One year. We have lived out of America and on the island of Papua for one year and two months now. What a crazy whirlwind. In one year we have conquered some incredible things….and we have failed pretty miserably at some things too. It’s all about balance you know.
I’ve been thinking back to that time lately. The newbie me. The wide eyed, raw emotion, overwhelmed me. The me that was experiencing about a zillion “firsts”
Back then even the tiniest task or experience was a “first” and it was either scary, exciting, draining…or maybe even a combination of all of it. When I think back to that time not too long ago when I first landed in a strange new land, as I struggled to make it home, to figure out the dangers, the culture, the language, just how to FUNCTION in day to day life…..EVERYTHING was a learning curve.
How do I use a squatty potty without making a huge mess? And you expect me to flush this HOW?
I can’t even go potty properly in this country!
It’s hot. Like I am sitting here doing absolutely nothing and I am drenched in sweat.
The power went out AGAIN?!?
I was told be careful of ice…..can I drink this juice? Is this water safe? Can I eat at this restaurant? Probably not. It will probably kill me.
I can’t drive….but I need groceries. Okay. How do I get to the store? Taxi. I finally am brave enough to venture out to the road…flag down a taxi by myself, get in a taxi, with my paper in hand that has my few Indonesian phrases written on it….I make it to the store. I’ve already conquered quite a feat!
|I don't know.|
I walk the streets, stress is high. But I am kind of proud of myself. I am brave I think……but don’t say “BOO!” cause I might come out of my skin.
I walk past people. I cause a scene everywhere I go. I do NOT blend in. As I walk past large groups of people they all stare as I go by. Sometimes they yell something out or try to say something to me…..I have no idea what they are saying. Is it good? Is it bad? Are they saying “hi, can I help you?” or are they going to kidnap me and drag me away never to be seen again? I know this seems dramatic. But bear with me…..I am a total newbie. My strategy is to smile. A kind smile, but not TOO kind. That could bring other trouble?!?! Ugh. I’m tired. Emotionally, and physically. Did I mention it is HOT? Okay. I made it to my stores. I consider it a success that I didn’t fall into one of the random holes in the sidewalk filled with slime water and tons of garbage. Small victories. I will take them. I can go home now. Taxi. Okay. I stand on the side of the road. Flag down a taxi. Preferably one that is not stuffed with people. One pulls over. I always try to scan the taxi situation before I enter. This driver looks safe right? I double check it is the right kind of taxi. Okay. Good to go. On the taxi. Headed home. I can see the ground through the floor boards of this taxi. It’s kind of funny. I chuckle and snap a picture. Oh shoot. I hope the driver didn’t see that. I don’t want to offend him. Ugh. Almost home. I forgot to pull out the money for the taxi ride BEFORE I got on the taxi. Great. Now I have to pull out my money in front of all these people! They are watching me. NOTHING can be done secretly in public. I wish I could just blend in right about now. Okay. I pulled out the right amount and didn’t have my money come cascading onto the floor like the scenario in my head played out. My stop is coming up……..how do I say stop again?! Oh no…..where is my paper with my Indonesian phrases on it. I dig in my purse frantically…….FOUND IT. “berhenti”……..he didn’t hear me! Oh shoot!!….and I am painfully shy to try to speak my words. “BERHENTI”………..WHEW. He heard me. I will live to see another day. I juggle all my bags and pay the man and start walking down my road. Almost home!! I made it!! I enter the house feeling FILTHY dirty. TIRED, HOT DRAINED. But I DID IT! And I enjoyed the adventure of it! But now…..cooking…… I don’t have an oven. I call my friend. Can I come over and use your oven for an hour or so?? I gear up to leave again…..taking all my cookie ingredients. I walk about 10 min to my friend’s house. Use her oven….bake my cookies………..(side note…now I know baking cookies at this stage was a bit of a HUGE undertaking. Haha. I was determined to do something familiar….I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I wanted to produce something that felt familiar and wanted to surprise my friends and teammates at our prayer meeting that night.)
|This is a real picture Grace took. I think I was a little stressed out. lol|
I made my cookies. And they turned out. I cleaned up my friend’s kitchen and I walked home. Crossed the hot street….down my road….. Get home. Time to sanitize the veggies. This was a process I quickly learned I did not enjoy. What is that sound??!! Torrential DOWNPOUR!!!! Oh no!!! My clothes hanging outside!!!!!!!!!.................Too late. They are drenched. UGHHHH!!! I come inside. The ants are attacking AGAIN! What in the world! I have an army the size of Texas pouring in my window down the wall and going all over the kitchen. Oh…..must have been this ONE COOKIE CRUMB I LEFT OUT FOR 30 FREAKING SECONDS THAT INSPIRED THIS 6-INCH-WIDE HIGHWAY OF ANTS TO INVITE THEMSELVES IN!!!!! Calm…calm…no forget calm. I’m hot. I look like a mess. My floor is a muddy mess from sanitizing my veggies so that they go from veggies of DEATH to something edible. The ants are on my last nerve! The heat is on the nerve after that. The humidity is on the nerve after THAT! The thrill of the success of cookies is over. Now I start to resent the dumb cookies. It literally took me ALL the energy I had, ALL day….tons of stress and then even more energy to make these dumb cookies!!!! And I don’t even have that many!!!!!
|Dreaming of Safeway|
Was that a little bit of crazy coming out?..... I think so…because I’m feeling a little cray cray)
And while I am at it…. WHY CAN’T I SPEAK THIS LANGUAGE?!?! Enter my husband’s voice of reason….. “Amanda, you have only been here two weeks.” ……..Please don’t reason with me….….I’m ridiculous! I can’t even remember how to say good morning! I’ll never get this….I should be fluent by now!!!! Why is it so hot!! WAS THAT A MOSQUITO THAT JUST BIT ME??! Great. Now I am going to get malaria or dengue and probably die. I just saw a cockroach run into my room!! Ugh. Whatever. I have no energy for that cockroach. (one night I did wake up to one running from my neck down my arm)
Prayer group time. I put myself together. Hair frizzies under control as well as can be expected in this humidity. My (lovingly named) “sweat-stach” always in its place on my upper lip. I get my cookies and I head to my friend’s house. I must admit…..it is fun to surprise my friends with the cookies. Everyone enjoyed those little nuggets of gold. Prayer goes good. But I don’t think I was totally honest about everything. I (foolishly) put an expectation on myself that I was going to nail this whole new country thing. So I shared a few lighthearted struggles…..or gauge how everyone else seems to be doing…..but no way do I share with the group something more dramatic than they do. I’ve always had an ability to pull my boots up and get on with life over the hard stuff……but sometimes we sure make it harder on ourselves that we have to!
At my friend’s house Grace put the end of an unwashed leafy green from the pasar in her mouth…….THE HORROR. Keep calm. Keep it together….on the outside at least. I asked my friend...what could happen…. desperately hoping they would say……Awe…she will be alright. (not that I would have believed that) I was panicked on the inside. She is going to get some bug…..some tropical PASAR DISEASE!!!!!! My friend said…..she will probably be just fine…maybe some diarrhea…but she is healthy, has a good immune system. But that didn’t stop this mom from having a 5 minute “spit in the toilet!!!!”” session, and then “calmly” march home as fast as I could and take care of this!!!! But how?! Bleach?! Of course I can’t make her rinse her mouth with bleach, although that would probably be better than whatever parasite she just swallowed!!!!!!.....
At the end of the day I was hot, sticky, dirty, sweaty and stinky and EXAUSTED. Just like almost every day…..I willed myself to wash all the dishes, clean the house, and take a shower. I sat in our tiny bathroom on the tile floor…..I sat on the ground because the water pressure was so low that it was better the lower I was…..still a trickle. The shower head was sticking out of the wall. I sat there each night in our tiny bathroom….my head a foot away from the toilet seat, and washed away the dirt and stress of the day.
God had His hand all over that year! He let us face some giants….so that He could show us the power He has to take the giant down, or give us the strength we need to fight it. Example. One day alone in the mall, still very new, I was walking to the ATM room. It is a more secluded place. I didn’t see anything suspicious, but I felt that still small voice of the Holy Spirit say “don’t go in there” I immediately made a sharp turn towards a sports store, just then two large men came out of the ATM room. They locked their eyes on me and my heart sank. They were almost running toward me. I walked quickly into the store, near the checkout stand where I knew there were employees, knowing this would be a confrontation….then I turned around to face them. The look on the man who confronted me was ominous… He looked pleased that he had his prey cornered. I felt like prey too. He had this odd smile on his face as he was talking to me taking steps towards me. I was shaking like a leaf on the inside…trying to appear confident and kind. In the little language I knew I told him….I don’t understand you, I am not yet fluent, I’m sorry” I kept saying this over and over. He would take a step toward me and be in my bubble, I would take a step back…..I was running out of space…He knew I was uncomfortable, and he seemed to enjoy it. The store employees were all watching….I desperately looked over at one of them for help….then I caught a whiff of alcohol on the man’s breath….which is bad news bears here. I panicked inside. I thought “I don’t know what to do, I don’t know this culture enough to know if anyone would help me, or just watch the scene unfold, I don’t know the language well enough to ask for help! I don’t know the people well enough to know if being firm will elevate the situation, or if being meek will embolden these men….I felt like a mouse trapped in a corner by a cat….I just knew I needed to GET OUT OF THERE. I said loudly…..”I have to go NOW!” and I ran out of the store and down the stairs and into the grocery store in the basement. But there was no way out except the way I came, and I was scared the men were waiting for me. I walked the store, adrenaline in full effect. I was shaking physically and shaking on the inside too. I couldn’t get ahold of matt…I called Matt’s friend Jared and told him what happened and asked him to talk to me as I tried to leave the mall. He talked to me until I got to a taxi. I was shaken. That was scary. It threatened to cripple my ability to get out of my house. But when I was calm enough (a few days later) to really think about the situation…not just the fear it brought…..I could hear God reminding me…..”but I protected you, I didn’t let you go into that room with them, I protected you” Yes, it was scary. But I am glad it happened. It showed me God’s hands in scary situations.
Another time Matt and Grace went to a late dinner without me. I was feeling sick. The team was meeting for dinner. Matt and Grace took the taxi. It was getting late. I expected them home already. I was laying on the sofa watching a movie when I felt like I should pray for them. I reasoned the feeling away thinking that I was just being a worry wart. Two more times I felt this strong urge to pray for them. So I turned off the movie and I prayed. Still thinking it was just me being dramatic…not really the Holy Spirit encouraging me to pray… I prayed for about ten minutes. Praying for protection for them, for God to put angel warriors around them, that no evil could touch them. About ten min after I started praying, Matt and Grace walked in the door. First thing Matt said was “wow, I’ve never been so happy to get OFF of a taxi in my life” Matt and Grace caught a taxi with two people in it. The driver and another man. It soon became clear that these two were friends and up to no good. The driver was behaving erratically and almost ran another car off the road for cutting him off. The two men acted as though they were “on something” and it was clear they were talking about Matt and Grace…which is not uncommon…but it felt off to Matt. Matt asked them to stop the taxi, and they acted like they did not hear Matt, when He knew they could hear him. Instead they ignored him and kept going. Matt firmly said “stop now” and they did, already past home. Matt quickly got off and walked home. We lined the time up. The same time God prompted me to start praying would be the same time Matt and Grace got on that taxi. Same thing. God allowed us to experience something scary, but He was showing us His power and ability over the situation.
One day I woke up to a message on Facebook. Someone I know of, but have never met, and never talked to sent me a message saying they had a bad dream about our place and our family…they woke up and felt the Holy Spirit tell them to pray for us….so she woke her husband and they walked their house praying for us…. Nothing happened to us that lines up with that time…and I firmly believe that nothing happened because that woman was faithful and woke up to pray for us…who knows what never happened because she was praying for us. God literally woke someone up in the middle of the night, on the other side of the world to pray for us. Amazing.
I learned a lot in that first year. I came to this new country with ideas of what it all might be like. Ideas only. Before I made the move to this new country I had only been in three countries…. (layovers don’t count) The USA, Canada and Switzerland. None of them had prepared me for third world. This was like nothing I had been exposed to before…. except in movies of course.
I can’t tell you in words everything I learned….it was too huge, too much to try and explain. Maybe some of you know this feeling. I lost my voice for a while. I didn’t have the energy or will to try to explain all of this “newness” to you folks back home. It was overwhelming.
Some people were worried about me. I mean, a young(ish) girl who has never REALLY seen or done anything like this before, just jumping in both feet, full immersion, with a romanticized idea of missions in her head. Talk about reality meeting expectations. But you know what? I did it. We did it. Jesus and I. He sustained me, He gave me strength, He carried my tired self, He gave me the capacity to learn a new language….ME, who had NO love of language learning….I learned to love it. He gave me a love for the people. A love for this place.
So when I look back at my first year in Indonesia, when I look back at the younger me, the brand spanking new at this me……
It was fun. I loved it. I didn’t love every second of it….but I loved it. I’ve been pushed, grown, stretched. I’ve been beat up by this place and this place has shown me a great time. I have had so many adventures here! So many tears and secret fears. Insecurities roar their ugly head, and those insecurities usually proven wrong. I love this place. I love these people. I would do the first year again.
When I look back I see the hard times, the culture shock, the tears….but that is not what defines my first year. It impacted it, but it does not define it. I love living here! How awesome! How humbling. A sinner like me, with my MANY sins, with my rebellious past, and He WANTS me, He uses me. It is amazing grace. I love Jesus not because of religion, not because of head knowledge, not because it’s what I grew up with….but because I’ve SEEN Him in my life, I’ve talked to Him, and He has talked to me, He has saved me, and I have seen miracles. This year has been full of them.
AND GUESS WHAT?!?! …
Now I know the words for sugar, flour, baking soda, and butter. Now I don’t panic when I hand my money over to pay. Now I can understand what those people are trying to say to me. I can tell a taxi to stop confidently, now I know that the veggies from the pasar are not going to kill me, or my daughter. I can combat the ants. I don’t notice garbage, or holes in the sidewalk, going out and about doesn’t drain me like it used to. Moving water around is just a normal task now……did I ever not do this?? I know from experience that God is bigger than Dengue fever (the most dreaded mosquito illness here) because Matt and Grace both caught it. I know malaria won’t kill me….just make me reeeeally sick, because I caught it. I know God is bigger than drunk people, or scary situations. I know He is bigger than culture shock, and He is bigger than expectations meeting reality, and all the chaos that entails. I know He can sustain a newbie, not only sustain but flourish me where I am planted.
And you know what….I’ve only just completed chapter one. I know some culture, some language, but I just scratched the surface. I’ve entered a new chapter, with new difficulties, new triumphs…and I know His fingerprints will be all over this chapter too….whatever it may bring….
So all that being said……..
Dear new missionary. Dear friend in America, Dear friend anywhere in the world….wherever it is God has you……. You can do this. It doesn’t matter who says what, it doesn’t even matter what your own emotions tell you sometimes. It matters what Jesus says. You CAN do this. If He has called you to this, He WILL walk you through it….. Yes, there will be struggles. Hard ones. And maybe in the moment you will think you can’t. But looking back you will see how He can, and He did. And yes, there will be times, seasons, when you feel you are walking through the mud…but there will be times when you are flying over the mountain tops too! God will bring you to that new place (not even always a new country…new job, new situation, new life stage, new scary…fill in the blank) to move mountains in your life. Don’t be afraid of the culture shock, don’t be afraid of the fire. Don’t let that scary and painful fiery season burn you up……..because gold is refined in the fire, gold is purified in the fire. And you my dear friend are gold, in the hands of your goldsmith, your Maker.
It’s not about us, it’s all about Jesus.
|Papua life. No seatbelt.|
|Set me loose on the driving world....|
|Because you just can't take yourself too seriously.|
|The WORST sunburn of my life, hands down.|
|Let the crazy out....it helps with the stress.|
|Night lobster spearing in the ocean.|
|The real me. I'll do anything rugged, I love any adventure! And I'm gonna do it with my pink lipgloss on. =)|