I have always tried to write about the easy and the hard things about being a missionary, instead of shying away and showing only the Instagram-worthy moments of my life. Without a doubt, the hardest part about being a foreign missionary is leaving loved ones behind. But there is something that I didn’t know would be so hard. This is an open-hearted view at that hard for me thing.
Nobody told me that getting your first package from home would hurt so much, or that drain plugs could make you cry.
Normally when someone goes on a trip to America they double as courier for gifts and mail to and from loved ones. A couple of weeks ago now, my father-in-love did just that. He graciously carried a few things we had purchased via Amazon as well as several gifts to and from loved ones.
It was like Christmas. My in-laws came over, we shared a meal, drank tea and coffee while we chatted, and “opened presents.” We went through the box of goodies, oohing and ahhing over the many thoughtful things people from home put in for us. For Josh, this included pistachio nuts, aftershave, a diving mount for his camera, and thingamabobs for his lantern. For me it included drain plugs, makeup, crafty knickknacks, and the most beautiful journaling bible I’ve ever seen. Totally ordinary and inconspicuous objects that are otherwise pretty unexciting are suddenly made extraordinary simply because they are from home and loved ones, hard impossible to find in this country, or simply sweet reminders of good times.
And then without warning the homesickness that is always in the background was unexpectedly in my face, torturing me, squeezing my chest like a vice; and I was suddenly sobbing as if my heart had been forcibly removed from my chest. All I wanted to do was hug my loved ones.
These were tangible, thoughtful things purchased, packed, mailed, flown, and carried around the world by people who love me and with me in mind. The weight of that seemed unbearable at the moment.
Does this mean that I never want another package from home? Of course not. I just didn’t know that the first one – the first reminder of just how far away we are, how much we miss our loved ones, and how easy it is to find things in other countries from the one we live in – would cut to the quick of my heart. Mail and packages are tangible reminders of home and loved ones; they hold more than goodies and treats and totally ordinary objects from a passport culture – they hold encouragement and love.
That night I learned that homesickness is always in the background of life and it doesn’t take much to bring it to the surface again. That’s part of this adventure we’ve been called to live – being overwhelmed by the ordinary because it reminds you of home. In spite of the tears and the heartache that can unexpectedly sneak up on you; in spite of leaving loved ones and family homes; in spite of sleepless nights, difficult days, long flights around the world, and bad internet connections… It’s worth it to be right where God has placed you.
And that it’s okay to let drain plugs make you cry.