Confessions of a Missionary
Every Saturday I coach a little boys soccer team at a children’s home. One of the younger boys on the team is named Luca. Luca is a lot of fun to coach. He is excited to play, he works hard, and almost always has a smile on his face. Saturday mornings our truck pulls up to the home and one of the first boys I see is Luca. When he spots us arriving through the gate he grabs his cleats, puts them on his feet, grabs the balls from the back of the truck and runs to meet us at the field. As soon as he gets to the field he promptly kicks off his cleats and begins dribbling the ball around. And the sidelines are where his cleats remain until the completion of practice. Even more humorous about this, is the fact that Luca is not the only boy who prefers to play in bare feet. Sometimes the boys will share a pair of cleats, each taking one boot. Most often they will place the boot on their weaker foot, leaving the strong foot bare and available to shoot with. It all made very little sense to me so the other day, after spotting Luca’s cleats once again lying lifeless on the field, I asked Oom, one of our Thai coaches, about this precarious situation. He explained to me that he used to do the same. Oom also grew up in a children’s home and every so often he would be given a pair of cleats. But as a young boy he found the cleats to be uncomfortable, awkward, and in his words, “I thought my foot was much stronger without the cleat.”
What a silly thought, yet how similar am I when it comes to my perspective on gifts, talents, strengths and even blessings. When someone asks me what my gifts or talents are, I immediately begin to think about what it is that I am good at or the things that come easy to me. Yet if I were to look back on my life over the last 5, 10, or even 15 years, I would have to admit that the answer to the that question has changed over the course of time. And it is not because suddenly I became good at something that I previously struggled with. Rather it is because God has placed me in various situations, brought about different circumstances that forced me to grow, challenged me, allowed me to fail, picked me up and challenged me again. When I first thought about being a missionary in a foreign country, I thought that because God called me to go, He would make the process easy and dare I say fun and rewarding. I thought I would slip on my missionary cleats and walk with ease across the boarders, the culture, yes even the language barrier. I thought my mind, soul, and spirit would magically be strong enough to combat any negative thought or emotion that dared to challenge me. When people asked me how it is that I know God has called me to go to Thailand my immediate response would be, “because I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.” But now, a year a half later, it is time for true confessions. There are days, in fact many days, where I would rather be anywhere else than here in Thailand. Soon after arriving here I found that the missionary cleats are not so comfortable. They take a lot of getting used to. I have stumbled, I have fallen, I have cried and cried and cried because all I want to do is kick them off my feet and go home. I have thrown my language book across the room because there are a million tones which all have a zillion rules that do not make any sense to me. At times I get frustrated with the children when listening and following instructions is the last thing on their agenda. Once you see a moving creature roaming around your dinner, Thai food becomes less exotic and more suspicious. And don’t get me started on the driving rules, or should I say lack of rules, here in this country. Skype is a beautiful invention that allows us to stay connected with family and for that I am so thankful, but so far it has not allowed me to go watch my nephew play quarterback for his freshman football team, or to help my niece get ready for her first high school dance or to hold my new nephew moments after his birth. I miss silly things like warm fire places, pumpkin spice latte’s and black licorice. But I’m getting carried away so let me bring you back around to the illustration God showed me through Luca’s bare feet. Sometimes God’s greatest gifts, our greatest strengths, our greatest blessings, are those for which we must struggle for and stumble over in order to achieve and receive. Sometimes we have to take several painful steps, even walk a few painful miles before the shoe begins to fit. And even then, there are always a few rocks that get stuck underneath the toe along the way. But if we don’t take the journey we will never see the full potential that God has gifted us with. I still have far to go, the shoes are still awkward, but the truth is, my confidence does not lie in the shoes, it lies in the one that gave me the shoes. So why do I believe God has called me here to Thailand…well I do have some fun and rewarding moments but I will have to hold off on giving an answer. I’ll let you know in 5 to 10 years…or more.