What I learned while sharing over coffee in visiting my supporters from London this past weekend:
1. Everyone can be lonely.
I was once told that writing down all your fears would help you see all the things that you put up as obstacles to fully living your life. I'm afraid of tornados, but that doesn't count. It takes you awhile to get started on what fears are very real, but once you start thinking, getting past even the initial fear of seeing yourself so vulnerable and get writing, then the page fills up easily. At the top of my list is being lonely and alone in life. I fully acknowledge that it is one of my greatest fears of doing long term missions work- moving into a different culture where nothing is familiar and there is not even one close friend, right there, to share the transition, beautiful and bad, with. I asked my friend Beth who has served in Thailand for almost 4 years if she was ever lonely. "Of course!" she said. The first year of her work there she described as the hardest year of her life. But then she said that when she came home after living there for 2 years she talked to some of her closest friends still living in the same city who surrounded by the familiar and more company were lonely. Loneliness isn't a phenomenon that can only be experienced when you live far away. Everyone is lonely when there is a lack of doing good and a lack of relationship with God. But here at home it is less evident when it is easily satisfied with food, phone calls, friends, media, entertainment, careers, or just noise.
2. Transition is easier than you think.
I asked a long standing friend and supporter, Diane, what the hardest part about living in Africa for a year was for her time there. "Coming home" she answers. I kind of just sat there for awhile looking at my coffee trying to understand it. I didn't think her answer really answered my question...it wasn't actually about living in Africa at all, but that was the hardest part? She interrupts my thoughts..."You transition easier than you think Laura. If you don't highly value North American comforts like having running water at your finger tips and a hot shower- if you are the kind of person who living with the easy access to everything isn't what you live for." Well then, you take maybe 3 months to get comfortable with this new lifestyle, and you've grown away from the things you "needed". But then the hardest thing is coming back home and realizing it only takes one day to go back to your luxury life in Canada as it were.
3. People will support you for a good cause.
I don't know where the idea came from that people wouldn't want to support me and make the commitment to help me prayerfully and financially once again with where God places me next. From guilt in asking for support? From not believing in myself to be able to fulfill God's purpose? A dear family friend told his daughter when she asked her Dad why he didn't want to spend money on celebrities, supporting their records, buying magazines on their lives, that he would rather support "Miss Laura" (as I have always been known to their little girl as) because with his support and money I can make a difference for other people.
4. God has big plans for all our lives.
As I said goodbye to my Mom's bible study ladies group after sharing over a night of desserts and tea one of the ladies turns to me, studies me for a moment, and then says "Laura- God has big plans for your life. I just know it." I've been thinking about that...I think God has mighty plans for how he wants to use each of us for His glory and in His service. It gives me an anxious and excited feeling...
5. I can easily become overwhelmed.
Sometimes my missions pastor tells me "that sounds scattered Laura." Often since moving to Pickering I feel overwhelmed. I feel like I'm going down a track and running towards a vision and with a passion and then suddenly I feel overwhelmed the next day with life. I've come to see in myself that this is only when my thoughts become scattered. I hear about one amazing opportunity, five different ways people are serving in Africa, a handful of amazing organizations giving a voice and hope to children, think of all the wonderful places there are to travel, and all the different things I could do and want to pour myself into all of them. Then my vision gets stretched in too many different directions and I feel overwhelmed because I can't do it all. Although I wish I could. I wish life was 5 times as long and I could volunteer for everything and everywhere. Instead, I need to make the most of the one chance I get at life, and not let all the opportunities overwhelm and scatter my thinking from the course I'm on.
6. I am overwhelmingly loved and blessed by it.
There is a support network who have been faithful to me throughout tour and are ready and willing to support me again when the time comes. I have a handful of people who take me out, care for me, and take pride in what I do as if I was their own daughter. I don't know what I have ever done to deserve it. I only know I haven't done anything, but rather it is the grace of God that has.