Polly Whitmore -- Yap Island, Micronesia
My husband Bob and I accompanied a young missionary couple to the island of Yap on their survey trip in 1999. We were both on staff at Faith Baptist in Taylors, SC. The Yap adventure was a real stretch for me - but I was glad to return to 'normal' as a mom of 2 boys. THEN Bob said he thought God was calling us to return to Yap with Paul and Sherry Zimmer and their children . WHAT????? NOT ME! I'm not a missionary! My boys may be someday - but not me! Well, we prayed for each other over the next 2 years - God worked slowly in my heart....We left for Yap with one supporting church and one individual supporter. We knew we would get jobs on island for the first term at least. MY job was teaching SCIENCE full time at the public high school! I have a business degree from BJU and HATE science! I taught 175 island ninth graders each day in the hot, hot, hot environment - where chewing and spitting bright red betelnut is standard activity, sitting and popping lice is a social activity, and toplessness is culturally accepted - one parent/teacher conference was really an adventure in solid eye contact for me!
Sherry and I cried pretty steadily for the first 6 months. I thought I was going insane. I'd frantically email for prayer and insight . Don't fall for the devil's lie about not asking for help - that's exactly what he wants you to believe - that people will think you're weak, but that's exactly what we are! We are weak people, willing to be used by God. One nice thing about the tropics, though, is that you can cry all day long and no one will notice because you're sweating so badly! I learned to sweat and cry with grace. After six months, one day I looked at Sherry and said, “You may not understand, but today I took my first deep breath.” She was shocked and said, “ME TOO!” It was like I was holding my breath on a scary roller coaster ride. Bob would take me in the car - with windows rolled up - so I could practice laughing again. I LOVE to laugh - but I completely lost the ability for the first 6 months.
We now have 2 granddaughters. Phone contact is still difficult due to cost - I miss the voices. But email is a blessing. Honesty about your struggles is crucial. Get a few close friends to be your prayer warriors. Keep good communication with your husband. Study His Word - sharpen your sword as a woman. I read When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn James. It’s VERY good (why women need to know their theology) - about how 'helpmeet' means 'ezer' and is usually used to refer to God riding in the sky with His flashing sword to battle. WOW! Search that word – it’s very enlightening. Also I'm studying about virtuous women - THAT word also has a lot of strength - like women of valor! Learn your theology - apply His truth to your fear. You personally are in a battle. One missionary wife balked about that and said, “My husband tells me what to think.” They are now off the field permanently. The devil loves to come after the wives - we don't always see the importance of studying and applying God's truth.
I asked a veteran missionary lady about all my crying. She nodded and said, “Oh, that's normal! I did too, AND I used to hide money under the couch cushions to secretly buy a plane ticket out of there. I didn't care what my husband and kids did - I just wanted out!” WHAT??????? Of course, I thought that was so funny - but immediately felt SO much better... and so 'normal.’ What a relief to know that God knew my need and was right there with me through the journey. The other thing I've noticed is that missionary wives’ experiences are very similar to anyone in transition or facing a new chapter - like adjusting to widowhood, a traumatic move to a new city etc., and THEY have Walmart and phone service! But I've listened to many who were in despair - just like I was as I adjusted to Yap.
It has been REALLY helpful for me to start keeping a notebook of various lessons I was learning on topics like contentment, peace, worry, fear etc... One book suggested choosing 5 things to look for as you read your Bible each day. My list continues to grow.
“ Problems don't keep us from serving God. Problems are the circumstances in which we serve God.”