The thoughts of a woman trying to live simply yet abundantly, contentedly yet expectantly, wisely yet adventurously... all for His glory.

7.27.2009

things I will never be able to put into words

Assuming I can read your mind with some degree of accuracy, you will want to know certain things when I get home.

For example, I have not taken what you might call "classic missionary in Africa pictures"--myself surrounded by a sea of smiling black children; cuddling little ones with enormous liquid dark eyes; tiny sleeping brown babies tied with a bedsheet onto my back. Those things have happened, to be sure. But the things that are worth taking pictures of are exactly the kinds of things that it is impossible to take pictures of. And I am trying to the best of my ability to not perpetuate the unconscious voyeurism that comes so naturally when you view African snapshots from the comfort of your living room at home.

I will not be able to come home and talk about how Africa itself has changed me, or how Africa is in my blood, or how I may be white outside but have an African heart (all things that various friends have said upon returning home from Africa).

But while I may not be changed in exactly those ways, the fact remains that I am changed.

Before I came, I mentally equated coming to work with Mercy Ships to taking a spiritual cliff-dive: step up to the edge, take a deep breath, and plunge off into the unknown. The truth is that God gives of Himself abundantly. He took the tiny amount of faith and trust I had and covered the rest with grace, and when I look back I wonder why it seemed such a trustfall to come to Benin. It turns out to have only been a small step of obedience. Who knows what steps of obedience may be required of me next, but each time His grace will be sufficient.

Part of what has changed me is the conversations I am having here: conversations of a depth that universities back home struggle to foster. Gather people from all corners of the world to live together in community, to work towards a common purpose, and with love of God and others as a common motivation, and certain types of conversations will flow naturally.

I have talked about what I think about President Obama; what I think about black people; what my friend Christian thinks about white people; why Americans are typically so ignorant of what is going on in the rest of the world; what other countries think of American foreign policy, especially the war in Iraq (I'm unable to comment with any intelligence at all on this last one).

I am learning about what really constitutes luxury; what disease in the body can do to a person's heart and soul; what fear can drive people to do; how so much of my lifestyle at home is bought at great cost to other people; what it looks like to dream of opportunity but have no real hope for it to actually materialize.

I am learning what it means to ask questions with humility. I am learning just how much I do not know. I am learning to listen, I am learning to slow down, I am learning what it looks like to honestly care for another person, and I am learning of the faithfulness of God despite appearances. God is faithful despite poverty, despite disease, despite shame, despite ostracization, despite fear, despite brokenness.

I am learning to trust that when all is said and done, God is the answer to the unanswerable questions.

7 comments:

Sa said...

Wow.That's all I can say. I love you, Roo!

Chinwe said...

Ah man! I was really hoping that you'd come back with an African heart!

Ah well...

Chinwe said...

OK, seriously, Linds, I'm moved by your words (as usual), especially this: "It turns out to have only been a small step of obedience."

I wonder how many things I've viewed as "giant leaps of faith" when they've only been small steps of obedience. Makes me think of a parent urging his kid to take her first steps towards him - seems monumental, but the loving arms of the Father are always there waiting.

I'm glad that you are changed...

lindsay said...

I agree with you Chinwe--the arms of the Father are always ready and waiting. (I can't help but also imagine the kind of smile that parents give their kids as they take their first wobbly steps!)

It's also a reminder to me of God's faithfulness--he never gives us more temptation than we can bear, but conversely he also never asks us to take bigger "steps" than we are able. But knowing that is different than beliving it... which of course takes trust.

Greg & Karin said...

Dear Lindsay, On Sunday I asked your mom about the "latest" with you (I really hadn't heard anything since you left). You'd probably told me about your blog, but I'd forgotten all about it, so she sent me the link. Right now, it's 3am... and for the last 1.5 hours, I've been reading your blog and almost every link attached to it (I was especially touched by Amy's African Adventures, I guess because I'm a pedi nurse...) I'm moved to tears... partly out of "envy" for the way you and so many others have been obedient and gone to serve with Mercy Ships... & largely because of the stories of those helped as well as those turned-away. I read all the way back to your posts in May, before you left. You have an amazing gift of communicating through writing, and it's such a joy to share your adventures & hear your "take" on everything. You can be sure that I'll be a regular reader from here-on-out! On another note, Holly is back in Houston and will be giving a presentation tonight about her time with Mercy Ships. I can't wait to hear from her, too! God bless you and give you the strength & compassion needed for each day! Lam. 3:21-22 - The steadfast love of the Lord never changes... never comes to an end. His mercies are new every morning. PRAISE GOD for the mercy that is being poured-out through you and others because of Mercy Ships. Take care! Love, Karin.

lindsay said...

Karin,
I very much appreciate your comment and encouraging words! I am glad Mom was able to direct you here, as it is my main place to process what is going on here in Benin. I am also glad that you enjoyed some of the other Mercy Shipper blogs--I found Ali's blog through a friend almost a year ago before I knew I wanted to come to Mercy Ships. I think she ought to write a book. :)
I do have to say that I think being here with Mercy Ships may very well end up as a watershed event in my life. Not that I necessarily feel called to career missions, but my time here has turned into such a beautifully complex season of learning and growing and serving all at once. And it is so beautiful to be able to see God so concretely at work in the lives of the patients and their families... and in the lives of my fellow crew members.

Anonymous said...

Just catching up on your blog during a quiet night shift....
Love your thoughts and words. Isn't it amazing that the things we often struggle to commit to end up being amazing when it is done in faith?
Sarah Blanshan