In WWII, the costliest battle for our American soldiers was on the island of Iwo Jima. Even though our young Marines killed 21,000 Japanese, we lost 26,000 in that one month of fighting. These men went into battle thinking they were dying for a cause, for a reason, and they were. When the smoke cleared, there was left behind the Pacific’s largest cemetery. There are now markers that list the plot, the row, and the grave number. And there is a plaque on the outside wall of the cemetery that simply reads:
When you go home
Tell them for us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today
Thursday afternoon I brought my work back to my room because I couldn’t fix a problem I had been working on for literally hours. And I sat here until 9pm until I became so frustrated that I just quit. I bowed my head and let all the frustrations of living in a third world country overtake me and I cried. I cried and I cried and I went to bed sad. And the next morning I sat here in the dark in the early morning hours and I felt sorry for myself. I thought about all the things that are hard about being a missionary. My friend and spiritual mom told me this week that I should let people know, you who read this, the difficulties that I face each day, that “it aint easy being me”. And so, here are a few of them:
I miss my family and friends so much sometimes. When everyone goes home at the end of the day here, there are only three guys and me left on the compound. I spend most nights in my room by myself. Remember, I can’t go anywhere after dark. I get lonely sometimes.
I miss the comforts of home sometimes. I thought about how I can’t even get a salad here and my body is becoming so weak because I can’t get the nutrients I need. I was doing laundry by hand yesterday and was literally so weak that I couldn’t wring all my clothes out very well. I didn’t realize how tired I could get so quick. And that is hard for me because I have always been physically strong.
I thought about how I can’t even get in a car and drive because I don’t have a Sudanese license yet (long story). I can’t just go somewhere after work because it will be dark. I can’t just go grab something at HEB because there is no HEB and the market is too far to just walk and go grab something, what little they have.
I thought about how I am so tired of fighting the gnats and flies every single day. They are always around, always annoying, and I just get frustrated with them sometimes when I am trying to be on my computer or read a book. There are also huge ants here and they are always in our sugar and it would be nice sometimes to put my spoon in and not have to shake any ants off. They also crawl right onto your foot if you stand in one place for even a second. The other morning it was dark and I stood still to try and push the kitchen door open and had ants on me that fast. Yesterday I went to put my running shoes on and my toe touched something and I looked and there was a big frog in my shoe. It took up the whole toe – it was big.
Every morning, just making coffee is this huge ordeal. I have to carry all my coffee stuff (instant!) with me, walk to the dining room where our key is kept, walk to the kitchen, not forgetting to carry two cups of filtered water with me along with my armful of stuff, unlock the kitchen, look for matches, light the gas stove and set the water to boiling, go brush my teeth, go back to make the coffee, carry all my stuff back to the dining room to put the key back and finally go back to my room to have a nice cup of coffee. This is all while also carrying a flashlight. It takes about 15 minutes to do all this just for one cup of coffee. I miss just touching the button and having my coffee start, and it not be instant.
I miss turning on a light at 5:30 a.m. and reading my Bible. I have to light a kerosene lantern which is a yellow flame that doesn’t give much light just to sit and read my Bible before work. The city cuts the power every night at midnight and it is off till 7:00 a.m.
I miss just getting in my shower and all my stuff is there. Here I have to drag all my stuff to the shower because it is a community shower and we all share and so we don’t leave our stuff to clutter up the place. Once I forgot my towel. Had to dry with my t-shirt.
Every single night there are lots of dogs that howl all throughout the night, there are drums beating somewhere at any given time, and there is some hut that calls itself a club playing loud music all night until 7:00 a.m. because that is when they close. And so I miss waking in the night to silence or even to the hum of an air conditioning unit.
I miss Walmart! We have hardly anything here. I can’t go get hairspray or perfume or toothpaste or eyeliner or nail polish remover whenever I run out. There are none. I miss ice cream and fresh vegetables and gummy bears, boy do I miss gummy bears!
I miss going for a run with my headphones. I can’t wear them because traffic does not watch out for me, I have to watch out for it. And people always want me to stop and talk and it is very hard not to be irritated because I just want to run! I have to respond because Jesus would. I carry Him and so I stop and talk.
I really miss putting my clothes in a washer and dryer. I get so tired of hauling water and doing each piece of laundry by hand. It is hard work, especially sheets.
What if I went back home and was just “normal” like most of the world and had my normal job in a normal country living a normal life? Am I doing what I was created to do? I can never let my mind dwell on the “what ifs” because if I do, I will quit. I cannot let myself think too long about home because it hurts when I do. I can’t think too long about the food I miss or malls or washing machines and dryers or even being able to buy a bottle of hair spray! The statistics show that most missionaries quit in the first year, over 80%, because it is hard and sometimes we feel like quitting. That is when I have to focus not on “why” I am doing a thing but on “Who” I am doing a thing for. Missions has to be about going after my desire and my desire has to be Jesus Christ. He has to be the only reason I do a thing. He has to be what consumes me. If my desire ever changes and if I let anything else consume me, I will quit. Only Jesus can cause me to overcome. He has to remain my Desire.
Paul tells us all the time how he was cold and hungry and tired and beaten yet it is only Christ that spurs him on. It is really true. I understand, even if just a little,
How he could withstand all that he did. It has to be Christ Jesus and only Him or quitting becomes the only option.
Three days ago, In an early morning moment of feeling sorry for myself because I had become so very frustrated at my work, God came in and He showed Me His grace. He spoke to me in such a clear way that I could “almost” hear His voice. He said to me, “I am the Vine, you are the branch and if you would just abide in Me every moment of every day, then I will be with you and your fruit will be good and it will last, you will never quit. You have not because you ask not. I have chosen you and I have appointed you to do what I have called you to do. IF you abide in Me and My Words LIVE in you… Abide in ME and whatever you ask, WHATEVER you ask of ME, I will do it for you.”
I knew where to find this Word! I had read it so many times. John 15:5 and 7. I have read all of John 15 so many times, but have I truly lived it? Oh sure, I ask God a lot of times to help me. But He wants me to ask Him ALL of the time. He wants me to follow the example His Son set for me when He walked the earth. Jesus never did a single thing without hearing from His Father. Here is the very Son of God and He still did not move until His Father showed Him where and how. Jesus never wasted a single minute of His life because He always knew what
He was about. He was about the Father’s business. Jesus was about abiding and being so connected to His Father that He was a branch of the Master Vine. Jesus was one with God. He is God!He reminds me to look at David and Joshua and Moses and Jesus, how everything they did they did not do until they first asked God. Jesus especially did NOTHING unless He saw His Father do it first. And so I am learning through all of this that I have to stick this close to my Father. I have to abide in Him constantly, in every single thing, all day long. It sounds easy but it is not because we are so used to doing things automatically. We are used to doing things that we should know how to do on our own and then become frustrated when we can’t. God is showing me that if I truly want to live and move and breath out of the place of peace and rest and provision, then I have to live and move and breath in His Presence constantly, becoming one with Him, abide.