Most people who have spent time in a foreign country will tell you that the best thing is the relationships you make. I don’t mean a short-term-missions-kill-yourself-for-Jesus trip, where you really only interact with your own group of Americans. But if you go and really invest your time into the people, whether you’re there for a week or a month or a year, you will find that the relationships you forge are quickly pretty deep and meaningful. We have lost something in America, and maybe in the developed world in general: the slow and gentle art of really knowing people.
If, like me, you return to a place often, what that means is likely that your better friends, if not your best friends, live half a world away, in the place where, “How are you doing?” really means, “I genuinely want to know how you are doing,” and “I miss you” really actually means “I want to sit down over tea and listen.”
Where not only is time happily given to the slow dance of easy conversation, card games, singing by the fire, and laughing over hot tea and biscuits, but where doing anything else is considered rude.
Where people you’ve only spent a total of 15 or 20 hours with legitimately mourn that you can’t travel 8000 miles for their wedding, or vice versa.
Where “relationship” means more than Liking the other’s Facebook or Instagram posts, except when you’re half a world away and that’s all you can do.
Where the condition of your living room is much much less important than the condition of your heart when someone comes to visit.
Where you will be given the best your host(ess) has to offer, regardless of their means, because doing so honors you and shows their love for you.
Where people say, “I will pray for you,” and mean it.
I’m headed back to Uganda, but not until October, and that feels far away! A beloved friend has died since I was there in February, and I was (of course) not able to go for her memorial service.
Another got married, and I was (of course) not able to go for his wedding.
It is a peril of not “living with” your ministry… One for which there is no solution (other than moving to the country). But I thank God for technology, that lets me have Facebook conversations with our sponsored kids and emails with our ministry partners, not to mention beautiful Instagram photos that take me back for a moment. Uganda has had my heart from the first visit, and her people have been the cement to that first binding love.
Which brings me to the after-Uganda trip, to Nicaragua, in November.
I am so expectant and excited about this trip! I’m not thinking about it toooooo much, because I don’t want to mentally and emotionally speed through the Uganda trip by anticipating the Nicaragua trip. I don’t want to do what I was just talking about, speed through the days and relationships, so that I can “get to the next thing.” The next thing will be there – no need to hurry up the rest.
I’m not sure what we’ll find in Nicaragua, but I that “rightness” feeling about it. The “go where God is moving and join Him” feeling that I had when I first went to Uganda back in September of 2009. Sure, there are a lot of cool reasons other than Ten Eighteen reasons to move to Nicaragua – or start the exploratory phase to perhaps maybe move to Nicaragua. And what we may find is that Nicaragua ISN’T where He’s calling us, and we’ll move on to our next choice – because sometimes the excitement and knowing is incomplete. You have to do the thing in front of you, hold onto the vision, but not get too far ahead of God.