. “Was it safe to eat the food on my plate? Was the table clean? Would good medical care be available if we needed it?  Did I have enough faith to live without a paycheck?” I wondered. 
  5. I woke up one morning about 20 years ago, opened the windows, swept the insects that had collected and died in the hallway as they swarmed around the one little light I left on to attract them, and started some coffee in the old pot with the broken carafe that previous missionaries had left behind. I remember feeling such resounding loneliness. It almost seemed as if I could hear it mocking me.
  6. I remember homeschooling the kids for the first time, trying to find a window unit air conditioner for our bedroom, and searching endlessly for a gentle soap. Shopping weekly was like a search and rescue event! When I found canned green beans, I hid them behind the sardines because I could not afford to buy too many at once, and I also knew there were only a few cans of green beans in the whole country.
  7. I was sitting in a grass hut in the Philippines and voiced my frustration to someone who had known and helped many missionaries. He said these words, and they gave me such hope and comfort, “In a few months everything here will feel normal. It’s just all really different right now. Be patient with yourself.”

   Be Patient with Yourself

I am absolutely sure that each of you dear readers have already started to see the parallels I mentioned earlier as you have followed me through my list of thoughts and memories. You, like your missionaries, have learned to depend heavily on social media recently. In fact, I am going to miss the increased presence of my friends and family there when this is all over!

You have learned to make your home the center of your universe, to greet people differently when you really just want a hug, to ignore your fears and keep doing what you need to do, to live by faith, to power through the loneliness, to shop in a culture without everything in stock that you need, to resist hoarding, and to be patient with yourself while you learn to trust more and worry less in a whole new world.

Please, allow yourself to remember these days- forever! Let the memories fuel your prayers. Pray for your missionaries in a whole new way today and in all of your tomorrows! You see, you have lived some similar experiences!     

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