The First Two Years Were Good (Or, How Missionary Life is Like Birth)

-by Elizabeth

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.

My closest friend in Cambodia

Spending Thanksgiving with my best Cambodia friend

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.

Our team on Easter (plus a couple short-termers)

Eating Easter dinner with our team (plus a couple short-termers)

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.

My bestest friend in the whole wide world

My bestest friend in the whole wide world on our 13th wedding anniversary

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.

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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??

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Every good and perfect gift is from above

James 1:17a

14 thoughts on “The First Two Years Were Good (Or, How Missionary Life is Like Birth)

  1. I am so inspired b you and Jonathan… Thank you for posting your blogs and sharing with us. Thank you for doing what you’re doing….your family is in my prayers constantly!

  2. God bless as you travel and spend time with family and friends. You two have been given an opportunity to bless and you’ve taken it on like a kid to candy! I’m so incredibly proud like a parent of what you’re doing, but even more I am humbled by your commitment to follow Jesus wherever he leads you, no matter the inconvenience or sacrifice. I pray for you often and look forward to eternity with you on the streets of gold!

    • Aw, Kristi, you are so sweet to be proud of us! Thank you! We have been so blessed in life, and are thrilled if anything we do or say can bless others in return. . . I too, look forward to spending more time with you in Heaven. And I’m so thankful for your impact on my life as a teenager 🙂

  3. Hi Elizabeth 🙂 My name is Dhana Wimberly and my husband & I have lived in Phnom Penh now for 1 1/2 years. We volunteer with an NGO. We’ve been leading teams to Cambodia for the past 7 years. I came across your blog from another site. Love to hear & see how the Lord works. I see that you’re a Doula 🙂 I am too! Well, I was in the states & probably should check on my certification to make sure it’s current. Do you practice here in Cambodia?
    I also, was on ICA’s website yesterday and saw you on their staff page. What do you guys do?
    Love you’re writing! It would be great to connect one day…

    Blessings,
    Dhana

    • Hi Dhana! So nice to hear from you 🙂 Yes I love doula work. I took the CAPPA training but didn’t have time to get certified before moving overseas, so no, I don’t practice here in town. Perhaps something I could pursue in the future, because for now I’m super busy with the homeschooling! And yes, we’re at ICA, and we LOVE it. Perhaps I’ll see you there some time? 🙂 Mostly my husband does pastoral care, but we also do youth ministry as much as our schedules can allow, and of course there’s the writing we do 🙂

      Thanks for dropping by, and God bless! ~Elizabeth

      • Thanks for responding 😊 Hopefully one of these days we’ll pop in to ICA. Do you live close to ICA? We don’t live too far from there… that is when traffic cooperates 😜
        Would love to have coffee if you’re up for that…just looking for connections here 😊 I understand the business of homeschooling, as we homeschooled our five sons for a period of time…seems like forever ago 😊 They are 20-29 now, with almost 4 married ❤️
        Blessings to you guys and all that you do!

        Dhana

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