I was 16 years old sitting almost at the top of a small tree near Jinja, Uganda when my mission trip leader started the countdown: "10, 9, 8..." in a panicked scramble I lost my footing and fell about 6 feet landing flat on my side. The wind knocked out of me, I dragged myself up and hobbled through the door of the hut by "1" and was greeted wryly by the leader "Was it worth it?" Still breathless from the fall I fought back my tears and nodded yes. I had preserved the one hour a day I had as "privilege" to either take a cold shower in a door-less building or wash the two outfits I wasn't wearing using a bucket. But for me it wasn't the fear of losing a shower that drove me to choose obedience over my safety, it was the fear of the condemnation. And not just what I might experience from others in my public punishment. What I really feared was being whipped by my own sense of shame, which looked for any opportunity to shackle me in the chains of self-condemnation.
I didn't go on this trip looking for a life-changing experience, but it was still impactful to me to see the work God was doing in the church and in the community around the church. The pastors and member of the church shared their compelling testimonies and powerful ministries. Seeing how their faith impacted their community and attitude towards children was a beautiful testament that the God of love is the same across cultures, languages, and distances.
It was also uncomfortably humbling. But is being humbled ever painless? Here at home, being a mom means I do a lot of leading, decision making, and that what I say has weight. Joining a team of strangers and having to work and do most of the day together was sometimes difficult. I lost that sense of being valued that I have with friends and family at home. Though painful, it was good a reminder of how little I really am entitled to and how much I have to be grateful for.
We finished camp on Friday night and were on the way to the airport around 4 am the next morning. The 11 hour time difference and 20 hours in the air were more taxing on the way home. When I stepped out of the airport my first thought was how clean the air seemed (in Los Angeles!). I had some serious digestive problems and a bad ear infection. It took me a solid week to recover physically.
And I came back with something else, a conviction that it may be time to change some things up back at home. I am not entirely sure why, but I think it's in part because I saw how far a dollar could go just about anywhere else - especially Kyrgyzstan. For $40,000 they can build a large, beautiful hostel from the ground up on the property where the Oak House girls live. It will be a sustaining source of income for them and keep the Oak House open. To do something like that in Los Angeles would probably run about $5 million minimum. I think also the more relaxed, slow paced, and uncrowded life in Kyrgyzstan appealed to me. We don't plan to move to Kyrgyzstan, at least not yet, but I hope we can go back - maybe our entire family. None of the rest of my family has done a missions trip yet. I would love for them to meet and connect with the amazing people at the church in Kyrgyzstan and to experience God at work in another part of the world. I hope to return and continue those relationships, to be an encourager to my friends on other side of the world. We're staying in touch over social media.
We've made a decision as a family to pursue supporting foster care kids here at home. This probably means moving. My heart and prayers are still with the church, children, and ministries in Kyrgyzstan. I'm excited to see where God takes us next.
In one week I'm leaving my family to get on a plane for Kyrgyzstan. I'm going to help support a local church there along with a few other people from my church here. We will be working as helpers for an outreach summer camp for the kids there. The church doesn't have enough staff or supplies to support all the children that come, so that's where we come in and fill the need. While I am a bit nervous, I do have a joy and a peace knowing that I my time and efforts are being spent on something good. It hasn't been practical or easy to go on mission trips since my little ones came into the picture. In fact, this will be my first time doing missions in about 15 years.
Actually, that's not entirely true. Parenting is missions. Parenthood calls for a sacrifice of time, money, and energy to serve a people who, when we meet them are in need of care and truth. Parenting taken me far outside of my comfort zone, and required me to serve others with a purpose. And it's been a time of personal spiritual growth. As Darren E. Short said, "Wisdom does not grow on trees, the majority of the time it grows in the storm."
And to me, having a child, was a storm. I usually describe it as "shock and awe." Sleep, over. Personal space, gone. Going to the bathroom, never alone. But then something started to change, I slowly changed from a physical caregiver, to a teacher. My words, behavior, and attitudes started coming back at me, even the ones I didn't want them to copy. And I started to realize that all of this, not just what I want them to learn, is shaping them. And so all if it becomes my message, my testimony to them about how to understand the world around them, the things inside them, and the things unseen.
As a person of faith, this means I need to be really careful about how I present the gospel and who I allow to preach to my children. And everyone is preaching something. Not always with words, but everyone is teaching something with their attitudes and actions.
Hopefully, preaching without words works out for me in Kyrgyzstan. They primarily speak Russian there and I don't. They do speak some English and practicing English with us is a big part of the draw of the camp. I'm a bit nervous. I care about the message I am bringing and how I come across. It's not about the language barrier even as much as cultural and age differences. So, if you're the praying type, please say a prayer for me and the others who are going to Kyrgyzstan to serve at the kids camp. Pray for safe travels and a clear and true gospel message.
If you want to know more, you can read about the mission trip here: http://pacificcrossroads.org/short-term-mission-trips/
Or of course feel free to ask me!! :)