I wrote this a little over a month ago, but never got around to publishing. Better late than never, right?
Here I am on my one-year Romaniversary! I keep thinking about what I'm going to say to my church this month while I'm home for a visit. What did I do all year? Where did I go? Who did I serve? How? Why? It would be so simple to make a list, find a picture to go with each bullet point, maybe tell a few stories. But it's not that simple.
It's not simple; it's sobering.
I just heard from a friend back home who lost three of her students in a car accident. It's sobering to think that the year I spent with my students could be the last year of their lives, the last year they and their parents got to hear about Jesus. I have one more year here and I'm soberly considering how to spend it.
Then I read an article about Katie Davis in Africa with her 13 children, and I can think of twice as many I'd love to take into my home, but the state won't let me because I'm a foreigner. When we're told our whole lives "you can do whatever you want if you set your mind to it," it's sobering to find out there are things Americans can't do.
I log into facebook and see weddings, babies, first-time homeowners, puppies, respectable jobs, funerals. It's sobering to see how much can happen in a year, how much can change, and sometimes I feel like I've pressed "pause" on all that life progress. But then I see myself carrying 4.5 pounds of walnuts home from the market on the other side of town, or singing with a borrowed guitar in a tiny village church where I don't need a translator because I speak Romanian. I talk straight with a young girl from an American mission team about what she needs to know about living overseas, and I can't believe I'm in a position to give this kind of counsel. I'm amazed at what these 12 months have done to me. Maybe I still don't have a dog, or steady income, but there are other kinds of progress to be made. "Pause" doesn't exist in life -- a year is a year, and on the other side of it we'll all be a year older, whatever kind of growth that may mean for each of us. None of it can ever be neatly outlined, really.
I guess what I'm getting around to is the oddly-glamourized view of mission work as escape from reality, even just for a short time. I think for too many people it's a chance to get away from their own problems and spread good cheer while wearing a long skirt and chacos, or maybe if you're a guy it's not shaving and wearing chacos, I don't know. I do know that a life of serving Jesus by serving others puts you face to face with more reality than you ever wanted to confront, acquainting you with the most heartbreaking stories and desperate situations. Sometimes you feel almost ashamed of your own happy childhood. What's more, this life forces you to confront the ugly reality of your own heart when it's been stripped of all it used to hide behind, and that is the most sobering of all experiences.
But in all of this sobriety I've been both challenged and comforted by one ultimate reality, that sinless Jesus died to save sinners and overcame death, and at the end of this life it only matters whether you and I believed that or not.
So for me, that's been my 25th year. I guess I can do without the bullet points and the puppy.