myMISSION Missionary Blog

My First Love

We had landed. Our new family of three, after flying over 20 hours around the world, had arrived in Madagascar. It was a bit emotional for me looking out the tiny plane window. This was our new home and even from my limited view it appeared very different than I had imagined.

As ridiculous as it may sound, somehow I thought that hundreds of nationals would be standing there to greet us overwhelmed with gratitude that we had come to share the Good News with them. Surprisingly, this was not the case. Within the first 24 hours on the ground, I came to the stark realization that I was not able to communicate enough to purchase water...much less share the gospel presentation.

I recall standing in the bathroom, staring into the mirror, and totally losing it. Seventy-two hours in and I had already completely lost sight of my first Love. I had the innate ability to have somehow made this calling all about me and not about Him in a simple plane ride across the ocean. It was in that moment that I knew I could go no further. This life was not about me; this calling not even possible without Him. My focus had to change.

The Action of Compassion

"Salama!" She looked up, surprised that a foreigner was speaking her heart language. She was a shop keeper, peddling goods to foreigners. No one had ever stopped just to talk with her. It was on that day that she knew there was something different about this foreigner who wanted more than a colorful basket.

Choosing to stay that first time I sat down with her was a big deal. I was nervous, and anything but fluent in her language. However, I knew the Lord was telling me to sit on that rickety wooden bench. Sitting there in the sun, trying to piece together the vocabulary that I recognized, I wondered what I was doing. Surely, this is not what missions looks like.

Looking back, on that day, something changed. She became real to me; not someone I saw in passing or prayed for off a prayer card. I heard stories of her three girls and the school they attended. She talked about her husband and how he had not accepted the Truth in his heart. My heart broke as she told me that she had learned to read but could not afford a Bible. I was introduced to compassion. For the first time it was not just a word, but an emotion that produced an action.

The Cyclone

The email from the embassy should have been our first clue. Rumors of cyclone seasons of past were quickly turning into reality. After watching the weather and talking with other missionaries, we decided to stay put. A little rain in the dry land of Tulear would be nice!

Two days in, as I ran around the house putting buckets under leaks, I wondered if staying was the right choice. Electricity had been cut the moment the rains started and the wind gusts were powerful enough to blow a person down. When it finally stopped, and we stepped outside, I realized how selfish my thoughts had been.

Our home was standing but the Malagasy ones were destroyed. Our lives were inconvenienced but theirs were devastated. I had never seen such destruction in all of my life. Families had lost loved ones in the flash flooding. The small amounts of rice or vegetables they had were gone. The homes that held their few possessions were washed away. My eyes filled with tears, and my heart was flooded with grief. What could we do? How could we help?

A Teaching Degree

The box next to "Christian Studies" was marked. My college major was chosen. I felt confident and somehow more mature. Checking that small box on the blue form seemed to be one of the biggest decisions I had ever made.

Why would I choose anything else? God had shown me that I would be serving Him overseas once I graduated so what good would any other major do for me? Two months into college, God began to speak to my heart. He wanted me in the education building. A teacher? Really? I looked into seeing if it could be my minor. No such luck.

Reluctantly, I filled out the form to change my major and over the next three and a half years fell completely in love with teaching. Fast forward four years after graduation, and I'm getting on a plane to go and serve as an international missionary in Madagascar. His plan remained and He did not need my help to get me there.

That teaching degree opened up doors to an English-as-a-second-language community that I would not have had otherwise. He gave me a classroom of precious deaf children that I was welcomed into because of my education degree. He saw the future so much clearer than I ever have.

Blocking the Distractions

Bike tires squealing, people selling their goods, goats and cattle making their presence known . . . these are the sounds that fill the space outside my window. It seems when I seek a quiet space, the outside sounds only get louder. Living in a foreign land has its challenges, but one of the biggest is tuning out the distractions.

Distractions in Madagascar might look a bit different than they do in America, but they still accomplish the same goal: they keep my attention from being focused on God. The funny thing is that it's my choice. I choose to let them distract me. My mind finds itself in a whirlwind of outside activity coupled with the toddler tornado that's happening inside my home.

Part of being a follower of Christ means that I am called to listen. I must choose to prioritize time alone with God and studying the Bible. Making this a priority for me looks like waking up before my toddler does (with the sun), turning on some Ellie Holcomb music (drowns out those outside noises), and sitting still.

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