Disclaimer: Whether rational or not, these are my real feelings. So if they seem selfish and betray a misguided sense of missions, well, yes. My rational mind agrees with you. Meanwhile my emotions are out swinging from the chandelier.
Here we go, Top 10 Reasons and the emotions that follow them...
You wouldn't think this was a bad thing, would you? But when I arrived and realised there is a mall with a large grocery store right in the middle of town, I felt a sense of shame. Shame because 'real missionaries' (whatever the heck that is) aren't supposed to serve in developed places.
2) There are a LOT of missionaries here. Like, hundreds.
"Reaching the Unreached" that's our agency's slogan. And working with the world's least served communities is what our hearts beat for. So when I realised just how many other missionaries are here I felt a sense of disappointment. Disappointment that the front line is so crowded.
3) No matter how big I smile, a lot of people don't want to sit next to me in the taxi.
And sometimes, they won't even get in the taxi if they see us. It's weird and like so many other things, I don't understand it. I'm frustrated by it.
4) I came to minister to their needs, but I'm pretty helpless so they minister to mine.
Friends drive across town to pick me up and take me places. They help me with language and cheer me on even when I mess up. They send me encouraging texts nearly every day with Indonesian proverbs like: No tough sailors emerge from a calm sea. Similarly no tough and true leader emerged from a situation without problems. Local friends minister to me and I feel so encouraged.
5) Dog and cats aren't neutered.
Perhaps this seems strange to add to the list, but with the heavy emphasis back in the US on spaying and neutering, this really was a surprise. Dogs and cats are generally considered outside animals and allowed to roam the neighborhood. All these animals walking the streets 'intact' leaves me with a sense of fear.
6) Papua is a cultural melting pot with many people coming from all over Indonesia.
The diversity of tribes here is astonishing. The majority of the people living in our town are migrants. It actually feels a bit like living in Florida where nearly everyone is born somewhere else. With everything new around me, this feels a bit like being home.
7) I hate studying the language with my husband.
This sounds harsh, but it's true and important so makes the list. Although we've enjoyed working together in the past, studying together is immensely frustrating. We learn differently and progress at difference speeds. I hate studying with my husband and I feel like a bad wife.
8) I can't cope with as much as I thought I would be able to.
I've prepared for living cross culturally for years, but I still can't cope with as much as I thought I would be able to. And when I'm frustrated by something little that my brain tells me is ok but my emotions are freaking out over, I feel stupid.
9) I can cope with much more than I thought I would be able to.
Sometimes the opportunity for melting down is so big and obvious. Like the power being out on a 100+ degree day and Ben trying to take a nap and Isaiah is having a tantrum and the kids from next door are all peaking in the windows to see what the screaming is about and the puppy pees on the rug and then bites my feet. Yet somehow I manage to retain control and it all just rolls off my back and I feel brave.
10) My local friends have very important things to say. And their advice is good.
My friends don't just encourage, they advise me. And their advice is good. Even with all of my training, reading, researching, and talking with other expats, I wasn't fully prepared for living cross culturally. Although I try to keep an open mind, I still have a western mindset. So when my local friends give advice on things like how to live as a Christian in a culturally and religiously diverse community in a majority Muslim country, I take their advice seriously. They are excellent teachers and I am a willing student. And their wisdom leaves me so grateful to be here.
And there you have it. Feeling shame, disappointment, frustration, encouragement, fear, at home, like a bad wife, stupid, brave, and oh so grateful to be here. Culture Shock in a nutshell. The same books that diagnose me say talking about it and feeling understood is a big part of the cure. So thanks for listening. How do I feel now? Relieved. And that feels pretty darn good!
This week at Velvet Ashes others are sharing their personal Top 10 Lists, so head on over and check it out!