Last week was a week filled with major decisions. The hard part about it was, I was experiencing major Culture Shock. Thankfully, we were warned about this at orientation.
Everyone experiences culture shock when living and working in a new environment. I’ll give you a very brief description so maybe you can understand where I was last week. The first stage is the Fun stage. It’s the honeymoon period, where everything makes you excited and feels like an adventure. The second is the Fight/Flight stage, where the newness has worn off and everything annoys you and you become easily frustrated with how different the culture is. Thankfully, there is a third stage. Fit. You find creative ways to accept and fit into the culture. You understand that the easy things in life will look differently and often come with great difficulty, and you accept that.
Each stage looks different for every person. Some may experience an exceptionally long phase of Fun, some may feel like they can’t get out of the Fight/Flight stage, while another may feel that they Fit in almost immediately. For me, the Fight/Flight stage came just about a month into my trip. I just wanted to curl up in my bed and not get out. I didn’t want to see my teammates or friends here, I didn’t want to have a social life, I didn’t want to have to give ten minutes of background before I told a story ever again, I just wanted to go home – back to what was comfortable. Back to the people who know me better than anyone.
So, it was in the midst of this difficult time that I had to make a major life decision: Whether or not to stay another term.
Larry, the boss-man, came to me last Tuesday and asked me to think and pray about extending my time here in South Africa. Instead of coming home in June, I would stay through December. And he needed to know by Friday. Friday.
I knew this was a possibility going into this adventure, but the timing was not something I would have chosen for myself. In the midst of just wanting to escape this life I’ve created here, I had to decide if I wanted to stay in it longer. So I prayed. I prayed hard. And I talked to family and friends and asked for their prayer. Then, when I had prayed all I could think to pray, I searched the Scripture for a word from the Lord. As I read through the Gospels, God kept taking me to passages such as:
- “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes'” (Matthew 5:37)
- “Let the dead bury their own dead” (Luke 9:60)
- “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37)
- “Here is water, what is stopping you?” (Acts 8:36)
I also had friends and family texting me godly wisdom. Emily reminded me of something Priscilla Shirer says: follow the fear. The enemy often puts fear where the will of God is. And as I looked at the possibility of spending my year in Africa, there was definite fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of inability, and fear of missing home. But as I looked at what my year would look like in the States, I could lay it out exactly. There was no fear, only the idea of comfort. My father also reminded me of Ron Dunn’s method for discerning God’s will: Desire, Opportunity, and Balaam’s Donkey. If you have the desire to do something and the opportunity to do something, ask the Lord to send a Balaam’s donkey to stop you if it is not His will. We can easily manipulate the first two, but a Balaam’s donkey is clearly a word from the Lord.
Based on prayer, the Word, and the encouragement of family and friends, God obviously had an answer for me.
So, as you may have guessed, I’ve decided to stay through the year! One of the beautiful things about God’s timing with this decision is that I believe it pushed me through the Fight/Flight stage to the Fit stage. Knowing that this is my home for 2013 has me ready to get more involved in my ministries and church here, and excited about the many possibilities.
A major, unexpected blessing I found out was that I’ll be able to come to the States this summer for at least a month and see my family and catch up with loved ones. Another? My teammate Katy is staying in Africa with me! I’m so thrilled that we’ll be in this together till the end… fearful and dependent upon the Lord through it all!
I covet your prayers as I make this place my home, not just for the next four months, but for the year. God is good and I am insanely humbled and blessed by His willingness to use me, despite my many weaknesses.
“Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-29