Friday, September 28, 2007
Beware, A Missionary with Blinders On
It's the little things on a foreign field that begin to eat away at your psychy. In Poland, all of your meat is bought over the counter from the butcher, so grabbing a package of meat from the freezer section is out of the question. Therefore, every two or three days we are reminded of our status in the language as we struggle to communicate what kind of meat we want and how much of it. Simple trips to the gas station feel like that long walk to the principal's office (you know, back when principal's were feared for the massive paddle they had in their office)because each time I have to communicate what kind of gas and how much to the person filling my tank. When that hurdle is crossed I walk into the station only to begin the hand signals again hoping to point out which pump is mine. We drop our kids off at school each day and choke through a few Polish words with their teacher, but if we're honest we have know idea what's going on at their school. Today our boys each came home from school with a brand new toy tractor---and we have no idea why. Did they when a contest we didn't know about? Did they find buried treasure? Worse, did they knock off a local convenience store? The only comparison I can draw to the current frustration of this language barrier is an example from my childhood. I vividly remember the day my cousin decided to educate me in the art of "Chinese water torture," he held me down and began to drip water on my forehead and, for awhile, I just laughed at him because it was only drops of water but soon enough it began to get on my nerves and it went from being "funny", to "quit it," to "screaming like a little girl" until he let me up. At first the whole language barrier was funny, then it went to "quit it," and now I often find myself "screaming like a little girl" hoping this language will let me up. Its unrelenting, unforgiving, and downright discouraging.
As you can tell, I've been holding onto this little pity party for the last few weeks. Focusing on MY feelings, My frustrations, MY discomfort. All of this "American introspection" on my part has blinded me to the grace of God in my life and the life of my family that is manifesting itself on a daily basis. It wasn't until a few days ago when confronted with this awful truth that my attitude began to change. Thank God for my family. Our children are the joys of our life. Aubrie wakes up every morning excited about eating "cocoa pebbles." When I say excited, I mean excited like "oh boy--cocoa pebbles." God help me to find joy in the little things. At almost three years of age is it obvious that God has gifted her with language acquisition. We first realized this when she was about 11 months old and we were praying at the dinner table. I closed with "In Jesus Name" and she finished with an emphatic AMEN. Ginger and I were in shock---and we are still in shock as we see her soak up the language, she knows no stranger and has no fear of making a mistake. Two vital attributes for learning a new language. We love the boys God has given us, the transition from Chicago to Poland was a lot more real for them than we had ever anticipated. I'll never forget driving back from Warsaw a few months ago, late at night, and they just opened up about how they missed "home" and missed "grandma and grandpa" and most of all how they were "nervous about going to school in Poland". I was rebuked by their courage as they choked back the tears and walked into their Polish classroom for the first time. They had a grasp of what they were up against but they walked forward. God help me to walk forward even when afraid. Their ability to see everything as a "great adventure" is an attribute I admire.
Finally, I'm so thankful for the wife God has given me. We've been married six years and I feel like I'm just beginning to realize what courage, devotion, and a heart for ministry she has. She's an "mk," grew up in Thailand and loves missions. Along with that though she has never really had a geographical place she could call home. We got married and began ministry at Bible Baptist Church in Romeoville, IL and that place became our home, some of the dearest and most dedicated Christians you will ever meet. After four years of ministry there we bought a house, our house, a home for my wife. Stability. I don't think the paint was even dry when I first approached her about Poland---yet the house was the last thing on her mind as we weighed the decision. Watching her here in Poland has been truly convicting. I know she misses our home but most of all she misses our church and yet she is so dedicated to the language, the ministry here, and most importantly our family. God help me to have that kind of dedication. She is a warrior and my lover. Wallowing in "self pity" was fun but it blinded me to the goodness of God. God's grace and goodness are amazing and its my prayer that I never overlook them again.