It's not all beaches and pretty pictures here, ya' know? It's not all warm weather and happy faces and "Kumbaya, My Lord". It's not a vacation. It's ministry. And for those who haven't done ministry full time before, let me be the first to tell you... it's HARD!!
There's so much you have to learn, so much you don't know, so many times that you face failure and disappointments. Some days I just walk around feeling like the dumbest person on the planet. Even the most basic things, like how do I get mail, or where can I get my gas tank refilled so the stove will work again, or how do I get to the other side of town without a car.... even these things become so overwhelming at times that you just want to hide in your room. Not to mention the fact that you are constantly being watched, being examined, being talked about and evaluated as a "foreigner" and more so as a missionary/Christian.... it's HARD!!! I mean it's, "Remind me again, Lord, why am I here?" kind of hard at times.
But it's the hard times that make it so beautiful, too. It's the pride of overcoming your fears on a regular basis, of recognizing fear and knowing how to immediately turn to prayer! It's the thrill of knowing I killed that creepily large spider in my bedroom all by myself or chased that slimy lizard out of my bathroom with just my hands! Or the excitement of finding someone around town who also wants to serve where you want to serve, and has a car to get there!! It's the joy of discovering you can make sugar cookies for Thanksgiving that taste almost like Mom makes! It's the simple pleasure of watching the birds come into your backyard every night because they know you'll give them seeds and scraps of bread. It's the fact that your neighbors feel that they can come to you when something goes wrong and they need help... even if you struggle to understand what they're saying! They know you'll care and want to help. It's the joy that floods your heart when you see the smiles on the kids' faces as they recognize you at church or in the townships and come running to hold your hand or get a hug. It's the almost instant closeness that you feel with every other American missionary you run into along the way, no matter who they are. It's the bond you feel with your teammates because you're all striving and pushing and working through it all together, like a pseudo-family.
And, more than all of that, it's the closeness you feel with God knowing that your morning prayers have carried on in your head all day long simply because you needed to talk to someone who would understand how you were feeling and what you needed. It's the realization that He's the only one who really, truly can understand! It's the blessings of craving, truly craving, to hear from Him in His Word every morning so you can make it through the day ahead... the joy of singing His songs at the top of your lungs (even if the locals laugh) because you truly believe the words of the praise music blasting from your cell phone while you get dressed each morning.... the comfort of feeling as if you're never alone in all of this, never forgotten, never ignored....
These blessings so far outweigh the struggles that it's not even a fair match. So while I still feel the need to remind people that I'm not "on holiday", I'm not on an extended vacation and this life is harder than I ever imagined. I also want to share the encouragement that even though it's hard, it's where I want to be because of the many, many blessings. Don't try to avoid the hard. Just stay focused on the blessings.
PS: Someone remind me of this when I call/email you struggling to cope! Cause it WILL happen! LOL