My family moved back to the US at the beginning of August primarily due to Carla’s mother being in hospice care and in her final stage of Alzheimer’s. After living in a third world country for 8+ years we are having to make many adjustments, some exciting and some overwhelming. My kids asked me last week, “So HOW often do we get mail? It comes EVERY DAY? To our HOUSE? What IS all of this mail that people keep sending us?” Up until now in their lives “getting mail” meant a plane ride to a neighboring country where we could pick up one or possibly two packages from family who had generously packed our requests at least 3 months prior. For the past 8 years we had not received one single piece of mail at our house or even in our country. To us right now, even the junk mail looks fun!
Also, it is difficult to throw scraps of food away or to watch other people throw food away. For the past 8 years I have been feeding people with anything I could find: scraps, left – overs, parts that most Americans throw away. Even the turkey bones and parts that everyone threw away just last month after the holidays would have been a feast for them. Everyone in our country of service ate every single part of the animal, many animals and insects they could catch including rats, ants, frogs, snakes, dogs, cats, fresh road kill, and any of this meat was a real treat that might come once a month. The scraps that would come from our table was greatly desirable to them. Living like this for 8 years has made it difficult at times to go to the store. I have mixed feelings of how blessed we are in America, to being overwhelmed by the choices. One day I went to the store to buy some apples. In the “apple isle” I found 15 or more kinds of apples which included varieties I had never heard of. I was used to just picking the apples from the little market stand that had the least bug holes or were the least squishy. How do I choose? Now imagine this same type of brain exercise and overwhelming feeling on each isle, with different items. America is certainly blessed! It is frustrating when people don’t know how blessed we are, but rather think that all of this is just normal. It is not normal. It is BLESSED! ALL of it!
Another time that I am always sure to get choked up is going to the public library. I’m not even an avid reader; I didn’t grow up loving books like my sister did. So this is not about a love for books as it is about a love for opportunity and blessing. Every time now when I go into a library I want to cry and stand on a table shouting out, “This library is an amazing opportunity that you must not take for granted! Benjamin Franklin was a great man to begin the idea of a library (and continuing similar discourse)!!!” But of course, I don’t. I only cry and look in awe. In the country we served in there were no school libraries, no public libraries, no church libraries. People there do not have books in their homes. They were shut off from the world with no opportunity to learn for decades. No books - no authors, no authors - no books, no learning, no self-advancement, no progress, no opportunity. That is where we lived, in the “land of NO opportunity” for the people. As for our work, we had wonderful opportunities to share the gospel with many there and further discipleship efforts.
I could say the same thing about so many public places: public parks, public land, tennis courts, nice roads, biking trails, etc. These all are unique to a free and thriving first world country. They are not a “right” they are all a privilege and a blessing. Cell phones were $1000. Satellite TV was $2000. So of course, we didn’t have them.
We used to have to hide from the trash men who came every day because they might report that foreigners were living in that house. We used to hear bells and gongs when the monks came by daily and begged for rice. In the house I live in now in the Iowa there is a pipe that makes a sound randomly that sounds just like one of those little gongs and I always think about the monks when I hear it.
Recycling used to mean that the beggars would go through your trash and pick everything that they could use out of it. (Everything! That is why I started keeping the scraps of food separately and just feeding them with it.)
I love taking baths here because I can see the bottom of the tub since the water here is clear. The water there was very yellow or brown. I love having hot water in the kitchen which no one has there. I love the thought of making a grocery list BEFORE I go to the store even though I haven’t done it yet. This is something I haven’t been able to do the last 8 years because the stock was always random and inconsistent. I just don’t know where to start in making food plans. It’s like trying to return to 8 years ago and forgetting everything in between.
I love being able to fill up the gas tank at the gas station instead of getting rations. I love buying things and not expecting them to break in the first week or being able to return them if they do. I love that people know how to “que up” (that is get in line).
There are many experiences that we have regularly which I could share. And as time goes on I find myself becoming once again more comfortable in this culture of my homeland. I also hope I never forget what those 8 years were like. I want to somehow find a way to live in both cultures. I don’t want to get used to thinking great privilege is just the norm. I want to remember the thin emaciated and malnourished children we held. I want to savor the memories of sharing a pop with a poor person for the first time and watching her face as the bubbles went in her nose. I want to be aware and awake to the different worlds and cultures in homes even in my own neighborhood all around me of hurting or hungry people, of people who are not like me, and to learn how to love them too, as I have learned to love those on the other side of the world.
Thank you for supporting us through the IMB through those last 8 years. It is a wonderful organization that we are proud to have been a part of. There are many qualified, dedicated, passionate, sacrificing families still on the other side in other countries. I know that you are an important part of their lives, more important than you know. We count it a privilege to stand with you in supporting them now for the sake of the gospel and advancement of the kingdom.
Counting it all joy and continuing to serve.