Monday, September 22, 2008

Adjusting to the Mission Field--A Wife's Perspective Pt. 1

*****Ginger has spent quite a bit of time compiling the thoughts of missionary wives all over the world. Each Monday for the next several months we will be sharing those thoughts on our blog.*****

Why is it that most, if not all, missionary ladies are shocked by all the emotions and struggles that accompany the first year on the mission field? Why do we feel so guilty for being so overwhelmed? Why are we not more prepared for the inevitable? If so many missionary ladies struggle in their first months on the field, why are we not sharing our struggles and trials with those that come after us so that they can better prepare?

As I collect stories from women who are serving all around the world, I am continually seeing a similar pattern. First, we are so excited to arrive on the mission field the Lord has called us to. Then for the next six months to a year we struggle with a variety of emotions and doubts. Finally, we find refuge in the Lord. The Lord gives us strength to overcome our emotions and guilt. We find ways to accept the new culture around us and we start enjoying the work God have given us. Is there no way to make these first few months easier on us?

As a new missionary wife myself, I think that knowing I was not the only one feeling so lost and confused would have helped me not feel so guilty. I felt like I must have a spiritual problem because, how could I not be overjoyed to be in this new country which desperately needed the Lord? Praise the Lord I have a patient and loving husband who was and is always patient, and is always willing to listen and never judge.

I remember not wanting to call anyone from back home cause I didn’t want to disappoint them. I didn’t want them to think their support was all in vain. Pride set in and I didn’t want anyone to see how weak I was. I was an MK, I was suppose to have no problems adjusting to a new culture. I was supposed to be able to learn the new language in no time at all. How could I call them and let them know that I had failed them?

I am so thankful that after ten months of living in Siedlce, Poland I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I finally realize that I am not alone in these struggles. It is okay to miss home like crazy. It is normal to question if you made the right decision to be a missionary. It is okay to cry and cry and cry a little more. It is okay to call home often and share your struggles with friends and loved ones. It is okay to feel overwhelmed; there is nothing to feel guilty about. I would encourage any new missionary lady to find another missionary lady who can be your accountability partner. Find a missionary lady who is either going through the same thing you are or someone who has recently gone through it. No one else can quite relate like another fellow missionary lady.

Over these past ten months the Lord has continually given me ideas of how to better understand and relate to the culture and people around me. The first few months when everything was at its worst, nothing was better than reading God’s promises from Psalms and Proverbs. I also read, “Lord Change My Attitude” by Pastor James McDonald. I would definitely encourage new missionaries to pack their bags full of good Christian books. Good Christian literature is hard to come by on the mission field and can be such a great encouragement.

Looking back on these past ten months I would have to say that the things that helped me start to enjoy living here more where just simple things, nothing extraordinary. I would describe myself as outgoing and fun loving. I love being with people and having a good time. One of the things I miss most about the States is spending time with my girl friends and the ladies in my church. I miss calling up a friend and running out for a cup of coffee or going grocery shopping together. I didn’t know many women here who I could call up and run out to the store with. I felt so cooped up and so claustrophobic. I decided that joining an aerobics class might give me the opportunity to meet some new ladies, and of course get fit in the mean time! The aerobics class has been GREAT!! I have met so many nice women. I now have a list of ladies I can call up and go out for coffee with. Over the last couple of months I have really enjoyed going out for coffee with different ladies. It has been fun getting to know them and hearing their stories. It has also given me the opportunity to share my story with them and tell them why my family and I are here. The Lord has also given me the opportunity to spend time with a group of teenage girls in our neighborhood. Almost every Monday night, after the kids go down, the girls come over and we play games or I teach them how to make American desserts. Spending this time with these girls has really given me a heart for the teen girls of Poland. Spending time with these ladies and teenagers has given me even more motivation to learn the Polish language.

Can I say that I am over and pass all my crazy emotions? I think not. Do I still have bad days? Yes, who doesn’t, right? However, I can honestly say that I am excited about my future here in Poland. I am excited to see what the Lord has in store for our family and ministry here in Poland. Praise the Lord that, “His compassions fail not.” Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”

God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants his footsteps in the sea,

And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines

Of never-failing skill,

He treasures up his bright designs

And works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,

The clouds ye so much dread

Are big with mercy, and shall break

In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,

But trust him for his grace;

Behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,

Unfolding every hour;

The bud may have a bitter taste,

But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,

And scan his work in vain:

God is his own interpreter,

And He will make it plain.

Eighteenth century poet William Cowper


Carrie said...

Thanks for sharing and I look forward to reading these each Monday! I definately have my scared and doubting days already. We are keeping you all in our prayers.

Kristin said...

Thanks for being so transparent, Ginger. In a couple years, I may be spending a good bit of time on the phone with you:) We're praying for you, and look forward to seeing you in a few months!

Kathi Hayes said...

Great idea to post these thoughts on your blog! Maybe (maybe) I'll get around to sending you my own thoughts in the near (probably more like FAR) future. Love, Mom

akhughes said...

thanks Ginger for being so open and candid - I know what you're compiling is going to be such a great help to so many women. and that poem is one of my favorite Sovereign Grace songs, so encouraging! I look forward to reading more.

Senkyoshi said...

I can't wait to read each Monday! I've been in Japan for 6 years now and there are still good days and bad days. I just wrote a post about culture shock and fruits of the Spirit. The Lord reaaly ministered to my heart at a needy time. Thanks for doing this! We all need it!

Anonymous said...

Ginger, Are the Layers back in Poland?

Thank you for sharing about wives on the field. Where were your parents as missionaries? I noticed you said you're an MK!
Jolie Sock-Warsaw

Anonymous said...

Jolie Says: you can contact me at:

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much sharing your life with us and thank you for your work there in Poland.
Love you.

Scooter Finazzio said...

Thank you for doing this. They have all been very good and unique in their own way with different countries and the personalities of the women.