since returning home from my "vision trip" to nepal, i have had innumerable people ask me, "what do you think? was it fun? did you like it? was it an amazing experience? is that where you want to go?" i had no idea how difficult it would be to answer those questions and not sound like a raving lunatic. truth is that i am still processing the experience and my reaction to it. even as i write this, i am learning, little by little, what i think and feel about the trip and my future in nepal.
i say "my future in nepal" because regardless of my answers to the above questions, i still feel called to serve there. that isn't where my struggle lies.
my struggle lies in reconciling my experience with words like "fun", and "like", and "want". everyone expected that i'd go to nepal and i'd have this really rewarding visit and love the people, and the place, and know without a shadow of a doubt that this is where i belong. that is what i expected, too. instead, i had a trip full of challenges and obstacles, and fears that i had to face head-on. i was met with occasionally unimaginable conditions and the understanding that it was in these conditions that i'll eventually be living, no matter where i end up serving. i struggled with the knowledge that i, and everyone i know, have always envisioned me living and serving in africa. more than on any other trip (and there have been 15 since 2005), i struggled. that sounds bleak, doesn't it?
then there's the flip-side. no matter the challenge or the obstacle, there was always a way over, under, or around if i had the courage and the faith to take the path open to me. no matter how impossible the situation seemed at times, after much prayer, it became possible. no matter how inhospitable the conditions, the people met me with unparalleled hospitality- especially the other missionaries living both in kathmandu and "up the mountain". at times i felt like job in the bible, where god says to satan, "do what you want with her, just don't kill her" and satan had his way with me...testing me with spiritual warfare to see how obedient and faithful i'd really be in the face of such adversity. as a result, i felt myself getting more and more stubborn...and developed a "bring it!" attitude- because i felt that god was always there, ready to be my support and my strength when i didn't have any more of my own to rely on. while i didn't have an overwhelming sense that i "want" (on a conscious level) to spend my life serving in nepal, i DID have an overwhelming sense that it is what god wants of me- at least for now. he made a way for me there and is paving a path for me to take. he will be my strength when mine fails and he will be even more glorified by the fact that this is his agenda and not mine. i get a real sense that he has ordained this ministry and will show his glory through my uncertainty.
or i'm a raving lunatic.
so i told my story to my priest, who responded with characteristic transparency by saying that it was very overwhelming for him and he needed time to decide if i'm a lunatic or not. :) my story is overwhelming for me, too. this whole concept became really overwhelming for me as i was there living it. it hit home that i am really on the path to doing this, and that i’ll be leaving behind life as i know it back here and moving forward into a new and unchartered life. it’s not that i’ll be gone forever, even if this assignment is “permanent” -there are times of furlough and currently the plan is for me to furlough back in Lawrence for 3 months each year, instead of being gone for 3 or 4 years and then coming back for a full year…but i will be immersing in another culture and living the majority of my time in a completely different environment. i was hit with this wave of anxiety as i was standing on the street in kathmandu, surrounded by honking horns and cows in the road and dirt and trash and diesel smoke and heat and scooters and craziness….i had this almost unbearable longing for the peace, serenity, and “zen” of my life back here… and for the very first time i was truly afraid. funny, because in all of my travel trials and adventures (even in nepal) i was never really afraid. afraid of creepy spiders, yes (haha) but not afraid in any real sense. i was trapped alone in the terai with machine gun wielding soldiers and no ride, and i wasn’t afraid. i was left alone by those soldiers and left sitting in the desert heat with no ride and no cell phone and no idea what i was going to do- and i wasn’t afraid. i accidentally ventured into an army commando camp in the heart of the jungle and wasn’t afraid. i was staring into the eyes of a jackal/leopard/jungle cat on the path to my guesthouse, even then i wasn’t truly afraid. but standing there in kathmandu, envisioning what my life is to become….THEN i was afraid. i don’t think the fear has anything to do with the “wrong path”…. i don’t think it is a sign that this is not god’s will….i think it is the very real fear that i am not who i think i am (character-wise) and that i don’t have what it takes to be fully god’s. it is the fear of failing god, maybe… or the fear of not accepting this new life with enough grace…or the fear of being weak…maybe also the fear that this IS god’s path and i will be on it- alone- indefinitely... the fear that i won’t ever find that life partner that i always thought i’d find, to share in this really challenging journey… i don’t really know how to put a label on it, but it’s fear. period. the farther i get down the path, the more real it gets and the more freaked out i get. and the more excited i get, and antsy to move forward and get started. it is a constant tension between the pull back and the pull forward. yike.
how screwed up am i? you can tell me. i can take it.