Wednesday, September 17, 2008

32 years and counting...

So this Monday I celebrated my birthday here in Niamey. Truth be told, the day was so full of homework, work, team get togethers, kids, language and other things, that it was sort of a write-off. So we are going to celebrate as a family on Saturday and make homemade donuts, lattes from my newly unpacked espresso machine (it made it all the way to Niger Greg and Jill!) which was a wedding gift over 8 years ago now and continues to serve us well, likely a trip to the pool and a movie night with popcorn and the kids and lots of fun. No homework, no work. I'm really looking forward to it! But anyhow, thats not really what I have been thinking about. Paul and I were discussing the idea of celebrating things alone now with our family far away, and I've been thinking of things like that a lot this week.

You see, One of the hardest things for people who work far from “home” (what a funny word that turns out to be) is distance. Whether it is a development worker, missionary, embassy staff, etc, we all face the same issues of distance. Most often, those of us in these situations have left parents, siblings, dear friends and sometimes even children, in countries far away. When there are joyful family events such as birthdays and weddings, we feel that small hole that we can’t be there to celebrate with these people we love. In those times of trouble, hurt and grief we equally feel the loss of not being there to carry our share of the burden, to comfort and grieve together, to support one another. So we go through both joy and grief alone. Well, not truly alone I guess. We do form another “family” in the place where we live. My kids are blessed with a good handful of new aunties and uncles here on the field and cousins who find also themselves living here far from their own families. We do many things together and celebrate birthdays, etc. We are thankful for the interaction and support we gain from these surrogates, but they never replace home. I think of a dear lady I know well who works in South America and whose twin recently was diagnosed with cancer. I know how much her heart breaks to be so far away. And yet she knows why she is there and why she stays and has a peace in her heart. Thankfully I haven’t yet been on this side of the ocean yet and missed a monumental event like a death, but I haven’t seen my new nephew yet as one example, and it will be next summer before I do. So while some things are hard to give up and live without, such as clean air and streets, fresh food, choices in food, ease of shopping, places to go for fun, honest policeman and government workers, etc, the big thing is of course people.

So why do we go? Many people have asked me over the past few years, both co-workers and friends alike, why I would go and do this?
Ever since I was a teenager I knew my heart was linked with the poorest of the poor, with those in developing countries who have no opportunities, serious health and physical limitations, no support, etc. I always wanted to be an agent of change, to bring them hope and tangible training and help. I married a man who knew since he was 12 that he would serve overseas with his life and his family. It took us a while to get here, but in the end we heeded those dreams, that call. Every person has value in God eyes. Whether the leper, the aids victim, the prostitute, the lady living in the bush in her hut or in a cardboard box outside a skyscraper in Manhattan. If we are not willing to touch, to help and carry the poorest, dirtiest and most unwelcomed in society, then who will?

My coffee cup said it well one day. If you ever noticed on a Starbucks cup, they have quotes. This quote spoke to me and has been inscribed in my journal ever since:
“The way I see it # 275”
When I wake up in the morning, I want to know that my family and friends know what I believe in, and what I’m all about.”

That’s it. Simple. So I guess this is my beliefs in action. This is what I’m all about. And while far from perfect in any measuring stick out there, I’m so happy we took that step, even with the distance that separates us. So we give up what is earthly and fleeting to gain that which is eternal and rejoice that one day, we will see our family for eternity in heaven and know we have lived the life we were made for. I know in my heart, even if we were at home and safe and close to loved ones, there would be a void, and i would regret not having taken the step of faith to pursue our passion.

If you think of it, please pray for a lady named Claudia and the cancer she fights. Praying for her you join our team and make the distance smaller.

The flowers outside my house

And while we are talking about missing things, let me make one small note of joy. Much to my great joy, we went to the US Embassy community centre (yes they let us Canadians in- its really the only place in town to go to relax and swim). Anyhow, Paul had got there early to play baseball and he came running to the truck when he saw me and said "They have Dr. Pepper!" Woohoo. Much to my surprise, the little canteen had somehow aquired a few cases of Dr Pepper which they were selling for about $2 per can. The thought of buying them all and thus having a little stockpile briefly flitted through my head, but then i figured that wouldn't be very nice to all the others, so i bought one to drink at the pool, and a few cans to bring home to my cupboard. Little joys :) (if you missed the story of all the missing Dr Pepper that came before, check early june's blogs.)

A pic of my Dr. Pepper before I drank it.

So I do pray that this post finds you well. I pray you are inspired and that maybe you are thinking of what your own passion is? What is that great desire that is deep inside you to do? I hope that today you make a step towards that. Maybe a huge jump of faith, a phone call, a decision or even a prayer, but that you don't ever forget the passion inside of you. Because following that passion is totally worth it, no matter you might temporarilyt give up to follow it. So what's holding you back?



Follow the Yellow Brick Road said...

The only thing that gives us peace and makes the distance bearable is knowing that it is God's will. We miss and love you too, but find comfort in knowing that you are pursing your passion. Can't wait until next summer! Tons of hugs and lots of kisses!

Anonymous said...

I love it when He ambushes you with one of His special encouragements..Yeah for Dr.Pepper - what a lovely b'day gift. heather

Anonymous said...

Since thoughts & prayers bring comfort to those who are far away, You have to know how much your loved, each and everyday. When you are sad and lonely, thinking of family & friend, please remember & don't forget that God will fix & mend those hearts who cry out to Him, He will bring peace and joy, in the memories that we cherish, and all that we employ. sent with much love

Carrien said...

Sometimes my friend, like right now, your writing is very, very, eloquent.

Perhaps it's tied to when you speak your heart.

I miss you too.

Cindy said...

Nice to "meet you", and a fellow Canadian! :)
I would love to get together for coffee!..we will be making the trip to the "Big City" in about three weeks...we will keep in touch.
Happy Belated Birthday...hope you have a fun weekend celebrating...

Bob the Dog said...

I am so pleased that the espresso machine is standing up to constant use and made it all the way to Niger! I can tell you from personal experience that those you meet overseas become your family, sometimes closer than your family at home... you are a product of that type of relationship. You hit the nail on the head as it were. it is difficult to be away from your family and loved ones, very difficult... but, those moments like finding Dr. Pepper at the US Embassy Community Centre bring a bright spot.

kimom said...

Yay for Dr. Pepper! I've been drinking LOTS in preparation for deprivation. =) Happy Bday! My 32nd is in 5 wks, so we are about 5 wks apart! Sorry I took so long to get back to you. I really wanted to know how you were putting pictures on canvas? to put on your walls there. If you'd rather Email, I'm at kent DASH kim UNDERSCORE rasmussen AT sil DOT org ...THANKS!