When we left the prairie for the mission field, it felt a tiny bit glamorous. People at church were excited for us. The prayer ministry over us was steeped in God’s presence and promises. Friends rallied to take care of our house (and the stuff left in it) before, during, and after the selling process. There were beautiful heart-to-heart moments, touching gifts, encouraging words, and a crowd of our favorite faces waving farewell as we shucked our shoes for the security check in. It made us feel pretty special.
However, the warm, fuzzy glow faded the moment we realized we had forgotten all 5 of our valuable-crammed backpacks on a bench outside of the San Jose airport. That miraculous story was the first installment in a season of being humbled. From a two car, comfortable income, “can do pretty much anything we need to and a good deal of what we’d like to” family, we have begun learning to do life again, from scratch.
Getting places, for example. Being directionally challenged is tough here where streets are mostly unmarked and lined with wall-to-wall buildings. I rely on Matt everywhere outside of our immediate neighborhood. At this point, I could not get as far as Walmart by myself. Some people might consider that a blessing. I find myself nostalgic over coupons, familiar roads, and my own minivan trunk.
And let’s just confess up front that we may be conjugating 9 verb tenses in grammar class, but we really did sing “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” the other day in language practice. Cabeza, Hombros, Rodillas, y Dedos in double-time is a whole new ballgame. The substitute teacher made us do the hand motions. Then she kept changing the body parts to complete the syllabic slaughter. When Kindermusik can take you down, you know you have a ways to go. Learning a new language is an ongoing opportunity to lay down your pride and let yourself look foolish. It’s times like this that I repeat the wisdom of another dear missionary, “I am not an idiot in my own language.”
Finances are new ground, too. We are in the process of raising monthly support for our ministry here. This means hours of phone calls each week to connect with people and invitations to join our journey. Hours of asking for help with this work that the Lord has given us to do. God has always provided our income, but things felt different when there was a salary-paying PT career on the books. Employers write checks according to wage charts. Missionaries depend on the leading of the Spirit in people’s hearts.
This sacrifice on the altar has a name: My Independence. We are saying like John the Baptist, “He must increase, we must decrease.” It isn’t that we are becoming super spiritual down here in the tropical humidity. We are just more aware from this position how much we need Him, and how much we need each of you.
And speaking of you all, homesickness is sneaky. It can catch me unaware between present and past tenses. One moment I’m conjugating a verb in class, and the next I’m wrapped in a memory that pulls my heart back to the place we still call “home.” Love has no problem crossing latitude and longitude. We, however, miss real hugs, face to face conversations, and being a part of your lives in a geographical way.
Like David, we are dancing before the Lord. The rhythm is new and our steps can seem undignified. But graceful or otherwise, we know that He loves us. So we let go of our pride again, we release our independence, and take a new hold of His plan to use our family to serve the nations.
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:6-7