That Happens in the States Too

After I was robbed I started idealizing the States.  We’d only been here for 2 months, but all of the sudden the U.S. was my Utopia.  Nothing bad happens there.  You can walk wherever you feel like and not get attacked, you can carry nice purses and wear fine jewelry and people leave you alone.  You can eat whatever you feel like from the menu and not worry about strange parasites a week later.  The U.S. is where I understand everyone and they understand me.  It is where I look “normal” and it is where I am an independent and confident woman free to go wherever I feel like, and drive myself there too.  The U.S. is where I was happy, and South America is where I’ve come to make sacrifices.

But then shortly after the robbery I started noticing a lot of the news that came from the States, and it was violent and horrific.  School and movie theater shootings, armed robberies, girls held hostage for years in a suburban neighborhood.  The more stories I heard, the more it was drilled into me, “that happens in the States too.”   In a strange way, remembering this phrase has brought me a great amount of comfort over the last 16 months.

It is so easy to blame my problems on the mission field.  “If I weren’t here in Bogota, I wouldn’t have to deal with….(sickness, security issues, a bad attitude, you name it).”  That’s not to diminish what we do deal with here on the field, but I’m trying to train my heart to stop seeing the mission field as the source of the problem, and start realizing that some of our problems are just problems- problems that happen in the States too. 

Last week I spent a few days shuffling between the bathroom and my bed, recovering from some food gone wrong.  I was feeling miserable, and sorry for myself, and wondering if I’ll ever be able to eat a strawberry or fresh produce again.  I went online to check the news and saw that people all over the midwest were getting sick from eating bagged salad, from a major restaurant chain.  Bad produce and parasites happen in the States too. 

About 12 days after Simeon was born I had a post-partum complication that landed me in the ER in the middle of the night.  It was some of the worst pain I have ever experienced and I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d had my baby in the U.S. if this wouldn’t have happened.   A few hours later I was sent home with some meds and a mandate to stay in bed for the next week.  I was depressed and armed with google and began researching my particular situation.  And you know what I found?  Thousands of people were discussing and sharing their stories of having this very problem – in English.  In American English.  Postpartum complications happen in the States too.  

Last weekend I was really struggling.  Nathaniel was out doing ministry and I found myself home alone with the kids for what felt like the 10,000th time that week.  With no car and nowhere to really go even if I did have a car, I put the kids down for naps and laid on the couch dreaming of what we’d be doing if we were in Chattanooga right then, even if Nathaniel was busy with ministry.  I pictured the wonderful hot weather, going to the splash zone in Coolidge Park , walking across the walking bridge to get ice-cream, or maybe just running to Target.  And then I remembered what life was really like when we lived there in Chattanooga- with a newborn.  We rarely went to Coolidge and how would I have managed the two older kids in the water and a baby all alone?  How many times did I leave a store like Target practically in tears when I brought the two kids with me?  How many days did I spend at home with two little kids, not even able to get to a park because either Nathaniel had our car, or the idea of getting them out of the house was so overwhelming, I’d just turn a movie on instead?  And that nice hot, muggy weather?  I don’t remember finding it so charming back then.  Discontentment and boredom happen in the States too. 

On Sundays when I am juggling three small children while Nathaniel leads worship I am reminded of our days in Escondido when I juggled our three small foster children because church plants in the States don’t have nurseries either.

 When we leave the house an hour early and are still 20 minutes late to the doctor’s office I remember traffic happens in the States too.  

When I grip my child’s hand a little tighter as the sketchy man walks by us I take a deep breath, drug addicts are in the States too.  

When I take my child’s temperature for the 5th time that day, I sigh, kid’s get sick in the States too.  

When we have been bouncing our fussy baby for the last three hours in the dark, I yawn, babies have colic in the States too. 

When I’m struggling to stay faithful to our calling in life, I know people in the States struggle with their callings too.  

It is easy to idealize my old life in the U.S.  It is tempting to think of life there as easy and comfortable and fun.  I forget the struggles, the bad neighborhoods, the boring and discontented days.  I forget the tears and frustrations. The car repairs and piles of bills, the late night trips to the ER and the grocery store melt downs.  All of those things happen here too, but for some reason they feel like more of an “attack” than just the result of living life as a responsible adult with children.  Yes, we sacrifice a lot to be here, we face many different challenges and hardships, and some of them are truly difficult, and some of them are just different than what we faced in the U.S, but what I am trying to say is I am not any more entitled to complain or feel sorry for myself just because God called me on the mission field.

Some days are extra hard, and some days it is everything I can do not to blame my problems on Bogota, and some days I wonder if I can really do this, but after the storm of my melt down comes the sweet times when God meets me where I am.  He gently picks me up and gives me the strength I need, gives my children and husband forgiving hearts and calms my soul.  And when I think about those gifted moments of grace from the Lord, I am thankful that not only does that happen in the States, but it happens here on the mission field too.


3 comments to That Happens in the States Too

  • Terri Hellwig  says:

    Thanks for sharing your struggles. Praying God meets you in all of these challenges.

  • Gilda Vizzini  says:

    God bless you all, ever more abundantly!

    Hugs for everyone,

  • Pamela Gregga  says:

    Hi! We’ve been praying for you and your family, especially with the new baby! In talking to Phil Proctor and his family (missionaries to Uganda for eight years), he reminded us that the gospel applies to everyone, whether in the States or abroad. I would like to say the following for your encouragement. you’re absolutely right. All of those situations can (and do) happen in the States. Matt Cotta, pastor and friend, reminded us a long time ago that these things aren’t just the curse of the ministry; they’re par of the Christian life. In our 7.5 years of marriage (4 of which were in Escondido), we’ve experienced: robbery on 2 counts, bathroom getting ripped out x1 week, flooding in apartment x2.5 weeks, termites (requiring tenting for three days), pipe in wall breaking during termite tenting which re-flooded our kitchen x1 week, the loss of our first child, working nights x4.5 years, husband changing jobs twice, unemployment twice (requiring Mike to change careers from the pastoral ministry to the secular field in order to feed us), cancer (requiring surgery), premature baby that took two years to eat and keep food down, another preterm labor requiring bed rest for 4 months (including an insulin pump), fire damage, and most recently, bed bug infestation at the same time as the car broke down and needed major repairs. There have been four interstate moves in six years. And yes, due to the bug infestation, all of the toys are put away and the kids are dealing with boredom and getting naughty. 🙂 Your family was an inspiration to us during our time in Escondido, and you ARE doing the Lord’s work (as evidenced by the difficulties you’re in). We will continue to keep you in our prayers. Your hurts and frustrations are real and valid. Please, PLEASE keep up the good work, and know that what you are doing from day-to-day DOES matter where you are!!!

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