As we are coming to the end of this season of Advent, we are finishing a time of anticipation and waiting. This season has taken on a new meaning for me this year. After being away from home for 16 months, I have been getting anxious and very ready to visit. Yes, seeing friends and family on Skype and texting back and forth helps ease the actual distance apart; however, there is just something about home sweet home…actual face-to-face conversations, sights and smells that are familiar, being wrapped in your mother's arms. For the past few months I've really felt like I need to go home and get recharged and renewed. But, come to find out, that is easier said than done.
|My new friends after Sunday night Bible study|
Usually I am a pretty patient person; however, in this specific case, my patience was running thin. I had my flight booked since October, but my passport had been in Kinshasa (the capital) since I arrived in Congo in September. I had to send in my passport to process my missionary visa. This is all fine and good, but as time got closer and closer to my December 21st departure date, I began getting a bit nervous. Everyday I would call to check up on the status of my visa, and I got the same response: "Courage. Ton passeport va venir la semaine prochaine." (It will come next week). Yeah, yeah. After that same response week after week I started to lower my hopes and expectations and decided to start planning my Christmas in Congo. But then on December 16th, 5 days before I was supposed to leave, I got a call saying it was back in Lubumbashi, and I would indeed be able to go home for the holidays. Praise the Lord! I should have known that God's timing always works out. And a big thank you for all the generous people who were storming the gates of Heaven with prayers for me! They worked!
|Feast day celebration with my coworkers|
So here I am, sitting on a plane back to the States…474 days after I originally left American soil. I've had a lot of time to think on this flight from Ethiopia to DC (17 hours to be specific!). I have been thinking back on my mission in Maridi and now in L'shi, recalling my personal mission, and comparing to see if I have been fulfilling that mission or not. There have been so many joyful moments and beautiful memories have been made, but along with that, many obstacles and challenges have come up. Some days I feel like I really am living out Don Bosco's mission of being a loving presence to those around me, especially children. But there are plenty more days where I feel like I am missing the whole point of mission, where I am perfectly failing. I was reading an article the other day that discussed the hardships of mission life. We were warned about this during orientation, and I discovered this in many ways in South Sudan. And now, the reality of this statement is coming to light again during my mission in Congo. Something that really stood out to me in the article is the following statement:
"We gladly assumed hardships for the sake of mission. We viewed the discomforts as necessary in order to win the lost. We pushed and pulled, we strove and struggled, we gave everything we had and took only loads of responsibility. If things are hard it is because we care about something. We can look at what we seem to care about so deeply that is requiring this great force of effort from us and we can decide if this is actually where we want to put our energies. If we do think it is worth it, we will work for it. We'll assign creative energy towards it, and we will suffer hardships for it." (http://www.angiewashington.com/2014/12/life-is-hard/)
|Learning some Congolese dance moves with the kids!|
My three months in Congo have been challenging, but a good kind of challenging. I can tell I've been going through the exact same stages as I did in S. Sudan. For the first 2 months, life was great- the honeymoon phase. I made some amazing friends, I was doing the exact work I want to be doing, I was discovering a new place and a new culture. I truly was loving Congolese living. Now, don't get me wrong, I still wake up every morning and think to myself how blessed I am to be doing what I'm doing, but the honeymoon phase is definitely over. Congo has been hard. I haven't had Ariel with me to share every moment of every day with. I'm still struggling to learn a completely foreign language (thankfully it is getting so much easier!), and it's been a struggle to find a good balance between my mission life and my personal life. Even though many days I feel so overwhelmed and want to just break down, I try to step back and look at the wider picture. Mission life is not easy…it's not meant to be. However, I've found out over the past year and a half that this work is exactly what I am passionate about. And this is the type of work where I want to place all my energy. I love living in Africa, learning about tropical diseases and African culture, and helping sick kiddies get better day by day. Yes, some days are really hard, but mostly because I make it hard for myself. I try to be available to help wherever needed and whenever needed. Although some other nurses take advantage of me for that fact, the ultimate outcome is definitely worth it…so I am going to continue to put all my energy towards doing that. But we all need some breaks, too, and that is exactly why I am so excited to go home and take some R&R!
|Helping out with the Christmas market|
This Advent period, this time of waiting, has reminded me of something so important. God places these periods of waiting in our lives for a reason. It is a time to prepare ourselves mentally, physically, and spiritually for what is to come. And this year I was reminded that often we can be impatient. I wanted instant gratification. I wanted my visa and passport back right then and there so I knew I would be able to come home. But God's timing always works out. I am looking forward to spending the holidays at home this year. Three weeks in the cold, snowy USA with my friends and family is just what I need to recharge and get renewed to continue next year in Congo. God always makes everything come together in His own timing...all we have to do is patiently wait.