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Call Me Marah

So, I haven’t been around much lately. This is due, in large part, to the fact that I have been preparing for, and then serving as a missionary in Africa. In the craziness of learning a second language, raising support, and then finally going overseas, there wasn’t much time for “recreational” blogging.

After a lifetime of preparations, our Africa experience was cut short after only 200 days due to health concerns. (We are currently serving in the French portion of Canada, and continue to be vocational missionaries) For me, who dreamt of being an overseas missionary since I was eight years old, it was a devastating blow. After a year of soul-searching, and hours of counselling, I’m not really over it. Maybe I never will be.

It’s not fair. I did everything right – but it didn’t work out like it was supposed to?!

Perhaps I will share the story with you all sometime. But in the mean time I wanted to share a short audio clip, and blog post from my heart, to share a small portion of our emotional journey.

It’s my way of saying, “Here I am, I’m back again.” Is this the start of another season of blogging? Heaven only knows. All I really know is that today, I felt the urge to share. And so here you go.

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During our last ever presentation on our time in Africa, I concluded with this very honest five-minute reflection about what it feels like to be an “ex-missionary.” You can watch it here, or read it (with some edits) below.

TRANSCRIPTION

A little while ago you asked me how my theology has changed during my time in Africa.

Instead of answering that directly, let me say this: we choose our names, but God chooses our story.   Can I ask you – how many people here are named David? Or Joshua? Those are some pretty popular names. And we like these names because God choose to be glorified through these people’s lives, through their success.    Is there anyone here named Job? I didn’t think so. Who would name their child Job? No parent would want to call their child Job, because we don’t want our children to have Job’s story.

As I stand before you, talking about our Africa experience, I wish that I had Joshua story: I came, I saw, I conquered! But this is not the story God chose to write with my life.   Rather, I find myself in the book of Ruth right now.

Ruth 1:19-21 So they both went until they came to Bethlehem. And when they had come to Bethlehem, all the city was stirred because of them, and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” (Naomi means sweet) She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, (Mara means bitter) for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?”

Is that OK? Is it OK for missionary to say they are disappointed in God? Struggling with bitterness, even?   You know, Facebook has this thing where it shows you pictures of your life a year ago, or three years ago. It’s painful. A few weeks ago I clicked on the file I had on my computer, it was a video of me sharing our mission and passion to go to Africa. I had so much passion. I was so confident. I was so determined. I was so sure about what God wanted us to do. I found myself wondering, who is that guy? Where did he go? How can I become him again?

But the book of Ruth does not end in chapter 2. By the end of the book, Ruth and Naomi are able to establish a new life in the land that they return to. Naomi stops being bitter, and becomes sweet again. The people of Israel sing a blessing over her, and she – an old, sweet woman, who has grown wise and gentle through suffering and loss – holds her precious grandson on her lap, and rejoices.   With the eyes of faith, I believe we will be there soon. But we’re not there yet.

And so if there’s anything I can share one of our story right now, it’s that we may choose our names, but God chooses our stories. Job was just as faithful to God as David was – in fact, he was more so! – and yet God chose to tell a very different story through Job’s life that he did through David’s.   And so I want to encourage you that if your story does not look like that of Joshua, or that of David, be encouraged. God chooses to be glorified through many different types of stories. What is important is that you stay faithful, and trust him to make it all work out in the end.

Psalm 37:3-6 Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness;
Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your judgment as the noonday.

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