It was a crazy change. Surroundings of green rolling Ozark hills were replaced with the vast land of Ethiopia, to the jagged mountains of Haiti, to the volcanoes and lakes of Nicaragua. This past year, we have worked with a trash dump community serving lepers, widows, and orphans, brought medical help and food to the poorest people groups in rural Haiti, and rebuilding the lives of hundreds who have lost their homes in floods and hosting mission teams. It has been a mission adventure of the grandest scale. The greatest lesson we’ve learned living on the mission field, is how much we don’t know and how much more we need to learn to make a real difference in our big, beautiful world. Someone told me once, “you’ve only just scratched the surface.”
If that’s true, I can’t wait to see what God has planned when we follow His direction with radical obedience. But what happens when it’s not always hunky-dory. I asked my hubs this question today driving in a borrowed car with no air conditioner, missing the front bumper and one headlight. First, he asked me what did hunky-dory mean (was it a real word) and I told him it meant, “Satisfactory or fine” – thank you google. In simple terms, hunky-dory is the kind of Zippity Doo Dah wonderful day when everything is going your way (and Mr. Bluebird is chirping in the background). We had the windows down and my hair swirling around my head mixed with heat, sweat and dust. It’s been 99 degrees the past month with little or no wind. It’s darn right hot here in Managua, Nicaragua. I was not feeling hunky-dory! Inside I was daydreaming about my Honda Odyssey with the 8 air conditioner vents blasting arctic cold air in my face, driving through the Starbucks drive-thru for an iced caramel coffee.
In that moment, I could sense my mind and body feeling frustrated and uncomfortable. I had literally just left the building site of the village Mateare visiting families who live in tent homes, ecstatic as they watch teams raising up hopes and dreams and miracles and new homes for a community who lost everything in a flood. The people do not have air conditioners or swamp coolers to keep their homes cool in the hot, dusty climate. I watch mother’s working tirelessly tending to their chores of washing, hanging clothes to dry, sweeping, cooking, and caring for their families with little or no storage space (that I’m accustomed to) tending to families of 8 or more living under one roof. The same can be said in Ethiopia and Haiti. Life is hard for the majority of people groups living in our third-world countries. I don’t have the slightest idea what living hard even feels like.
Living on the mission field is humbling, because everyone we serve has extreme needs. It’s extremely emotional to watch a human being struggle and suffer when I have so much. Roger and I have leaned on the book, When Helping Hurts, countless times as we navigate through our God-adventure serving and loving big. The LAST thing we want to do is walk away and hurt, instead of help. We pray and touch and comfort and serve the people God has placed in our path, but how in the world do I disconnect with the deep desire and need for comfort? Honestly, I like feeling comfortable.
I have been challenged this past year with unmet expectations with fellowship issues, plans that go awry, disappointment in service, trust being tested, and feelings of just not being needed or wanted. I’m a highly connected person and living in a foreign country without girlfriends can be really lonely. Sometimes, it’s almost easier not talking to my family and friends back at home because it leaves an ache in my heart. But, then I get my feelings hurt when my family and friends don’t take the time to connect and keep me in the loop.
The best time for God to change me, mold me, grow me, and love me is when I’m not feeling hunky-dory. It reminds me how selfish and prideful and ordinary I really am. I’m constantly being humbled on the mission field. He gently reminds me daily what my primary role is out here … it’s not about me. I LOVE adventure when I’m GO-going constantly- on the move, being needed and wanted, staying busy, meeting new people, ministering and loving without limits. But, what happens in the quiet times, when my day feels boring or uneventful or feeling left out. When I’m stuck at home without a car or ministry plans for the day? That is when I’m most vulnerable for spiritual attack and disappointment. I start to worry, whine, and complain… seeds of resentfulness carelessly tossed with the danger of growing in my heart. How do I stop and redirect my heart? Thanking God for each day He has created for me. I choose to thank Him for the good, the bad and the crazy! Simply saying, “Thank you!” is the key in my life to guard my heart. Today I tweeted (@karigib) I’m reminded that my disappointments & failures serving on the mission field build more character & compassion & TRUST to love big.
“My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2: 6-7 MSG)
I want to tackle this subject on my blog this month, how do we really love big when it’s not always hunky-dory? What does loving big look like at home or on the mission field on the crazy days?
Where do you feel the most vulnerable serving the Lord? What are your stumbling blocks that cause your “mission” to steer off course?