I heard a saying when I was in Bible School that went something like this..."a missionary has be ready to preach, pray or die at a moment's notice." In the choir, we added "sing" to that list when we were asked to sing on the spot more than one time. During the 15 moves our family made over the period of 2 1/2 years in 2006 to 2008, I added "move" to that growing list of things missionaries need to flexible about.
I had a plan for this summer and it didn't include moving! I mean, we always knew it was a possibility that the Bible School would decide to move a staff family in to this apartment to take over the dorm responsibilities. In fact, we are very much in favor of that plan since we see the need for onsight supervision and discipleship of the students that live here. Since we do not form part of the Bible school staff, we have been limited as to our involvement with the students in those areas.
Problem was, up until a couple of weeks ago, there didn't seem to be any possibility of change, so the announcement that we needed to give up our apartment by the end of July came as rather a surprise. We had hoped for a few months' notice to give us time to find another house and make ministry decisions.
It is what it is, however, and so we're accepting this as part of God's plan for us (since we know that this didn't take Him by surprise at all). In fact, we're thinking that maybe this is actually a push from God to get us moving in a different direcion altogether!
To give a little background on our situation, when we arrived in Mexico nearly two years ago, it was not necessarily a commitment to work here long-term. In fact, we'd made it clear to leadership that we were thinking to only stay for two to four years while we worked on three areas of our lives: 1) family stability (the move to Mexico being the15th move for us in 2 1/2 years), 2) unity in our marriage and 3) recovery for me.
We left Venezuela in June of 2007 with our family in pretty bad shape. The instability we'd had in our family life and ministry, the political situation in the country, and my pregnancy (I had been greatly affected by heat exhaustion) all combined to create an unhealthy family environment. The kids were actually exhibiting physical symptoms of anxiety and stress (Micah had a chronic choking feeling for months, Micah and Gracia were underweight and all three of them were highly insecure). Add to that disunity in our marriage and my struggles with emotional health and the pit we were in just got deeper and deeper. Already prone to and experiencing depression and exhaustion, I was all set up for the post-partem depression I went through after Jkaile was born in July of that year.
Looking back, I can see God's hand in moving us to a place where we could find healing for our family...first at our home church in Arkansas where we received the love and support of friends and family, counseling/medical attention and spiritual growth and secondly here to Mexico where we've had the blessing of living in the same house for nearly two years, the support of the mission community and the relationships we've built in a local Mexican church that has become like family for us.
Therefore, as we began looking around for another house to rent, Miguel began realizing that maybe our time here in Mexico is done. As we re-evaluated the goals we'd had of family stability, unity in our marriage, and recovery for me, we began to realize that while we haven't "arrived" (will never fully "arrive"?) in any of these three areas, we have certainly made significant progress in all three. Enough so that we are beginning to consider wider options for our family, even a transition to serving in another country.
You see, Miguel's deepest desire and longing is to work in a tribal church planting ministry...in the jungle. We tried to do that in Venezuela, but at that time in wasn't possible because of the situation in the country with the government ordering most missionaries to leave the tribal works and our family's state of being during that time. Tribal work has continued in Venezuela, but in a very limited form while restructuring of mission work has been taking place. It is obvious that Venezuelan churches have the responsibility of sending Venezuelan missionaries to take over the task of tribal church planting in areas where it is difficult or even impossible for foreign missionaries to serve.
After I found myself in such a deep pit three years ago (emotionally, spiritually and physically), however, I knew that it was not going to be possible for me to return to Venezuela. I had to make the very difficult decision to tell Miguel that I needed help (we all needed help!) and that for my health and the health of the family, we couldn't return to Venezuela as we'd planned. This created tremendous tension between Miguel and me, and yet for one of the first times in my life, I took a step towards taking care of myself. One of the main reasons I fell into that pit in the first place was that I didn't know how to take care of myself emotionally...I was raised in such a way as to feel that expressing my needs was somehow wrong or bad. I think Miguel struggles with the same issues as well...therefore, we had not been able to take care of our family's needs either and we all suffered for it. I had allowed bitterness and anger towards Miguel to build instead of seeking healthy ways of taking responsibility for my own problems and needs. While it is true that Miguel struggled to know how to take care of me and the kids, I needed to take responsibility for taking care of myself and my needs so that I could become the wife and mother that my family needs me to be.
During these last three years, I have come through my depression and am now seeing the end of that struggle. I will probably live with a tendency towards depression for the rest of my life on this earth, but now I know better how to prevent falling into that trap and how to climb out if I do fall again. I am learning how to take care of myself in every area of my life and am learning to live by God's grace and God's grace alone. I am currently meeting with a friend for counseling on how to set up a structured family life so that no matter where we are or what situation we find ourselves in, we won't be so prone to the chaotic family life that has characterized our family so far.
And Miguel and I? Well, we're doing better than we ever have before...we are more open to each other than we ever have. Unity no longer is a foreign concept to us; it is a reality that we are enjoying every day. We are at the place where I have been able to let Miguel know that I will honor his ministry decisions even if it means returning to Venezuela and he has let me know that if I am not in agreement or at peace with that decision, then he will not pursue that option. And let me tell you, I would not have thought that to be possible even just a few months ago...it's a beautiful gift that God has given us!
God has also been doing an interesting work in my life in another area that involves culture and culture awareness...one day a book was dropped into my life that has had an incredible impact on me. God used the message of this book on cross-cultural ministry and servanthood to convict and humble me. I began to realize that many (or at least a lot) of the conflicts that Miguel and I have had in our relationship can be attributed to my insensitivity to his culture...it's too much to go into here, but suffice it to say that I had been communicating arrogance and superiority in certain areas of my life without even realizing it. Not just to Miguel, but to my shame to other Latins as well. I credit the newfound unity and openness in my marriage (and other relationships) to the changes that God is making in me with regards to my increasing awareness of the importance that culture plays in relationships. As I've made obvious efforts to better understand Miguel and his culture, his trust in me has risen to new levels. And praise God, that has drawn us closer together than we've ever been before.
So all that to say that we really don't know what will happen or where God will lead us in the next few weeks and months! We haven't yet been able to meet with leadership and share about our thoughts and ideas since many are out of town during the summer break. I honestly can't say whether we're packing for a move to another house here in town or packing to leave Mexico. Miguel would really like to return to Venezuela and work towards joining a tribal church planting team there (something that would be easier for our family since the kids and I are all Venezuelan citizens along with Miguel), but we are open to wherever God might lead (as I've reminded Miguel, there's a lot of jungle out there!).
To be honest with you, I'm not jumping up and down for joy at the thought of leaving Mexico...frankly, it would be more comfortable to stay. Neither am I all too thrilled at the thought of returning to Venezuela...there would be many challenges for our family there and I have to admit to some serious concerns. And yet what I am excited about is the adventure that God has waiting for us right around the corner. As His plan unfolds for us, I know that it will be perfect. I am throwing myself in God's hands and trusting Him to take care of me every step of the way. My heart is ready to accept what God has planned for us, even if it means making some pretty big sacrifices on my part. Not sacrificing things that shouldn't be sacrificed, obviously, but I'm talking about sacrificing things like selfish desires for comfort. And I have seen God's hand preparing me to identify with Miguel's people and the challenges facing them during these difficult times, if that is what God is asking me to do. If not, then I will be just as ready to identify with whatever culture we find ourselves in order to become true cross-cultural servants. I consider it a great privelege to be allowed to serve God in this way.
So yeah, a lot going on with us these days...just reading this over again is such a testimony to me of God's love and faithfulness. I do not feel worthy of His grace and yet that's just it, it is not ME, but CHRIST IN ME that is worthy. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain. Amen.
Okay, gotta go...Mexico is playing Argentina in an important World Cup soccer match and the game is about to start!
¡Viva México! ¡Sí se puede!