An Answer to the Question

What did you learn while you were on home assignment? 

Our director asked us this about 36 hours after we got back to our Asian home.  At the time we were severely jetlagged and my brain was not really processing as well as it does at other times, so I didn’t give much of an answer.  I’ve thought about the question since and I can answer with a little more clarity and thoughtfulness.

I’ll be very honest and say that I went back to the US with an amount of guilt and shame.  I felt like a failure.  I hid those feelings well, the depth of them even from myself to an extent.  Toffer had so much to show for his time on the field. I had what felt like nothing to show for all the prayers, work, tears, blood, and copious amounts of sweat I’d given to our first term.

Our first couple months in the US we were able to lay a little low because we weren’t technically on home assignment.  Toffer kept doing his job, including a return to Asia for two weeks, until our home assignment began in early October.  We started our official time in the US in a healing way.  We went to Colorado to spend a day at our organization’s headquarters, then up the road a short bit to spend a week debriefing with other people in our line of work from a variety of organizations and fields.  God met me there in a powerful way.

He used the other people in our group and our facilitators to speak truth into my life, truth I needed to hear.  While other people might be disappointed by me, God was not disappointed in me. HE saw everything I had poured into our first term. HE saw every tear, every drop of sweat, every single minute we spent at the hospital. HE heard every prayer. HE knew what I had done and HE was not disappointed. HE didn’t tell me to look at the silver linings or the brighter side. HE allowed me to begin to process, to grieve, to get perspective on where I had been and where I was going. HE fought for me. HE was with me. I had space to name my experiences for what they were without judgement or condemnation. I had done nothing wrong and had no reason to feel guilty, ashamed, or like God was disappointed in me.  It was freeing and I felt healthier spiritually and emotionally than I had in a long time.

We went from there to Iowa to see family, friends, and supporters. We were in a place that is one of my homes. I have several and keep adding to the list.  We had a lovely week and left Iowa feeling encouraged and built up.  That was the beginning of about five months of church visits and supporter visits and raising insane amounts of support and trying to figure out why in the world America has so many varieties of Cheerios (True Story-I apparently looked so perplexed one day trying to pick out something at the grocery store that a lady told me to just buy one of everything on the shelf in front of me). As we went along doubts of who I am or what I had/hadn’t done crept into my life. God was not impatient with me and kept showing up as I continued to process our time on the field.

We  eventually made it to February and what a month it was. The whole thing was a huge, miraculous blur where God raised up people from all over America to fulfill our significant financial support needs. I spent so much of that month telling God about what we needed and why we needed it and He always responded, “I know. I see. I’m not confused or surprised or unaware.” I became so acutely aware of God’s presence.  All that faith He’d built in me during the previous years, all the times He was there when each day felt like a fog trying to learn to live in a weird place.  That month it all came to a head-I had to trust, I had to realize God was truly present. And He showed up, as He always does.

That month was capped off with a missions conference at a supporting church.  One of the other participants has been in our line of work much longer than we have and he works in caring for the workers in his organization.  We had dinner with him one night and interacted with him on several occasions throughout the weekend.  He told me two things during the weekend that were so helpful. One was telling me that, like my children, I am a third culture kid (which I was also told at debrief, but hadn’t really started processing until I was told again at this conference). The other was telling me that God is so very proud of me.  God put him in my life to encourage me in ways I needed and to give me a solid reminder of how He feels about me before we got back on the plane.  This kind gentleman’s words have come to mind multiple times as we’ve been resettling here.

The question was posed two and a half months ago and as I’ve continued to process, resettle, and move forward I feel like I can give a much better answer than did. These are brief synopsis of deep and ongoing work that God is doing in my life.  Here is the truth God gave me:

God is fully, unconditionally, without fail present in my life and He, a victorious warrior, is for me.
I am a beloved Daughter who brings joy, not disappointment and shame, to the King.