I read a book once titled, Here I am, Lord . . . Send Someone Else. That thought pretty well sums up my feelings over the past few months as I have passed through the culture-shock phase of my mission year among the Great River people. Adjusting to a new culture is hard. I was warned of this repeatedly in AFM training and by family, friends, church members, classmates and teachers. But, being an eternal optimist, I proceeded to ignore all the advice and blithely assumed I would glide through a cultural adjustment with no problem. A positive attitude and prayer would get me through. Oh, Lorena of three months ago! I do not mean to imply that God is not helping me adjust, because I know He is helping me in more ways than I can fathom. It’s just that I miss familiar food, I miss air conditioning, I miss cold weather, I miss frost in the morning, and mostly I just miss the people I know and love. It is difficult going from being able to talk with everyone to speaking on the level of a toddler.
There are many things I adore about my new culture, but there are a few key cultural differences that make adjustment hard. For example, about two months into my new adventure, I woke up one morning at about 6 a.m. to the sound of a neighbor lady knocking on our window (which has no curtains). Part of me felt like hiding under the sheet (too hot for blankets), and the other part felt like laughing at my optimism from two months earlier. However, I dragged myself from bed, took a moment to dress, prayed for patience and the gift of communication, and then I helped her with her cough, finally taking her to a hospital for suspected TB. (Praise God, it turned out to be nasal polyps causing the blood in her cough and not TB.) Moments like these make me feel like we are truly making a difference in people’s lives, and I praise God for them. However, I still fight the occasional urge to hide away so I can just sleep without interruption. These are the moments I face how truly selfish I am.
I love learning and trying to get a clinic going. It is so fulfilling to organize and put together clinic days, to assess community health needs, to make plans for health classes. I feel so blessed and honored that God chose me for this challenge. However, there is a part of me that feels that God is crazy to think I, a baby adult, am ready for this level of responsibility, and that He should go and find a proper adult to take over. Amid these feelings of weakness, I am forced to admit that everything good I do is not me, but God working through me. Also, I see that He is using this experience to draw me closer to Him and to help me daily seek the infilling of His Spirit.
A dear family friend emailed me a quote by Ellen White from The Desire of Ages (p. 669, 670) that has sustained and blessed me through this hard transition: “At all times and in all places, in all sorrows and in all afflictions, when the outlook seems dark and the future perplexing, and we feel helpless and alone, the Comforter will be sent in answer to the prayer of faith. Circumstance may separate us from every earthly friend; but no circumstances, no distance, can separate us from the Heavenly Comforter. Wherever we are, wherever we may go, He is always at our right hand to support, sustain, uphold, and cheer.”