17 July, 2015

True Missionaries

  I laid my head on the desk, overwhelmed with a something i couldn't describe. It would hit me at odd times, flooding my soul. I had surrendered my heart to Jesus at 25 years old. Totally and completely i had given Him my heart, and somehow i knew these feelings of wanting to serve Him in a deeper way were Him calling. My mother had just died, releasing us from the responsibility of taking care of her, and i was happy and fulfilled with being a homeschooling mama and wife to Marlin. Things were going very well financially and there was light at the end of the tunnel but there was a nagging something tugging at both of us. Was this really how we wanted to spend our days? Working hard to make farm payments, always thinking of the next bill, the next payment? It was then that we got a phone call, asking us to consider moving to Kenya and we both knew we would go. So we said yes, and sold our farm. We sold our beds and our dishes, our tools and our sheet sets. Finally we would fulfill our longing to serve Jesus in an even deeper way. We would minister to the poor, the orphans, the widows. We set our faces towards Africa with a resolve to spend the rest of our days there if that was where God was calling. But alas, life goes rarely as planned or dreamed.



  The first inkling of trouble set in while en route to Nairobi. I didn't expect to be homesick so soon and i was troubled when i sat beside a Kenya family and instead of feeling a rush of love towards my future fellow countrymen, i just felt tired. I had good reason to be tired. 5 months pregnant and no sleep does that to a person but i knew it was something deeper in my heart. By the time we arrived in Kisumu not only was i tired, but i had the flu, complete with nerve shattering head aches. My first week was a blur of black faces and smiling missionaries. I cried when our children went to school, standing outside the school window hanging out clothes, tears dripping down my cheeks. I missed them desperately, even tho they were just feet away from me. I kept telling Jesus i was doing this for Him but it hurt. He felt so very, very far away. As if i had left Him behind in that London terminal.

  Days turned into weeks and life became a semblance of normality. The first time the corruption in the Agape program was uncovered, the whole mission reeled from shock. It was only the beginning and like a stack of dominoes, one pastor after another was discovered to have been unfaithful. Marlin would come in from a day of doing investigations, his face exhausted and his eyes hurt. Meanwhile my dreams of reaching out to the Kenyan women, building relationships and pointing people to the One who had so completed my life, slowly unraveled. I was so tired and sick, day after day, week after week. When Hadassah died, we wrestled with our grief but the world keeps going around and so we slowly picked up the pieces of our dreams and focused on life. It was shortly after Hadassah's death that i sensed the Holy Spirit telling me that He had not brought us to serve in the way we thought, but He had another plan. I was confused. Why bring us to Africa? I felt intense guilt at living in comfort behind gated walls when my African sisters lived in mud huts, some with husbands who beat them. My husband loves me. I am his first priority, not because i insist, but because he takes it seriously when Christ said to love as He loves His church. He has my heart, and he holds it in all its vulnerability as a precious thing. I loved my Kenyan sisters but i longed for more of a relationship with them. I became pregnant with Christopher and my days became even more tied to my house.



  The thing that frustrated me sometimes was something i hadn't planned on. I had planned on being the best missionary ever and it seemed all i was doing was cooking food for people. American people. Wave after wave of guests passed through our home. We were incredibly honored and delighted when friends and family flew across the world to visit us. It was a glorious taste of home and when they left i would fight tears, along with the desire to climb into the plane with them. Mission teams came over....board members.....fellow missionaries.....i would fry hamburger, toast bread, wash sheets, babysit children and about the time i caught my breath, another wave would show up. I felt completely useless as a missionary, forgetting what a missionary really is. There were mornings i would swing my legs over the side of the bed, and remind myself to just do the next thing. I would wonder when my real mission work would begin, altho i loved fellowshipping with old friends and new friends. Marlin and i are both social people and we totally enjoy meeting new people and through it all, we made lifetime friends. But sometimes i got tired of cooking, cleaning, smiling and organizing. I grieved my dreams of what i thot a missionary would be. And then one day my eyes were opened.

  I was rocking Christopher, while babysitting 3 extra children for a week, when i heard that quiet, still voice. In the midst of the chaos of 12 children and dirty windows, He spoke to my heart that this was His calling all along. He had brought me to serve others so they could also fulfill what He had called them too. He showed me that He had called me to be that smiling welcome, to make our home a safe place for people of all ages. Those cakes i baked and the chickens i served were served for Him and in His name. I realized with a shock of joy that i was being a missionary all along. The mundane duties of cooking and cleaning took on a whole new level of honor. I'm sorry it took me so long to realize this. Some lessons aren't learned in a short time but are experienced through tears and self denial.

  Exactly 2 years to the day that we boarded a plane for Nairobi, we will board a plane for America. We will still be missionaries because true missionaries have nothing to do with location. True missionaries are people who serve Jesus with complete abandon, even if it means cooking yet another meal for His sake.

14 comments:

  1. This reminds me of a couple from our church who are also missionaries in Africa and how he shared that one day his wife reminded him, "God is more interested in what he is doing IN you than THROUGH you."

    Blessings to you and yours as you return to the states!

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    1. Thank you Bethany! We are excited. :)

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  2. So very true, Darla. The sacrifice of our hearts is a sweet savour to the Lord. You are truly his missionary. I often look at a picture of my large family and think, this is my mission field.
    Andrew is beside me looking at your pictures as I read. He was very impressed with the lizard (or whatever it is), and then when I got to sweet little Christopher's picture, he said, "Awwww.... The cutest part is his eyes... and his hair... and his chin." Add in his 4yo lisp since he can't say any "s" sounds. We love babies around here. Your little man is growing quite nicely. :)

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    1. The big lizard is called a monitor lizard and this one was found in the chicken house. They love chickens so it had to go. Zachary was SO pleased at his trophy!

      We are in agreement with Andrew regarding Christopher. :-)

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  3. Ah, friend! Funny that so often we struggle to be what we have been all along, merely needing a change of perspective, a change of expectation, and a resting into who God has created us to be - not who we think we should be. I think it is a life-long challenge, for sure, but ahhh! i love it when after wrestling for many nights and days, healing and growth is realized in our hearts and we we get to step into a small measure of fullness, rejoicing in the God who works such wonders not just around us but IN us too!!

    Miss you!

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  4. True missionaries have nothing to do with location... AMEN, my friend!! I couldn't agree with you more!! I will miss ya'll so much!!!! Blessings!!

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  5. Love this post.. I'll need it for sure; )
    One thing that came to me during the " waiting/ preparing" time of last several years was this: if we were not content here, we wouldn't be anywhere else either. Your words echo that thought.
    Can't wait to see you! :)

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    1. That whole content thing was something i have told myself many, many times over the years.
      And while our experience here was very tumultuous, many people have said their missionary years were the best of their lives. So no experience is the same.....
      looking forward to seeing you too!

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  6. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much for this clear honest picture. I needed to read this and Im pretty sure I need to print it out and keep it close at hand for the next 2 yrs. :} Honestly it kinda made me tired hearing all that. (Tired describes me most days lately) and I try to not feel overwhelmed or worry about being too tired to be what I need to be..esp. in the next 3 months or so and into the unknown. My God is able. And in my weakness may His strength shine out. This blog post just means alot to me. Thanks again! Gotta stop being upset about not seeing yous but I know God is even in those details. All my love and a hug for that sweet squishy pumpkin on the last picture. ~Jan

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    1. Dear, dear Janice, i so understand where you're at and how you're feeling. Focus on today......God's strength is enough for today and when tomorrow comes, you will find new strength and grace. I won't pretend that you won't have your trying moments here and that it won't be hard sometimes, but on the other hand, you will find yourself being richer for it all. God is so GOOD and His love so tender. We were really disappointed at not seeing ya'll too but it's ok. All in God's timing.
      much love and many hugs!!

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  7. Darla, I love your testimony in spite of all the pain. And I needed the reminder to cook for Jesus :) A little over 2 years ago God called me here to NYC to cook for His Missionaries...even though I did not want to do it...He very plainly told me this is what He wants of me...I know how it is to shop, cook and clean,over and over....But I too will do it for Him. God bless you with lots of peace, wisdom and grace my friend..

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    1. Hi Dee, thank you for the encouragement. It sounds like we have a lot in common with all the cooking and cleaning going on. :-) God bless you as you serve Him in NYC. My husband's sister and family are serving there under the Pilgrim Conference. It's quite the mission field!

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