Monday, August 24, 2015

Who am I to Do the Work Set Before Me?

Since coming to Cactus, I have struggled with feelings of unworthiness. I find myself asking who am I? (Now I expect my mom to call me with words of encouragement telling me not to feel unworthy)

Who am I to direct an ESL program with teachers who are older and more experienced than I am?

Who am I to minister to refugees who have experienced things I cannot even fathom?

I am a young, white, middle-class, married American citizen. The longest time I can remember going without food is...wait for it...2 meals. I missed supper & breakfast one night in high school as I participated (voluntarily) in part of a 30-hour famine.

As I sit here typing, I could fix myself spaghetti, ravioli,  mixed bean soup, refried beans, chicken & rice, chicken noodle soup, chicken & rice soup, grilled cheese, peanut butter & jelly, eggs any way imaginable. If those don't tickle my fancy, I could have cheese, cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, protein bars, or one of four types of nuts to make sure I'm getting enough protein. I have several types of fruits & vegetables in my fridge, freezer, and pantry. My fridge is full, as it my pantry, but I had trouble deciding on a meal, because I...wait for it...have nothing to eat...that tickles my fancy.

I have lived in a country for a year where my native language was not the official language spoken, but when I went to to the doctor, I could explain my symptoms in English and receive my diagnosis in English. I got a small taste of what it was like to get instructions in a new language, but translators were never far away.

I have been in a country where it is not safe to drink the water, but I stayed there a total of 9 days. Any inconvenience can be lived with for 9 days, especially if divided into a 4-day & 5-day trip.

We were told before coming to Cactus, Texas, that although we *technically* are in the United States, we should really consider ourselves in a third world country, within an hour of American cities.

Living in an older (i.e. drafty) house, I have felt colder than I planned and I have had our pipes freeze on us multiple times here. I feel cold when the house is 60 instead of 68, yet I have more than enough layers & blankets to keep me warm at night and during the day. When the pipes freeze, I still have a pitcher of it in the fridge, a tea kettle full of it on the stove, as well as a collection of bottled waters & bottles of water in the fridge. When the pipes unfreeze, we get bathroom water first, so I can fill a bowl in the tub & use it to wash dishes as needed.

I feel unworthy of service because I realize that I am yet another well-intentioned soul offering aid and advice when I have no clue what it is like to be a refugee. I feel ashamed, because I have lived a life of luxury and yet, I'm proud of my creative resourcefulness with "limited means".

Yet, I can learn from those around me and I can care for those who have had different life experiences. God cares for the poor, the oppressed, the ones who are called the least of these. God can teach me to do the same.

Who am I do the work set before me? I am no one of consequence, but I serve a God who is the only One who matters.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I Prayed for Compassion

I prayed to have compassion, because it is a skill that I lack. (Seriously, ask my husband. He may be polite & I am more forthright with him, but I have a distinct lack of compassion when I feel that the choices people make put them in their situation.)

I prayed to have compassion and suddenly difficulties arose in my life.

I never understood the loneliness felt by stay-at-home moms and at-home workers, until I was working at home and my husband was working outside the home. You see, for the first two years we were married, I was a student & as an introvert, I got enough "people time" that I was always grateful for alone time. Then for our third year of marriage, I was substituting, volunteering, and preparing to move to another country for ministry. Again, my need to be around people was always met. On our foreign mission field during our fourth year of marriage, I had generous amounts of quality time with my spouse, and spent my days in language classes and office work. I would feel "peopled-out" and enjoy my introvert time, content that I was a strong introvert, a 10/10 on the Myers-Briggs introversion-extroversion scale.

When we moved to Cactus, for the first month and a half we were here, my husband was at home with me all the time, as we settled in and started our volunteer work. "Alone time" meant that I was in one room and he was in another. Then, my husband went off to work for 8-10 hours a day. Then I realized that my need to be around people had always been met, leaving me to feel like the introvert of introverts. I was lonely. I felt isolated, because we were in a new place and so many of the people I knew were working during the day. I was alone, and then I began to understand the stories my friends & family members told me of feeling isolated & trapped at home, or of watching mindless tv shows just to have a semblance of human interaction.

I never understood scarcity until my pipes froze multiple times in our first winter in Cactus. Suddenly, I had no water, or limited water. I would fill bowls with water from the tub to wash dishes. It was inconvenient, but functional.

I didn't expect, when I prayed for compassion, that I would face difficulties that would allow me a greater sympathy with others. But maybe, if God just gave me compassion, I would not have valued it as much. Instead, God gave me empathy through shared experiences that allowed me to experience the compassion I so desperately wanted.