“You sound battle weary”, someone said to me in an email the other day after reading my latest newsletter from the Philippines. And honestly, I can’t think of a better two words to summarize the condition of my heart than those. Battle weary.
My first year in the field was fueled by passion and exciting beginnings. Every day was spent learning a new language and starting a ministry from the ground up. The days were fulfilling and God felt so near. Then, my second year was a mix of challenges and joys. My biggest challenge was the loneliness and the lack of community I felt without a church home, but there were so many joys! The kids really opened up that year, the drop-in center was thriving, and we took on a giant project by breaking ground on the construction of residential homes for the kids. I went home at the end of my second year struggling with the loneliness, but also feeling so alive and excited because of fruitfulness in the ministry and all that God had started to do.
This third year however, has unexpectantly been storm after storm. It’s one of those seasons where I can barely get standing back on my feet before the next thing comes and threatens to knocks me down. My absolute saving grace was that I had finally found a church home and a community here in the Philippines. I can’t imagine going through this year without that body of Christ to lean into…evidence of God’s perfect timing. But even so, from every corner of life the enemy was doing his best to press in…
There were countless trials within the ministry, the kids, and the staff. Our head director was in USA, we had to fire our social worker and have been struggling to find a new one for over a year now, and we had major discipline issues with the kids. There was an overwhelming amount of sickness and death- sick and injured kids, family deaths, motor accidents, and hospital stays…
There were cultural differences. And not the funny ones like asking for a napkin at dinner and having them bring you a feminine product. But the deep cultural issues involving things like differences in conflict resolution, communication, leadership style, and relationships. These are major issues that, when given a foothold, Satan really uses to shake up trouble.
We stumbled our way through the deeply complex world of poverty. I get it now, why all the organizations we spoke to told us that they started helping street kids and then stopped. And I get it now, why people with multiple PhDs struggle to give definitive solutions to the cycle of poverty. Because every situation, every culture, every family, is different. The answer is never black or white and the risk of being taken advantage of, lied to, or deeply hurt is great, which is why the need for godly discernment is so huge. And we learn best, honestly, through our mistakes. There really is no other way. But the heavy burden of these people and their stories weigh on me still at the end of every day.
I longed for a husband for the first time, maybe ever. Because at the end of the day in seasons like these, you really need someone in your corner to support you and reassure you that hard decision was the right one even though people hate you for it. When the enemy is stirring up conflict every direction you look, you really need someone there whispering in your ear, reminding you who wins in the end. And on the days when the kids yell explicit words at you because you won’t let them watch tv, and the power is out all afternoon, and there’s no more food for the volunteers for breakfast in the morning, you really just want someone to be waiting for you at home with a hug. People said I was crazy for moving overseas while I’m still single. I laughed at them and reassured them it was fine because…hello…I’m independent and strong and I love it. But now…I get it.
And there is so much more I could tell. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, this year was draining. As a friend, this year was hard. As a leader, this year was hard. As a servant of Christ in a place far from my “home”, this year was a hard one.
Finally, one day I realized that I needed some rest. Not just a day off or a week vacation at the beach. But some rest for my heart and my soul and even my body. I love these Filipino people and this country and I’m confident in the calling I’ve received. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. After all the struggles I just listed it’s important that you hear me say, I am happy, (I’m happy mom, ok?) and I love what I do and where God brought me…
But, I always want to be someone who pours out His love to the people around me. They don’t need the last few drops leaking out of a broken glass. They need a river of Life. I want to lead well, and speak blessings, and smile with joy, and trust the people around me.
So I’m home…resting and praying (and freezing!) and sleeping and eating and strengthening back up for the battles to come. This journey God has brought me on, honestly, is way harder than anything I imagined. BUT, to see God move so powerfully, to be a small part of God changing these people’s lives, to push out darkness with the Light…it is so worth it.
What a gift, to join Him on this road!
I’m here until December 28. I have a new phone number if you want it…
I would love to see you!