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One year in the US - the unexpected transition

Transition is something we talk about a lot in missions.  But that doesn't mean we are good at it.

People transition in and out. New students come, old friends leave.  Every good friend that I have had over the last 18 years has come for a limited time, then left.  Eventually that takes a toll on one.

Our extended time in the US came upon us unexpectedly, and yet now I can see it was unavoidable.  Tensions and stresses had been building up for years, and yet letting go of everything in Panama was an excruciating process.

The transition has been more painful in that it was unplanned.  We didn't have months to prepare, to carefully pack, to properly say goodbye.  We left for 3 months, and didn't return.  Couldn't return.

I found myself turning in paperwork at the local school for our kids, signing up for health insurance, and the most daunting of all, negotiating the immigration process with Alex.

I feel like a hiker who had been following a fairly well marked trail, and…

Is Poverty Good?

Picture yourself a missionary in Panama, or another developing nation.  You are receiving a short term team.  They arrive at the airport, wide-eyed, ready to serve, taking everything in.
undoubtedly, poverty is one of the first things they will notice.  They will see houses that are simple shacks, barefoot children playing in the street, street dogs that are all skin and bones. They will visit a village and observe the children crafting toys from garbage, or playing all morning in the river, not a toy in sight.
Without a doubt, someone will comment, "They seem so happy!"
Who are "they"?  Those others.  Those different from me, those with little, while I have much.  I never realized that I was rich, now it is obvious that I have lived a life of privilege.
But somehow the picture of children smiling and laughing doesn't fit the picture they have in their minds of poverty. Shouldn't they be miserable?  They think, "I'm unhappy with my own lack.  I worry a…

"I could never do what you do..."

I have been told this many times.

"I could never do it!" people have told me.  I understand what they are saying.  Most of them, I believe, mean to communicate admiration.  Admiration is nice, as far as it goes. But it can also be isolating.

When people say this, sometimes as a missionary, this is what we hear....

"I could never do what you are doing.... therefore I put you in another category. You are a super-Christian"

"I could never do what you do..... therefore the challenges that you face must not faze you much."

"I could never do what you do..... therefore I can distance myself from your struggle, and admire you from afar."

I don't believe that most people mean to say those things. Perhaps I am the only missionary who has struggled with this phrase.  But perhaps not.

Missions work can already feel lonely.  I live in a culture foreign to the one I grew up in. And while I have learned to love my adopted country, and love it's people …