Today as I write this post something very significant is happening in the life of our family. This is the day that our oldest son Daniel, his wife Naomi and two children, Sammy and Maerah, leave the United States and head for Bolivia where they will begin their service with Evangelical Church Missions. They will find in the coming months that sometimes the call to cross cultural ministry can be very "rewarding and fulfilling." They will also discover that there will be days when they might find themselves questioning their call, wondering what they are doing there and how in the world were they ever convinced to sign up with this outfit for this service. It is all a very natural part of the adjustment to cross cultural living.
As field director helping new missionaries, it was not unusual to find them having these kinds of feelings. More than once I tried to gently remind them that "It is just Bolivia and this, too, will pass." I remember some of those days myself, when I was a new missionary in Bolivia, and thinking those very kinds of thoughts. As we old people say, it seems like it was just yesterday that I thought those things but of course that is a trick of an aging mind. Those thoughts are now 30 years old. But wait, no, they're not thirty years old. In fact, I believe it was just yesterday that I had those thoughts.
We have now been in Liberia for eight and a half months. In these months, including these past days, I have had these same thoughts again. "What am I doing here? Am I really needed? Am I earning my pay, deserving my keep? I feel like I'm simply spinning my wheels. Well, this has been another one of those (Liberian) days. I just want to go home! (back to Bolivia). How did we all manage to misread God's will in bringing us here?" And as I have had these feelings and more, I have struggled with them, at times feeling depressed over my own reactions and feelings. After all, I am a seasoned cross cultural worker. I've got close to thirty years of cross cultural living under my belt. I should not be reacting like this. What is wrong with me?
January 6 is the Day of the Magi or Epiphany. We had a Magi oriented craft at the children's home to celebrate this last day of the Christmas season. The kids colored, cut and pasted stars and wisemen to styrofoam plates. They especially liked the glitter glue to add sparkle to the star. Epiphany commemorates Jesus' manifestation to the gentile world, the revealing that his coming was not just for Jews but for all.
Sometime this past week I, too, had an Epiphany, an "ah ha!" moment. I"m a new missionary - not new to cross cultural living but certainly new to Liberian living. I should not be surprised when I have reactions to events and circumstances that recall my earliest days in Bolivia. It is easy to forget that it took years to develop self confidence in ministry in Bolivia and it also took years for the brothers to reach the level of confidence that they displayed in me. So, why should it happen quickly in Liberia? It won't and it is foolish to think that it might. This moment of new understanding for me probably won't make things any better on those Liberian days. I will still feel at times that I am spinning my wheels and yes, I will be still writing letters of resignation in my head. But, this too will pass.
As I look back on my earliest career and then at my present stage in ministry, I am reminded of the faithfulness of God through it all. As I have stumbled at times while learning, his grace has been sufficient and good. As I continue to stumble into Liberian ministry his grace will continue to be enough.
So it turns out that Daniel and I are in this together. I will be eagerly watching as his family finds their way in Bolivia. I will probably smile, laugh and definitely sympathize when they have Bolivian days. Maybe he'll do the same for me and we'll both laugh together as we learn and adjust to the call of God to cross cultural living.
Who am I?
- gordon elliott
- Monrovia, Liberia
- I live in Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa with my wife and youngest son. We are recently arrived in Liberia where we are serving as missionaries with Evangelical Church Missions working under the Liberia Evangelical Mission. For most of the last thirty years we have served under ECM in Bolivia, South America. We are the happy parents of four children and the proud grandparents of two grandchildren.