“Oh but Beth! Isn’t all this just daunting?!” I smiled as I heard a sweet friend’s genuine sentiment in response to discussing our family’s future in ministry and all that it has involved and will continue to involve. No one had expressed it in quite that way before and I appreciated the way she, a friend and loving supporter, worded what was totally true, Yes. This IS all very daunting!
In more ways than I can count, this next ministry chapter of our lives in Mexico is like a major “re-boot.” We have been placed back at the starting square of the game so to speak and regardless of how much ground we think we had “gained” in our previous life overseas, the starting line sits underneath our feet again. This time though, as we stare at that starting line we know exactly how hard the race ahead will continue to be. We know intimately well of the sweat, the tears and the pain & sacrifice this will involve. We are also intimately aware of the blessing in all of this life as well! Yes indeed, this is very daunting.
I wanted to talk in this blog a little bit about some of the aspects that are truly daunting about this next step of ministry but I also want to talk about what a privilege this next step of faith is for our family. Believe me, I could easily write blog after blog sharing every angle of why going on in ministry at this point simply seems too hard and how sometimes I do have doubts and experience my own weakness and failures. But I don’t want to do that because that would only be giving more emphasis to the times I am not walking forward trusting our Father. Though I do want to be honest about the things that are truly challenging, I want to do so with a focus on what is true: the awesome faithfulness and steadfastness of the God we serve in the midst of looming uncertainties and fatigue.
One area that is currently overwhelming me a bit is thinking about all I will need to learn in our next stage of life and ministry in a cross cultural context. I learned so much in Papua New Guinea! I learned how to cook using what was local (through much trial and error I might add! ;D). I learned how to do laundry in several different methods and after two and a half years I even discovered the secret to having our clothes smell good after they came off the line.
Whoa! This was kind of a big deal, I’m not going to lie! I learned how I am supposed to act in the market, how to buy food, how to handle myself around the opposite sex, how to handle myself around children and even how to avoid using super offensive hand gestures! I learned one… and almost completed another language and made many friends that I grew to care deeply for! I learned how to be confident in our village, how be a part of the community and how to manage my time as a wife, a mom, a team mate and a discipler of women. I learned that food will mold often, bugs will never go away, packaged food will never taste fresh, the village kids will always simultaneously tug at my heart while driving me crazy and that I will always desire to “knock off” just about half of the village dogs.
Now, instead of leaning on that which I have already learned, instead I am looking ahead to the mountain of things I have TO learn! Everything will be different, I cannot transfer over what I have learned in the Tigak/PNG culture over to the Latino culture. I can already envision myself accidentally speaking Tigak to a Mexican person before I am fluent in Spanish! Awkward. Oh I so hope I do not do that! I will have to wipe my mind clean of things I “think” I know and become a ‘baby’ learner once again. I will relearn how to do everything. Cook, shop, drive, be appropriate in the culture, keep my home, handle the kids and Oh yeah, TALK!
Here lies my opportunity to anticipate how the Lord will go before us as He has done before. Here is yet another chance to experience the way God will enable me to do things I never thought I would be able to do, to have the extreme privilege of learning to humble myself in a new environment, to be reminded that I need the Lord’s strength to succeed and to be reminded that God has so much good in store that we never could have anticipated!
Another area of struggle for us right now is that of battling the feelings of weariness as we “redo” much of what we had to do before we moved to PNG. Tom is busy with communications, partnership development, researching many things, handling a variety of paperwork, calculating costs, scheduling dental and doctor visits for our family before we leave and trying to find the best deal on a reliable, used minivan!
In addition, I have been assisting Tom with new printed materials, as all our prayer cards, etc. have had to be redone. I have also had to start from scratch collecting all the crucial items we need for our home (because we could not bring most of our things back from PNG because of the hight cost). As we have prayed for the Lords provision I have rejoiced at every thrift item I have been able to find that will save us money and help us settle in quickly upon our arrival in Mexico. The $3 Crockpot, the $5 blender, the $1 sets of sheets, the Kitchen Aid off of Craig’s list (yes, it DID need a LOT of cleaning! ) and all the hand-me-downs from my Mom and friends!
Getting what we need does cost a lot but because of second hand options, it has cost far less than it could have! My Mom has graciously let me turn the guest room upside down and it is now “packing central!” Boxes are stacking up and little by little the to do list is getting shorter. Speaking of daunting though, so far the Lord has seen fit to leave our biggest needs to last as we are still without a reliable vehicle or any start up money for our move! As Tom and I love to say, “Well, it looks like the Lord is just giving us one more thing to trust Him for!”
All of this process is emotional, it is exhausting and stressful. It has been sad to loose our things in PNG and need to start over but the privilege in it is how I feel the Lord teaching me through it. Everything I am busy with as I gather and pack things for our move is a reminder to me to keep things in perspective. I am not ‘owed’ a comfortable long term home on this earth and it’s not something I should be consumed with wanting. Our things are just “things,” temporal and so meaningless in the scope of eternity. I am thankful for the reminder of that! As I pack our boxes and bins for Mexico I am doing so with a strong feeling of their actually purpose: to allow us to live in a place where we can be used full time to spread the gospel! We will live there as long as God allows us and when He wants us to move on, that’s ok, even if we loose everything again.
I feel at a loss to adequately articulate all the wonderful “fruit” of our lives while living in fellowship with the Lord. Because of our/my security in Him and all the abundant positional truths I have in Him and because of Him, anything in our future can have abundance! As a child of His I can (and do) have confidence rather than fear. I do not have to be weighted down by the trap of a “victim” mentality but instead I have the peace of a conscience that is clear before Him and the freedom to trust Him further into challenges I wouldn’t otherwise be able to handle.
When I meditate and think on all that is true of my Lord and what He has done for me, my choice of how to proceed after what seemed like the hugest of “life and ministry upsets” (having to leave the Tigak people prematurely) is clear. I will keep going! He is worthy and trustworthy and I have nothing to fear from obeying Him!
To wrap up this blog I’ll revisit my analogy of standing at the starting line of the race. Before I said it was scary and intimidating but the great part is that we have the fuel of four years of ministry and trusting God behind us! Over and over we saw Him work in mighty ways and saw Him use us! Those four years shaped us and changed us! Though many lesson lay ahead, we have MANY lessons under our feet that I have no doubt God will use in the days ahead to help us minister in a Godly way! I just can’t say it enough- this IS such a privilege! We GET to start doing something incredibly important again! We GET to be a part of God drawing people to Himself and we GET to remember all that the Lord taught us before and BANK on His unfailing love and care!