Around Christmas time I took time to write a reflection of how the culture was affecting me. It can be found on our family site. Culture shock is something we have been told to expect in the foreign mission field. Most of our missions teachers say that it hits around 6 months of living in the field. We have now been living in Arequipa for 9 months. Everyone’s situation is different; everyone deals with stress and transitions differently. I am going to share with you how 9 months has affected me, because I believe that I have experienced some feelings of culture shock in the past month. I hope that this piece can shed light for those of you that will be foreign missionaries one day.
I thank God for the path that he placed Greg and me on together. Greg has a background in Spanish that has been more helpful to us in this place than anything else. We worked with a Hispanic church in Memphis for 3 years before coming here, so I know the feeling of being around Spanish speakers and not being “in the loop” (because my Spanish skills were majorly lacking). But I learned to make-do and emphasize the gifts that don’t depend on knowing the language. By the way, I am an extrovert. I had other ways to feel successful in the states. I had multiple friendships that I kept up (with English speakers of course). I was a teacher, and I loved my job. I was earning my masters in education while we were living in Memphis. And we had a great group of friends going into foreign missions that we could see on a regular basis there at HUGSR (Greg’s graduate program).
My time in Peru has been a major transition from that life in Memphis. God used a year spent with our two supporting congregations to get me used to making transitions. I thank him for the 6 months in Tyler and Tullahoma, and the way that it helped shape me for future transitions. My main role is now to be a mother to Ana Grace (and a soon-to-be Maggie Kate) and supportive wife to my husband. It seems very simple for me to make that statement, but the past month I have wrestled with God trying to find my place and my ministry role in this strange land.
We have now been living in our permanent home for over a month. We had a horrible experience with getting an internet connection, so I was out of touch with family and friends in the states that serve as such a comfort to me for around 3 weeks. Much frustration with living in a new neighborhood, away from so many conveniences we had in our previous apartment, and not being able to communicate with the people I love so much has resulted in multiple cry sessions and pleading before God. I have felt a sense of loneliness that I have never experienced before and a feeling of being lost. What am I doing here, and when will God answer my prayers?
To explain a little better... I have had a picture in my head of what our ministry would look like. I am confident that God placed Greg and me together with gifts that compliment each other. However, this ministry is about forming relationships. To form relationships, one must communicate well. I have been feeling so inadequate in my language skills. We are at the point where it feels very much like we should be wheelin’ and dealin’ with the relationships. But I can’t do that very well right now. Greg’s Spanish is great, but it doesn’t really feel like teamwork when I can’t follow all that is going on.
After much prayer and a talk with a husband that is so patient with me, I am now at peace with this period of our ministry. For one thing, it is temporal. I am going to keep learning the language and meeting new people and become comfortable with where I live. But for now, I am finding peace in knowing my role in this ministry is doing what I know best: I am a mother and wife before all else, and if I succeed at fulfilling those roles I am complimenting this ministry. We do have Internet now, but after getting through this period, it was a much needed blessing for me to not have that access. I have spent a lot of this past month speaking to God and surfacing some feelings and thoughts that have been building up for the past 9 months. I have been open to my husband and team, and really do feel like I have learned to depend on them and lean upon God instead of those so many miles away.
God has blessed us so much in our time living here. I am very excited about what this ministry will look like a year from now. One thing I do know, I will still be striving to walk the path and be the best minister I can be for teamAREQUIPA. Let’s see what the next nine months bring.