It is hard to believe that God has allowed us to live in Ethiopia for six months already! After all the preparation and praying and dreaming my husband and I did on the way here, our first six months on the field have gone by as fast as a seven year old blows out his birthday candles! It has been a period of enormous learning. Not only are we learning lessons about a new language and a new culture, but also about ourselves and our Lord. While we still have a breath-taking amount to learn, may I share six truths I have learned during our first six months on the field?
- “There is always something to miss no matter where you are,” –Sarah, Plain and Tall.
In this delightful book, Sarah moves to marry a farmer far from her Maine home. It’s not as drastic as moving half way around the world, but I have found a lot of wisdom in her musing. I could fill up a whole blog post about things I miss from back in the States, with my family topping the list. But there are already things I have come to love and enjoy in Ethiopia. If we were to ever have to leave, I would miss those things. I am sure that list will only grow from here. The important thing is to choose thankfulness wherever you are. Don’t dwell on the things you miss; thank God for the things you have.
When we first moved to Ethiopia, and I noticed myself particularly missing things in the US, I gave myselfa 30-day Facebook photo challenge where I posted one picture on Facebook of something I was thankful for each day. It helped!
- Love and kindness cross multiple language and cultural barriers.
I still do not speak the language fluently here. I can read and write better than I can speak at this point. However, I have still made dear friends here. Why? The love and kindness they have showed me, and vice-versa, have allowed us to make connections even though we cannot have deep conversations yet. We can still cook together, hold each other’s children, and worship at church together.
- Your physical health can affect your spiritual health.
It is easy to get despondent when you are not feeling well, and adjusting to a new country can be hard on you physically. It is important to drink lots of water and ensure that you have plenty of rest and sunshine. Think on those things found in Philippians 4:8 as you rest and recover.
- Music can help set the spiritual thermostat in our home.
Whenever I found that either myself or my husband were feeling low, I would play spiritual music in our home. In no time at all, I could sense our spirits lifting. This is such an easy way to fill your mind with good and lovely things!
- One of Satan’s biggest deceptions is “I could be more effective back home.”
This was the hardest one for us to face. How deceptive this temptation was because it appeals to your basest and highest aspirations at the same. exact. time. It appeals to your pride on the one hand (I could be doing a lot more than this!) and your desire to genuinely want to do everything you can for the cause of Christ as quickly and as effectively as possible on the other hand (How can I reach these people when I don’t even know the word for salvation yet?). As we raced around trying to set up our home (which is a lot harder when you A.) do not speak the language, and B.) do not have a Wal-Mart to buy everything you need at one convenient location, and C.) are trying to learn to drive all over again), we would come back home many days completely exhausted and not having accomplished one single thing. Unless you count finding all the stores where we could NOT buy what we needed as accomplishing something.
It is at that moment that you think, “Wait a minute! Couldn’t I be more effective in a country where I speak the language already and already know how to set up a house?! I could be closer to my family. And I’m pretty sure these people I have invested so much in already don’t even like me because I am so different.” The answer we are learning is that God does not necessarily expect effectiveness, but rather obedience first and foremost. To obey truly is better than sacrifice. It takes time to establish yourself and learn a new language. Our Lord knew this before He called us to go. His way is perfect.
“Service is not the goal; obedience is the goal.” – Pastor Clarence Sexton
- Roll with the punches.
It doesn’t matter how much you have prepared, you will have things take you by surprise on your new field. My mom taught me how to cook when I was nine, but I have had to learn new foods and techniques since I have arrived on the field. I live 8,000 feet above sea level here. I have had to learn that if you make your favorite brownie recipe at this altitude, it will not work. Almost all of my recipes have had to be adjusted.
My husband is very handy around the house. He has fixed so many things for me in our married life; but he has never had the honey-do list that he had fixing up our home here. By the way, lesson learned: China sells their cheap stuff to the USA and their even cheaper, breaks-the-moment-you-open-the-package stuff to the African continent.
Don’t let this stuff frustrate you! God sees! He has called us and our only outcome can be complete obedience. He rewards multiple times over with His goodness and favor! And above all, He is so worthy. If we were to never have His blessing here (which we already have experienced so many times), He is worthy of our complete obedience and love.