Thursday, June 25, 2020

Letting go of the old even before figuring out the new

Transition. I was in it.

Transitioning into life on the mission field can be a slow process—
  • stumbling through unknowns,
  • waiting for elusive answers, and
  • figuring out new identities.

It’s an offbeat experience because people lose their bearings, they live in an in-between state—awkward, incomplete.

Transition is stretching, re-thinking, expanding.

It’s a vulnerable time,
a time of letting go of the old
even before figuring out the new.

My Seattle roots had been torn up,
yet I had not put down roots in Lomalinda.

I was neither here nor there. 

Transition is a time of necessary breakingbreaking from the familiar and the comfortable and the knowable.

A necessary breaking. Necessary because:

God uses broken things.
It takes broken soil to produce a crop,
broken clouds to give rain,
broken grain to give bread,
broken bread to give strength.”

Transition is a time of patching broken pieces together to form a new person, a new home, a newly remodeled and defined family. A new ministry.

And whether we realize it at the time or not, the Bible has given us many instructions to get us through the transitioning and breaking and remaking.

“. . . Be strong and brave. . . .
The Lord your God will be with you everywhere you go.”
(Joshua 1:9, NCV)

Be patient in trouble and pray continually.”
Transitioning into life on the mission field is a time to pray, hope, wait, and hang on for dear life.

“At just the right time, we will reap a harvest of blessing
if we don’t give up.
(Galatians 6:9)

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The day had finally come: Something thrilling was going to happen, but then—!

For several days we’d had to hike Lomalinda’s steep hills in mid-day equatorial sun and eat lunch in the dining hall, and we always felt sick by the time we got there.

After lunch every day, we stopped at the comm to buy a few more groceries and kitchen supplies, hand-carrying them home and once again feeling sick by the time we hiked home. (Click on sun poisoning: nausea, vomiting, chills, fever, headache. . . .)

Making our kitchen functional was taking longer than I expected—much longer. But that day I was encouraged: I had almost unpacked our suitcases, and the kitchen cupboards and fridge were looking better.

Daily, I made good progress but also faced challenges. Life was constantly one of those two-steps-forward-and-one-step-back experiences. Persevere, I kept telling myself. Persevere. Focus.

Each hour presented me with ups and downs. Take, for example, food.

One of the bonuses of Lomalinda was that carrots and tomatoes tasted like real carrots and tomatoes, genuine flavors I recalled from my childhood when people grew their own produce.

But why didn’t the other food taste like it was supposed to taste? We had only powdered milk, and it had a strong flavor. (The brand name was KLIM, milk spelled backward.) Raw beef, so different from ours in the States, had a sweet, stomach-turning stench and, cooked, it tasted gamy.

And why did food stink? Flour, rice, and sugar had an odor. Brown sugar smelled strange, too. It came in rock-hard lumps, and we had to grate it before we could use it.

But I shouldn’t have complained—it was food. And I hadn’t had to grow it or milk it or butcher it.

And then came the day
when something thrilling was going to happen:
For the first time, we would eat lunch at home
because we had the right groceries
in our cupboard and fridge.
We had dishes and silverware in the cupboards.
No more hiking to the dining hall—
such bliss!

Bent over the open suitcase on the floor, I sorted through the last of the pots and pans and plastic drinking glasses and a pressure cooker, arranging them just so in the cupboards. I was almost giddy.

But then—
a man arrived at our door
saying I had to empty the kitchen cupboards
so he could spray for insects.

I was furious but, I hope, I kept that to myself.
(From Chapter 8,

Now, looking back on that setback, tears sting my eyes. I was so young, and I was trying so hard to make that place a home for Dave and the kids and myself.

My discouragement was not unreasonable. The seventy-something me commends the tender twenty-something me for battling so hard.

I wish the older me could have spoken to the younger me. The older me recognizes that transitioning out of our comfortable places and into unfamiliar spaces includes griefgrief for what we have left behind.

It also involves a different type of grief—a pain, a misery, a pesky dark cloud—that envelops us as we fight and wrestle and, sometimes, even wage war to create a new home.

. . . Sometimes we need to just sit with the grief before being forced to move on. . . . Sometimes we need to just stop where we are and honor that moment.

Sit with your grief, let it flow, don’t try too hard to analyze, don’t push yourself . . . to some ‘right’ response. Just sit with it. Because as the grief comes, so will the comfort.” (Marilyn Gardner)

“Dear God . . . You are my one fixed stability 
in the midst of changing circumstances. 
Your faithfulness, Lord, is my peace. 
It is a source of comfort and courage. 
You know exactly what is ahead of me. 
Go before me to show the way. 
Here is my mind; inspire it with Your wisdom. 
Here is my will; infuse it with desire to follow Your guidance. 
Here is my heart; infill it with Your love. 
I realize, Father, that there is enough time today 
to do what You desire. . . . 
Thank You for your power and presence." 
(Quiet Moments with God, Lloyd John Ogilvie)

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Of matches, papayas, mosquitoes, bats—and cold showers

That afternoon—just twenty-four hours after landing in Lomalinda—I heard a cheery voice at the back door, “Knock-knock.” That was my introduction to a Lomalinda tradition—everyone called “Knock-knock” instead of knocking.

A lady stepped inside our big screened-in porch, introducing herself as our neighbor across the road, Ruth, and in that moment I saw a real-time demonstration of Matthew 25:35 in action: I was a stranger and Ruth was welcoming me.

She handed me pruning shears. “You can borrow these,” she smiled, pointing to vines climbing up our porch screens and leggy hibiscus plants outside the kitchen window. How thoughtful! I never would have thought to pack pruning shears in our suitcases, but we sure did need them.

I led her to the kitchen where she handed me a tin of homemade granola and a pitcher of fresh-squeezed lemonade. Ruth’s thoughtfulness blessed my heart.

“And this,” she said, “is papaya sauce—like applesauce but made with green papaya.” I didn’t know anything about papayas but was pleasantly surprised—we all liked applesauce so I expected our family would enjoy this new treat.

She also brought a ripe papaya and taught me how to peel it, scoop out its seeds, and cut up the flesh. Now, looking back, I continue to be touched by Ruth’s generosity and kind help.

She also showed me how to light my gas range and oven. The matches were half the size, in every dimension, of our wooden ones in the U.S. The stick part was short and made of something flimsy, maybe string, dipped in paraffin.

Ruth had to strike several matches before one flared up, but she never got flustered. I marveled at her quiet perseverance.

But even more than that, though I didn’t realize it at the time, watching her patiently striking those matches was like a parable teaching me how to live in Lomalinda. I wish I’d been more cognizant of that parable during our first couple of weeks in Lomalinda.

Nevertheless, in coming days and in various ways,
God impressed upon me—
in the silent way He sometimes does—
the importance of persisting in the face of obstacles.

I did keep fighting,
but those challenges loomed big.
Mighty big.

That evening, I looked back at the day. We’d had an uphill climb in more ways than one. Sweaty, gritty with dust—or sticky with mud, depending on the time of day—by evening I knew I should shower. But our house, like most in Lomalinda, had no water heater.

I’d have to take a cold shower.
Something inside me rebelled.

Dave had taken a shower earlier and suggested I lather up while standing toward the back of the stall, beyond the stream of water, and quickly rinse off afterward. I gave it a try, but the cold still took my breath away.

Spent, I dropped into our warm, damp bed and listened to mosquitoes dive-bombing my ears and bats rattling in the attic. Yes, bats. And they reeked something awful.

Were we crazy to move to Lomalinda?

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Giving myself a pep talk: You’ve got to do this

After the big chubasco blew beyond us and the weather settled, Dave walked to school, about a mile away. I headed back to unscramble the confusion in our suitcases, finding new homes for clothes, toys, sewing supplies, mixing bowls, and books.

A humid, hot wind blew through the windows, forcing me to move slowlya lifestyle I’d have to get accustomed to. Sweat ran down my face and neck. I splashed off with water, but that didn’t do much good—within seconds of toweling off, sweat broke out again.

Cockroaches skittered around the kitchen and left their stinky droppings in dark corners. They grew them big in Lomalinda—up to two inches long not counting antennae—and I was furious that one had run across my face during the night.

Until we unpacked cookware and dinnerware and stocked our cupboards, we ate lunch in the dining hall and so, fifteen minutes before noon Dave called and said he’d meet us there. I groaned at the thought of stepping out under that midday suneven in the shade, the thermometer read a hundred degrees. But the kids and I set out hiking those hills—no umbrellas, no hats, no sunglasses—arriving broiled and nauseated. We had hardly enough energy to lift our forks.

Eager to buy groceries, after lunch we explored the commissary, better known as “the comm.” A low-lying building painted sky blue, inside it was dark and cramped, the size of a small house. It smelled of laundry detergent, bleach, insect spray, powdered juice drink, burlap, and bread.
Shopping at the comm on another day

The manager, Esther Steen, smiled and said, “You’ll need this.” She handed me a round basket more than two feet wide with a handle over the top. I didn’t know why I needed it but thanked her.

Hand-crafted wooden shelves housed canned food—things like tuna and vegetables—but limited supplies shocked me. I found one loaf of bread, a small tin of rolled oats, and coffee, rice, flour, and powdered milk in small plastic bags.

A chest freezer held a few odd pieces of meat, but no ice cream. We would soon learn that the commissary stocked ice cream only on rare occasions.

I didn’t know it then, but on future days the commissary would sell broccoli, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, pineapples, bananas, oranges, lemons, and so much more, but that day I found no produce or fresh meat, and I despaired. How could I feed my kids well enough? How did people make decent meals?

I stacked food, laundry detergent, and toilet tissue on a dandelion-yellow wooden counter. Esther used an aged adding machine to total our bill, and then I learned the commissary had no grocery bags—everyone brought their own containers.

We loaded our new basket with groceries for Dave to carry, and what wouldn’t fit we piled into Matt’s arms, and Karen’s, and mine, and we marched out beneath a blistering sun—down a long hill, around a hill, up a hill, down a hill, and across the softball field. Dave’s arms must have ached under the weight of that awkward, overloaded basket.

By the time we reached home, the four of us felt sick. Nausea bubbled in my throat. Our heads ached, our eyes stung from the sun’s glare, our bodies dripped, and our mouths had gone dry.

I didn’t know it then but the four of us exhibited symptoms of what’s sometimes called “sun poisoning” (though no poison is actually involved). Symptoms can include “nausea, vomiting, chills, fever, headache, and a general feeling of being sick.”

I gave the kids a drink, settled them to rest in their bedrooms, and then collapsed across my bed. I hadn’t expected living in Lomalinda would require so much dogged effort. I wished I could wake up and find it a bad dream. But this was no dream.

Before long, Dave hiked back to school, delighted to get ready for his new job and the new school year. I let the kids nap but dragged myself up and resumed unpacking, giving myself a pep talk: You’ve got to do this. (From Chapter 7, Please,God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir)

Noticing the good stuff, finding the joy

I began to notice more good stuff going on in Lomalinda .     God was offeri ng me new opportunities. He was offering me a new perspectiv...