I’ll board a jet plane to go back to America soon, for the first time since January 2012. Over the past twenty-two months that I’ve lived in Cambodia, I’ve filled this blog with ups and downs (or, “yays and yucks,” if you prefer). But as I’ve prepared to return “home,” I’ve asked myself, what is my overall analysis of those ups and downs? In the end, which wins out? The good, or the bad?
So I listed all the positive and negative things from my life in Cambodia and compared them. What I found in that list was that, in the final evaluation of this term, the good things won out. And here’s why:
Big Blessing #1: I have friends here. A seasoned-missionary-kid-turned-seasoned-missionary advised me to pray for a friend, before I even got to the field. I did that, and I asked our prayer supporters to do the same. When I’d been living in this country only 5 days (and was still jet-lagged), I met the woman who would become my best friend in Asia. I didn’t know it at the time, but God had already answered my prayer. We go out for girl time about once a month, and I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have her and our times together.
That’s not all. Shortly after we moved here, God sent us another Team Expansion family. Over the past year or so, we’ve gotten to know and love them. We take care of each other when we’re sick (which is pretty often), and when we’re not sick, we make each other laugh. They are our teammates, and they make life sunnier.
Big Blessing #2: My marriage counselor was right. He assured us that we would be “just fine” on the field if Jonathan and I continued to love each other well. That if we really “got” this whole loving-each-other thing, we would be ok. I wanted his promise to be true. I wanted his claim to be right — but I didn’t know if it would be.
Now, nearly two years in, I can say that he was right. This counselor has a special place in his heart for ministry and missionary couples and desires to strengthen their marriages, so that they can persevere in ministry. He showed us how to love each other better and how to invite God into the painful parts of our lives. Our marriage has not only survived the cross-cultural chaos, it’s actually better now than it was two years ago.
Big Blessing #3: My international church. I have a strong need for a good church. I have always loved the church, but I did not expect the international church we attend to be such a lifeline for me. Each week, I connect with God during the worship time. I need that special time of prayer and contemplation each week — I even take notes. And when I am forced to skip a Sunday because of illness in the family, I just don’t feel as anchored the following week.
I met another dear friend in the church nursery here. She has been such an encouragement to me throughout this first term, as we shared our sorrows and struggles together, and as I learned from the wisdom of her decade in this country. I didn’t know I could find all those things at a church, so soon after moving here. After all, I had been at our sending church for over 15 years. I didn’t know I could get the cozy feel of small church relationships at a bigger church. I didn’t know I could feel like I belonged so soon. I didn’t know how universal Christ’s Church really is.
In my doula training course, I learned that what creates a satisfying birth is not necessarily whether the birth plan was followed precisely, or how the birth unfolded, medically speaking. No; how a mom feels about her birth is more closely tied to how well supported she was. If she was kept informed about the process and felt emotionally supported, generally she will consider her experience good, even if unexpected events occurred.
If you guessed I’m going to draw an analogy between birth and missionary life again, you’d be right. I realized that each of those three items on my list has something in common: I draw strength and support from them. My friends, my husband, and my church have all given me spiritual and emotional support during these past two years. In my final evaluation of this term, even though I’ve frequently cried, been regularly stressed out, and been tired nearly every day, I have been fully supported.
When I doubted, they listened. On down days, they were there. How I feel about this term is positive: I have been buoyed by my brothers and sisters in Christ. On this journey we call life, just what in the world would I do without them??
Every good and perfect gift is from above