We moved here in June 2011 with big plans. Our plans involved business and being our own bosses, getting involved with some projects on the side and having time and money to travel. I am sure that life could have been pretty sweet, but our plans took a nose dive a few months after we sold almost all of our possessions in the states and moved our family of four overseas.
The business started showing some cracks, then major faults and finally bankruptcy. Our investment, gone. Our savings, depleted. Our spirits, low. For me, this was a time of deep depression.
We ended up being thrown a lifeline in September 2012 and moved into Tshepo ya Bana in November of that year. We were now houseparents to a whole lot of littles as well as our own two who were still pretty little themselves. Suddenly, we were thrust into a role we hadn't planned on, that of missionary. This was not something we promoted then, nor is it how we identify ourselves now, unless it is to get out of a speeding ticket.
Fast forward to September 2015, when we joined Take Action Ministry in their work. This change meant moving off of the TYB property and finding our own place, which also meant seeking additional support because, other than a few filter sales, we still didn't have much money. Now what kind of people raise support...missionaries. So, again, we found ourselves pressed into a mold that pinched and scraped and felt a bit uncomfortable.
It is now September 2017. We recently returned from the states and we did some very missionary-type things, like speaking in front of churches about our work overseas and thanking them for their, gulp, support. Our names were even listed on the back of a bulletin as missionaries, right there in black and white.
The thing is, this is not what we set out to be, and lately, I find that I am really struggling under the weight of a title that I did not ask for, but somehow have received. We didn't move here as part of a team or organization. We don't even really have a "sending" church, as we sent ourselves without a committee meeting to discuss it or advise us for or against such a decision. We did not attend Bible classes, missions orientation courses, retreat centers in Colorado or language training in Florida.
Now I find myself in an uncomfortable position. I feel like many people who read this are from the churches that so kindly support us and that their view of who we are, or more specifically who I am, and the reality of who I am are on two different planes. I often feel like I have to present an image of someone who has it all together. "It" being my marriage, parenting, spiritual walk, physical and mental health, and just life in general.
Yet I know who I am. I know that my husband and I aren't talking right now, I stood in my kitchen screaming at my son last night, my Bible is rarely opened, my body is aging poorly and I'm handling my mental health with a half a pill every morning, but it should probably be more.
Now here's the thing, living this overseas, cross-cultural life has brought me into contact with a lot of real missionaries; people who planned and prepared to live a missional life; and while they are all amazing, I KNOW that they don't have it all together and don't want to add any pressure to their lives. So please, don't misread what I am saying as "missionaries have it all going on and they never falter or fail". That's not my point.
I am just an ordinary woman who has been given a title by accident. A title that might seem fitting from the outside, but it isn't who I am. I used to be so much more honest in my writing and to those around me, about what I was experiencing and how I was doing in most facets of my life. In recent years though, I have found myself holding back. This isn't only because of a title on the back of a bulletin, but knowing that people who financially support us to live here in South Africa are reading this blog and seeing what I post on Facebook does act as a censor of sorts. What if I write something like "my Bible is rarely opened" and someone decides my family is not worthy of support?
The thing is, writing here used to be a sort of refuge for me; this was where I could share my heart and if you didn't like it you were welcome to not read any further. Now I feel a sense of accountability because some people identify me as a missionary, a position often linked to spiritual giants and mighty men and women of faith.
I'm just me. I live life in a country that is different and also not so very different than your own. my days are filled with dishes, laundry, teenage hormones, driving around trying to find answers to things that should be so simple and a whole lot of Jesus. Only one of those things isn't actually true, but I feel obligated to tack it on anyways.
So maybe things will start getting more real here, or maybe I'll buy a journal. Either way, I have some work to do.