Changes

It’s hard to describe how I’m doing lately. If I had to sum it up, it would be something like treading water with a wave about to take me under. The end of the year is one of the busiest times and while I don’t have quite the same amount of drama as I did last year, there’s still much on my mind.

I’ve decided, first of all, that this blog will be more about reflection and personal growth than my ministry updates. I’ve spent the last three months struggling to think of a great way to write about my experiences, to put them into journalistic prose or sweeping narrative…and I’ve come up frustrated. The truth is most of the time here in Poland is spent doing pretty normal, every day things except that I’m in a different country and with the motivation of sharing my life testimony with others. And the experiences I have at events, serving during camps or weekend conferences is so difficult to put into words. Honestly, pictures and videos that I share on social media are the best way to see what I’m up to.

What I’m missing is a space to reflect and share what comes out in hopes that it is inspiring or at least resonates with my readers. I lost focus of my first goal with this blog: to show you what life looks like on the mission field long-term.

And actually, the feeling of not being able to express just what you want to say is a great example. There’s a lot of things that happen every week and emotions that aren’t always clear enough to pin down. Sometimes I forget just how jam-packed my weeks are. Even more so because I’m surrounded by a foreign culture (well, not so much now) and have to expend energy just being in a room with other Polish speakers grasp at straws of understanding. Then you have students who don’t all speak English well and the challenge of trying to communicate instructions effectively. Then there’s driving. And having to do everything myself because I live alone. And, and, and—the list goes on.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m completely, utterly in love with what I’m doing here. I adore being a teacher and I’m hugely passionate about serving this community. I wouldn’t trade this for anything. It’s hard work and it gets tiring, but so, so forth every bead of sweat and lost hour of sleep. I’m incredibly grateful I have the privilege to serve with Proem. There are times I have to stop and just wondering that I’m seriously living in Poland. Like, this is my life now. What?! Crazy.

And so, it’s almost 3:00 AM. I’ve spent the last couple hours trying to sort out an idea for fundraising and how I want to structure this space from here on out. But I have a class in the morning, so I think it’s time for bed.

Pains and Passage

This week has been tough. The extent of the culture shock I’m experiencing really hit me hard. I cried over not being able to explain an order error at McDonald’s. Like, legit felt humiliated and stupid. I ended up leaving the restaurant because I didn’t want to get stared at with tears streaming down my face and the fresh air would be better for me anyway. I prayed in frustration and ended up calling another missionary who helped me regain perspective. She told me this is all still new (October is my second month here), and the things that were easy in the US are not going to be here for a number of reasons. There’s a grieving process happening and it’s completely normal. All of the veteran missionaries have been through it. You feel the loss of something you took for granted: normalcy.

And she was right. Besides the culture shift, I’m working my brain cells overtime trying to convert Polish words and sounds into cohesive meaning, all while managing and teaching young children which is a huge mental and emotional drain already. All of this seemed forgotten because all I could think about in that moment was the embarrassment of not being able to order a hamburger meal. My pride was hurt.

I know I keep referencing James 1:3-4 a lot (and Romans 5:3-4 is a similar message), but its exactly what I am in the midst of. Refining and growth to build endurance: painful, awkward, and uncomfortable; the results of which are a strong and resilient person, rooted firmly in faith because she was tested and came out better.

All is not grim struggle here, though. I’ve made new friends, strengthened previous relationships, and really, I have an amazing community here and in the States. I love being here. There are just days when it makes me feel like screaming or huddling under a blanket away from everything. One cool thing is that even my limited experience of living abroad and being on mission allows me to share advice to those about to do the same or considering it.

My best friend is on her way to teaching English in Korea. We had a chance to Skype the other day and it felt really good to reassure her about living overseas and how God has been pruning and pushing me. To encourage her to set aside misconceptions or insecurities, and know that God is the one opening and closing doors. I thought, while I was talking with her, how I felt the same just 2 months ago, a week before I was going to fly to Poland. I didn’t know fully what to expect or how my life was going to change. I couldn’t have been prepared for the challenges that cropped up or the emotional waves that I’ve had overwhelm me. But through it all, I have Jesus. I have the people he’s put in my circles. I’m not alone in this and remembering that makes a huge difference.