I ask myself often, if I am honest, I have to admit that it’s daily, –“What are we doing here in this big ol city?”
I’ve been tagging our Instagram pics with #misfitmissionariesinla because that’s how I honest to God feel. Moving to an unknown place, with an unknown culture is distressing. Comfort zone is non-existent. Senses, overwhelmed. Emotions, fragile to the point of almost being constantly raw.
We’ve been trying to buy something to do ministry out of but the commercial real estate side of life is not as simple as buying a residential piece of property. This whole process is challenging my patience and stretching me beyond what I think I can handle. We’ve been here for 4 months and I actually thought we would be somewhat settled by now.
How in “la – la” land I was. HA!
We are still living in this tiny apartment that faces north. This means we get zero point no sun, meaning the apartment stays frustratingly cold. I hate cold. It makes me grouchy and melancholy. It makes me not want to get out bed until mid morning and by the time we get our day started, I feel like it’s already over.
Southern Cali has had an unusual amount of rain this year, or so we’ve been told. With the cold we have had to keep our doors closed all the time. This small act of keeping out the cold and wetness has turned this apartment into a dungeon, or so it feels. We never see our neighbors anymore. No chit chat about the day or the parking or anything. Just the door. Closed.
Can I also add that we have all been sick. The last time I felt healthy was at a Christmas party for my son’s homeschool community day. That was December 15. I have had 3 colds since and not the kind that you blow your nose here and there….no sir. These colds were the kind that put you in bed for 7-10 days at a time.
First I got sick. Then my son got sick. Then I got sick again. Then my husband got sick. Then my son got a violent stomach bug where he lost 8 lbs off his already rail thin frame. Then I got sick again. Then my husband got sick again. Then my son got sick again. At this point, I dragged my son and I to the doctor because I felt like I was going to be sick for the rest of my life. We left the doctors office with prescriptions for steroids, inhalers and allergy meds. Apparently, one of the colds had triggered our respiratory system into a chronic allergy attack that manifested as a cold, per the doc. I started taking Benadryl to see if it would help alleviate the coughing. Though not fully gone, it seems to be helping, or, I’m just slowly healing. Either way, I am praying that none of us get sick again for awhile.
Some days I feel really connected to our church plant family and some days I feel like we are all alone in this big overwhelming city. People have jobs and pretty active social lives as well….I don’t and we don’t. Homeschooling, by default, keeps us pretty isolated because we have to be home to do school. With the rain and the sickness combined, we have spent the better part of the last month and a half isolated from church family and just plain isolated. Once I withdraw into my emotional cave, it takes an act of God to get me out. That act has yet to happen.
I sure wish this was a positive update. I wish I had news to share that was uplifting and exciting. I don’t.
And I am OK with that.
My teen daughter has been reading a book for her home school studies, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya by Ruth Tucker. This book addresses the lives of the various missionary giants throughout history. The book does not give an exhaustive look into all the nitty gritty details of what these missionaries accomplished, but the author does a pretty good job in sharing with the reader the bad along with the good. There are parts in the book that make my daughter so angry and frustrated, at times she has to put the book down lest she throw it across the room. She has learned that some of these very famous missionaries had gone years without a single convert, neglected their own children, exhibited racism towards the people they set out to reach and promoted colonialism by idolizing Western culture over the culture of the various ethnic groups they encountered.
As I have struggled to live out my own faith through the lens of a Mexican American woman in a predominately white orthodox Christian space, I have taught her that there is beauty in ethnic diversity simply because God created us all different. Looking for ways to connect our diversity around one single unifying fact, the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ should always be our goal. Promoting one way to live out that faith in which one culture is seen as the norm and all other cultures must toe the line in order to be seen as “good Christian coverts” is just plain wrong. I have pounded this fact into her head for years so when she reads stories of missionaries doing the very thing I have taught her is wrong, she reacts strongly. And I am glad she does. I can help her work out her feelings while she is under my care and discipleship and prayerfully, by the time she is an adult, she won’t have to second guess, doubt, or feel like her faith is “the white man’s religion”.
In spite of learning about all the flaws of these missionaries, it has helped her realize that being an imperfect missionary is more the norm than not. I am able to walk her through an understanding that people can have a strong-rock-solid-faith for God in such a way that they step out on that faith for good reasons but they are still very imperfect as people. Missionaries throughout our timeline of history have made major mistakes in how they see people, how they treat people and how they believed people were supposed to behave after claiming to have a saving faith in Christ Jesus. People of God who have done great things to advance the kingdom of God by traveling across the globe to un-reached people groups have done so in bodies of sin and death. That will never change. However, instead of learning from their mistakes, we seem to honor them for their missionary contributions but do so in such a way that we look at their lives through rose colored glasses. I didn’t grow up in the church hearing the names of these missionaries as many have so I don’t have to take off those glasses. They were never on to begin with.
As we are living out our own reality of being on mission in the city, we have realized ourselves that there are very few “awe” moments where things feel “uplifted” or “joyful” or “successful”. Most often things are hard, not joyful, and feel like we hit failure after failure. Bodies give way to sickness, emotions give way to stress, frustrations give way to feeling like we should just throw in the towel.
Doubt creeps in and questions begin to stir…..
Did God really say?
And it’s in these moments, that I get a text message from someone in our church family.
“How are you feeling?”
“I made a green smoothie for lunch”
“A guy came into my shop today and he seems to be struggling with spiritual warfare, can you pray for him?”
These life giving text messages, even if for a minute in my day, snap me out of my navel gazing self pity and helps reorient my sensibilities. They remind me that we are connected to people and people are connected to us – even though I don’t see it or experience it daily.
The love that God’s people have for each other is not always tangible and evident….but I have learned that it’s faithful. And the only reason it is faithful is because I have a faithful God. He cares for me and my family in such a way that gives me answers to my never ending list of doubts and questions, even if that faithfulness comes in the form of a seemingly insignificant text message.
We are misfits here in this big ol city. We will probably always be. God knew we would be misfits here. And I am ok with that.