When I was taking down Christmas, I had planned to get rid of my wooden box. But, my thoughtful sweetheart brought me flowers (just in case my heart needed some "cheerin" =) and I happen to set them in front of this box, and thought it looked fun.
So, I wrote "PEACE" on my little slate & it's a bright spot in my life/home right now. =)
This post is going to come STRAIGHT from my heart. I can assure you now, that it won't be all "pretty". =)
But, if I can help some other missionary's wife with her journey, or help you to know how to PRAY for missionary wives, then I will feel that my journey and the telling of it, will be worth it!
PART 1: In this post, I'll tell you some of the GORY details of being a missionary wife...
PART 2: in that post, I'll tell you some of the GLORY, that makes up for the adjustments one has to make!!
SO...What is it like to be a missionary's wife?
Each missionary wife's journey is different....
~HERE'S MY JOURNEY!!~
Our baby Noah was just 4 weeks old when Phillip broke the news to me that he felt that God was calling us to go the Colombia. Talk about "Baby BLUES!" ;-) Noah's birth was my hardest and things didn't go too well...due to his very LARGE size...He weighed 10 lbs. 6.7 oz.
Now...here was my sweetheart beside me telling me that in just a few months we would end up selling nearly all we owned and head to a country that back then was reported as the Kidnapping Capital of the world! SCARY!
In the summer of 2004 we began the very HARD process of sorting through, and dividing our things 6 different ways.
1. To Keep.
2. To give away.
3. To sell.
4. To go to Colombia.
5. To go with us to language school in Costa Rica.
6. To travel with us for the 8 months we would be on deputation traveling around telling churches what God was calling us to do.
It was an OVERWHELMING task to say the least!
My Advice to new missionaries: (For what it's worth =)
Don't sell all of your things. Of course you can scale down and sell some things, but THINK THROUGH what you will WISH you had kept and Store those things!!!
We spent the next 8 months in our little white van with 3 children (6 years and under) traveling all the way from Canada to AZ...and all the places in between. Poor baby Noah thought he would spend the REST OF HIS LIFE strapped to a car seat. =)
As a missionary wife/evangelist wife (Without a trailer) one gets to feeling like a BOTHER to those who are keeping their family in their homes. You lose all privacy and feel like you live in a glass house. (And now that Jesus has given us our VERY OWN HOME, I'm sure on this deputation, I will find myself wishing I could be enjoying my own home in Ohio, which I haven't been in for over 2 years! =)
In 2004, while we traveled around on Deputation to LOTS of churches...well-meaning souls/friends would secretly ask me, "Do you think that your husband has the mind of the LORD in taking you and your 3 babies to DANGEROUS COLOMBIA?"
I would try to assure them (Trying to HIDE MY OWN ANXIETY AT MY NEW UNKNOWN FUTURE!!!) that I believed that my husband did know God's will, and that I promised that I would STAND BY MY MAN wherever God called us!
(Years later at least one of them was gracious enough to come back and tell me, "I see now that God WAS in y'all going to Colombia, but back then...I thought your Phil was CRAZY!" =)
(SIDE NOTE: You may think that the missionary husband THAT VISITS YOUR CHURCH is crazy for taking his family and following God's leading...but TELL IT TO JESUS...PLEASE DON'T Tell it to his wife!!! She's already facing enough!)
To Me...Besides her precious husband and adorable children God has blessed her with....what defines a lady as Wife and Mommy...is her HOME! It's her HAVEN! She can decorate it, clean it, bake all kinds of goodies, and entertain her friends/family in her home. THIS IS THE PLACE WHERE SHE SHINES!
But...When a missionary lady has just sold, given away, or stored all of her earthly possessions, and now has NO HOME...it is not easy! She then goes on deputation and walks into each beautiful home...and sees their beautiful things, and it just reminds her of what all she USED TO HAVE!!
So here I was in 2004...traveling around for 8 months STRAIGHT having just given up my home, and my things, and I felt LOST!
I felt that I could hardly relate to other church ladies. When I got together with them to visit after church, their conversations were like this: "Yes, I just went to Target and found the perfect picture to hang in my bathroom."
Now, that was NOT wrong, it's just that I had just given up my bathroom AND ALL of my decorations, so I felt like I had NOTHING to add to the conversation. =) (Since we were traveling around during Christmas 2004...We decorated the inside of our van with battery operated Christmas lights and put a TINY lighted Christmas tree on our dash, to help all of our hearts! =)
Driving between services on Christmas day, we felt so lonely, but we didn't want to call anybody for we might interrupt their Christmas gatherings.
A lady normally LOVES to make ROOTS and settle down and make friends for a life-time. So, when she is called to move...not across town, but around the world, it is really hard for her. Of course, I have tried my best to make a fun home and new friends where ever God has taken us, but it's not always easy.
I have always been a very confident person. I never really remember struggling with who I was, UNTIL...I became a missionary's wife. During those first 2 years, I wondered WHERE the real Heather had gone?!
When I said, "I DO" to my Phillip, I never DREAMED what all that would entail. As a missionary's wife, one doesn't have a choice. She just wakes up one day and finds out that God has called her husband, and therefore her and their family to leave everything she has ever known and go to a place where she will have to learn a new language, a new culture, eat new foods, miss her family, friends, and country, etc.
Now in 2004, as a Mommy of 3 small children, I had NO DESIRE to go back to school to learn ANYTHING!!! I already had graduated with my BA in church music from God's Bible School (5 years of work)...and now God was calling me to go spend one year in Costa Rica TO LEARN SPANISH?!? UGH!
I spent quite some time asking GOD to PLEASE GIVE ME A "WANT TO" TO LEARN SPANISH...and a LOVE for this language.
He did just that, and I feel blessed today to be able to speak 2 languages. =)
That year in Costa Rica (2005-2006) was hard, dealing with a new culture, ALL 5 OF US LIVING IN A SINGLE ROOM (for the first 4 months), studying LOTS of hours a day, trying to communicate with our hostess and babysitter, etc.
When I arrived in Costa Rica, I couldn't even say ONE SENTENCE in Spanish. There were times that our hostess was CONVINCED that we understood what she was saying, and were just playing dumb. =(
So I often would just shake my head up and down, "YES" as our hostess would RATTLE OFF things just to try to smooth things over with her. I found myself HOPING that I didn't just tell her to BLEACH MY PURPLE SKIRT! =D
In our 2nd apartment, the 2 ladies that ended up being our "landladies", we later learned were lesbians or at least appeared so, and seemed to be involved in witchcraft. Looking back on it, we think they were trying to use sorcery against us, and they came in and robbed several things from us, including Phillip's credit card!
Then in June 2006, we Moved to Colombia, with ALL OUR POSSESSIONS IN A FEW SUITCASES!
NOW WE HAD TO LEARN YET ANOTHER CULTURE!!!
When we arrived we lived for the first 2 months with a Colombian woman who offered us a room when she met us.
Besides CULTURAL DIFFERENCES...in those first 2 months...our kids got Lice and fleas from working with the POOR children in the areas where we were planting churches, and all 3 of our kids got the Chicken pox. =(
When we finally got our own rental house here in Colombia in 2006, we had NOTHING, and had to start again buying furniture, washer, refrigerator, etc. I confided in Phillip that I didn't even know if I knew how to decorate anymore.
Not too long ago another missionary wife told me that she's been off the field for awhile and still feels like she's lost her touch in decorating.
I know that I look ahead to when we get to live in our USA home and know my style will be a mixture of 4 cultures I've lived in; American, Costa Rican, Colombian, and Argentinan. =)
In 2006, when I first got into our home, I had no CLUE if I could even BAKE here in Bogota. Having never lived at nearly 9,000 ft. above sea level, I didn't know if ANY of my recipes would work here. I was QUITE CONCERNED, for I LIVE TO BAKE!!! =)
But, Thankfully, although some of my "at sea level" recipes flopped, most of them have worked! =)
~Sometimes a missionary wife has to learn a NEW LANGUAGE!
When one learns a new language, in the beginning she will talk like a little child, and therefore the people in that new country will think of her as a simple child.
You go from saying ANYTHING YOU WANT TO in your own language, to trying to express yourself with the simplest of little phrases like, "I want water." or "Where's the bathroom?"
I'll never forget when Phillip was driving when we first got here to Colombia. An 11 year old Colombian boy was explaining HOW A TRAFFIC LIGHT WORKS to Phillip. He thought Phillip was NEW AT DRIVING, meantime Phillip had been driving for YEARS!!
So he sat beside Phillip and explained EVERYTHING to him. He said, "Now, when the traffic light is RED, you have to STOP! When it turns green, then you can GO!"
It's sort of humorous to read now, but a new missionary struggles with appearing CLUELESS in their new life...no matter what all they know and have done in their own country.
In the new country the nationals have no clue what they know, and due to their broken speech while trying to
Here recently, on a Sunday, we had some visitors over for lunch, UNPLANNED!!
Each Sunday I normally have my yummy American Sunday meal all planned and made before we go to church, but this ONE SUNDAY Phillip had wanted to cook so he could show me how to make a Costal meal from Cartagena...for he had just returned from visiting our church there. (This was the only Sunday in our 17 1/2 years of marriage that Phillip was going to cook our entire meal.)
So here we were, going to TRY TO cook food we'd never cooked before Having NO CLUE we'd be serving that food to visitors FROM THAT VERY CITY OF CARTAGENA!!! =(((
Phillip had planned to show me how to make "Coconut rice" using a fresh coconut, and a special type of fried fish, for he had asked our pastor's wife there HOW to do it all, so he and I could learn together!
This would be like YOU trying to make TYPICAL Chinese food for the first time and THEN inviting Chinese over for dinner! =)
So, on this Sunday, I just made the salad, and drinks. One of the lady visitors came into my kitchen and rather COLDLY asked me , "DO YOU EVEN KNOW HOW TO COOK?"
I just humbly told her, "YES!" But inside I was DYING!
Those of you who know me, know that I LOVE TO COOK AND BAKE and LIVE in the kitchen. =)
But, I couldn't prove all that to her, and she probably left thinking that that DUMB AMERICAN doesn't even know how to cook.
(By the way, THANKS TO ALL THE ADS THEY SEE ON TV, PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD think that we Americans EAT EVERYTHING OUT OF CANS!!!
They ask us all the time, "So, in America, y'all just eat pizza, and hamburgers and frozen and canned foods for every meal?!" GRRRRR!!! =(
I assure them that there may be families that do that, but there are LOTS of families like ours that the wife makes her own food, and we eat lots of fresh fruits, veggies, and salads, and I bake my own breads, pies, cakes, cookies, etc.)
~A missionary wife has to learn a New culture!
~We have lived here in Colombia for over 6 years, and are STILL LEARNING this culture!
Here, in the Smaller stores (WHICH ARE EVERYWHERE) you don't wait in line, it's whoever YELLS the loudest, gets helped first!
(Do you know how HARD it was for me as an American, who was trained TO NEVER CUT LINE, ...and now I had to learn to yell from the front door of the smaller stores, "Do you have eggs, milk, & oil?" If I don't yell, I stand there ALL DAY waiting to be helped!!!!!)
~I'll never forget when my Colombian friend had her first baby. Afterwards, when I saw her and her baby for the first time, I heard her husband calling her "Fatso!" I could have DIED!
So, with much concern, I tried to assure her that she wasn't fat and that she was looking nice, and losing her baby weight.
Come to find out later, IT IS A COMPLEMENT HERE to call one FATSO!! =D
That means that you are eating well, and "healthy!" Thankfully, they've never given me that complement. =)
~A lot of nationals do not complement your decor, food, etc. One reason they don't complement your things, is that they feel like it would be hinting for you to GIVE IT TO THEM!
I didn't know that for the longest time, and wondered WHAT they thought of our home, decor, etc.
Only a few months ago when we told them that Jesus was calling us to move to Argentina to work, did I find out that a lot of our Colombian friends LOVED my decor and they started naming the things of ours that they wanted to buy. =)
~Pedestrians DO NOT have the right away in a lot of countries! For the last 7 1/2 years (1 in Costa Rica and 6 1/2 in Colombia) we have had to RUN across the BUSY roads dodging motorcycles, bicycles, buses, and cars, with our small children!
In Costa Rica we had cars NEARLY HIT OUR CHILDREN ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD....TO MISS A POT HOLE IN THE ROAD!!! =( It's like they value their CAR more than life!
~Just when you are really STRUGGLING with being in a new culture and MISSING YOUR OWN you'll have a taxi driver or someone who has NO CLUE ask you,
"So, you Didn't Like America, so decided to come to live here in Paradise?!" =(
Or, like one national told me, "Colombia is the BEST place in the world, so you shouldn't even MISS your own country AT ALL!"
Now, I want HIM as a Colombian to feel that way about his country, but as an American I LOVE MY OWN COUNTRY and will MISS my culture, food, family, and friends!!
Every where you go as a family, everyone watches every.single.thing.y'all.do!
Well-meaning natives (complete strangers) will get after you regarding how you raise your children, what you should do, or what you shouldn't, etc. (only because you don't raise your children according to THEIR cultural ways.)
One missionary wife in a cold climate had ladies (STRANGERS OFF THE STREET) come up to her and her girls and lift up their skirts to make sure they had something warm on their legs! =(
Our children get so SICK of being watched when they go out to shop, to church, etc., that they say, "Oh, If we could ONLY go out and NOT EVEN BE NOTICED!!" (We try to remember -- as much as it drives us crazy -- that their staring is due to admiration, so it's a compliment.)
Culture shock is REAL!!!
It affects different people different ways. Some of the ways it can affect one is:
~Some days, you just don't want to get out of bed. It's just easier to SLEEP than to face the challenges of your new culture.
~You have NO DESIRE to step outside your own door, for when you do...YOU ARE IN ANOTHER CULTURE with its added stresses!
~You feel SAD for no reason at all.
Someone left a GREAT QUESTION in the comment section below. I want to address it here.
DOES A MISSIONARY WIFE HAVE TO HAVE HER OWN "CALLING" IN ADDITION TO HER HUSBAND'S CALLING...IN ORDER TO GO TO THE MISSION FIELD?
Many may see this differently, but I see it, that when we married our husbands, we said it was for LIFE, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, etc.
God made us ladies to be special HELPMEETS to our men. WOW! WHAT A PRIVILEGE!! =D
So, that includes helping HIM be successful in whatever GOD calls HIM to do. I married a man who I knew God was calling to be a pastor/preacher. But, if a few years later, God called him to be a TRASH COLLECTOR TOO, then, I am to help him be the BEST CARED-FOR TRASH COLLECTOR AROUND!! =)
So, No, I don't know that I really ever felt my OWN CALLING to go to the mission field, I just knew that where Phillip went, I would go! And I Prayed for God's grace to Help me help HIM shine through it all. I am here to STAND BY MY MAN! =)
(But as you will read in "The GLORY of being a missionary's wife...part 2" God has let me experience the BLESSINGS right along with my wonderful man. =)
Now...I've opened up my heart and have been honest, maybe too honest. =)
But, maybe this HONEST POST will help YOU know better how to PRAY FOR those you know who are missionary wives.
My Grandmother often says this quote:
"Don't judge a person until you have walked in his/her moccasins." =)
If you have never been a missionary's wife, it's probably best not to try to give too much "knowledgeable" counsel or judge them too harshly, just throw your arms around them and give them a hug and assure them of your prayers during their journey! =)
Part 2...THE GLORY OF BEING A MISSIONARY WIFE...coming up!