14 November 2007

Welcome to the Jungle – Part 6

When preparing to move to Uganda there was an endless list of things to do… find an agency, go through their training, raise support, meet with supporting churches, make postcards, write prayer letters, sell or send everything you own, passports, health insurance, international drivers licenses… and that’s just the US side…

On the other side you need to find a house, get a work visa, tax ID #, register with the embassy, find a doctor or credible hospital, get cell phones, buy a car, get connected to the internet, find a school for your kids…

Oh, and somewhere in there you need to say goodbye to family and friends, build up your new partnerships and actually do what you came to do…

Instead of hitting the ground running… I was starting with a limp and my hands tied behind my back…

But worse I forgot the 2 most important things that all missionaries (for lack of a better term) and especially new missionaries need… the body and your soul…

1) Soul Care

Up until I came to Uganda I never gave a thought to soul care… I grew up in the church and began a program of daily bible reading and prayer when I was 12… and despite the fact that this blog makes me sound like a manic depressant at times… up until Uganda and even now I am generally upbeat person that never struggled with a lack of joy or depression of any kind…

I came to work with an Anglican diocese training their church leaders… I knew that church wouldn’t be a place to find sound teaching, I knew that due to language and cultural differences the church wouldn’t be a place to find fellowship, and I knew that there wasn’t a pastor figure around to encourage me… but for some reason I thought I would be okay…

The joke was on me…

You can’t give continually without receiving… despite what many overseas rookies (including myself when I arrived) think…

I was running on empty within weeks… with no relief in sight…

Many Christians would tell you just read your bible and pray… sorry but that doesn’t work…

I had to learn what stirs my soul to worship and serve my king… asking a pastor to go home and read his bible is like asking an accountant to go home and balance his checkbook…

I learned that soul care for me is a long run where I can talk (or complain) to God while gasping for a breathe, or having lunch with a group of men who love God and struggle in life, or hanging out with my wife and other couples and being honest about life, or wrestling with my boys while remembering everything good God has given to me…

But I also learned that the goal of trials, discouragement, frustration and depression is not to snap out of it as quickly as possible… but instead that God is using them to correct me, teach me or instruct me… and often I need to embrace the struggle until I understand the lesson He has for me…

2) Support structures

I am an extreme extravert…

My wife is an extreme introvert…

And we both desperately need other people…

I moved out of my parent’s house when I was 18 and my parents have called me once a week since that time… but it was not until Uganda that I began counting the days for their call… I even counted the days until my in-laws came for a visit… I burst into tears when a team from our church first arrived… and cried when they left… the highlight of my year are the pastors teams that come with guys I went to school with and worked with for 4 years…

But still it took almost 18 months for me to figure out that I needed to develop a support structure here in country…

The church is a body… you can’t just cut off your hand, send it to Africa and expect it to work…

Recently, the McDonalds moved to country… but within 2 months they knew more ex-pats then Christine and I had met in almost 2 years… I discovered that their 17 year-old daughter refused to come until they found a church… so she took it on herself to search myspace, facebook and every other teenie-bopper webpage until she found teens at a church in Uganda…

She was successful and met the pastors 17 year-old son… sorry, this isn’t an online romance story… but the point is that on their final 2 trips to Uganda before the “big move” they began attending the church and had friends on-site to greet them when they arrived…

So despite the “Year 1 Blues” and hemp charges they have faced… the McDonald’s have persevered as the church body has comforted and encouraged them along the way…

So now on Tuesday’s I sit around a table with 8 other white boys talking life and downing coke, Christine enjoys some tea, coffee and conversation with the ladies on Friday and Wednesday we forsake our 9 PM bedtime and hang out with 5-7 other couples until 11 PM and beyond… and for some reason things just seem for lack of another description… better than before…

So to the next rookie ready to make the jump to the oversea big leagues… if you forget anything don’t forget… the body or your soul…

And for the rest… don’t get too busy and neglect… the body and your soul either… because as my friend Wolfman told me on his visit over here… “dude, some things are universal”…

3 comments:

Holly said...

Haven't you always counted the days until you get to see your favorite mother in law?

Teenietinyt said...

Yeah, this was my biggest lesson upon coming home...GOD highlighted how much I need and crave community. I am much more thankful now for the people around me...so Touche`

Jeremiah & Angela Main said...

Jeff,

Any Christian’s personal relationship with their Creator is always the most important focus of their life. The thing is, we fashion idols with our hands that are dumb, mute and impotent; and we cultivate and serve them instead of God. We replace a true, intimate relationship with God with things like Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, fellowship with other Christians. The fact is, that if we do love the Lord our God with all of our soul, heart and strength then we will still do all of those things, and they will serve to strengthen our love of God. However, if we don’t love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; then all of those things are simply things that actually become idols and replace God.

Every Christian, missionary, pastor, or anybody else must have the Great Commandment as their life’s aim. Passionately pursue loving God!

If that is your aim then I believe (from scripture and confirmed by experience) that you will find two of your statements to be false. You said:

“Many Christians would tell you just read your bible and pray… sorry but that doesn’t work…

I had to learn what stirs my soul to worship and serve my king… asking a pastor to go home and read his bible is like asking an accountant to go home and balance his checkbook…”

Actually, reading your bible and praying does work when you are in love with the Person that wrote you a love letter and you want to hear from Him, and then communicate with your love through prayer. Furthermore, any accountant who doesn’t have his own finances in order is no man I want telling me about my finances.

Don’t loose sight of your first love, and don’t be deceived, that love has sustained thousands before you who have been even more isolated from the body than you are my friend. Press on towards the goal which is the upwards call of Christ Jesus!