It’s been almost a month here and I’m finally starting to feel settled. Back in a place where everything is familiar. And also everything has changed. But maybe most of all…I have changed.
I didn’t really know what it would be like to come back to the Philippines after being away from this life for so long during a pandemic. I hear other missionary friends and families saying the same thing right now. I tried to prepare for how I would adjust, but there was no way to truly know besides just getting on that plane in Dallas and pressing my feet back into this Filipino land.
In so many ways, these first few weeks have been a dream that’s felt easy to slide into and I’m incredibly thankful for all the answered prayers. In other ways I’ve just had to stumble my way through the culture and pressures, adjusting slower and often messier than I’d like. Thankfully, God is always much more gentle with me than I am!
After two of my flights were delayed, I missed the welcome home party all the staff and girls had planned and instead a taxi dropped me off outside my house a day later after everyone had already gone home. When I went to pay, the driver refused to give me change because “he didn’t bring money with him”. I offered to pay double what the ride cost just so I could get out of the car. Only then did he pull out his wallet full of money, suddenly finding it very easy to hand me now half of my change. “I forgot how frustrating that feels” I whispered to myself, and then just quickly put it out of my mind and stepped outside..
I immediately set my bags down and turned around the corner as fast as I could. My heart raced. The sound of two not-so-little feet came running through the puddles and then finally into my arms. It’s a moment I had literally dreamed about so many times back in Texas while sitting at red lights and during the long nights of waiting..it was finally happening. I was back, and I couldn’t believe I was hugging my girl again. She’s grown up so much. I had worried I wouldn’t “feel” like a good mom anymore when I got back but suddenly looking into those same precious eyes, every bone in my body pulsed with joy…it actually does come right back like they said.
Nicole and I walked hand in hand down the street until we got right outside the gates at House of Hope. “Ay-oh!”, I called out and the house erupted with teenage laughter. The girls tackled me at the door and it was so, so good to see them.
A few days later all of TRIM visited a fresh water spring and I was able to catch up with the staff over lunch while we sat together at the base of a beautiful waterfall. God’s creation here is insanely beautiful. Back in the village a few days later I sat on the floor of one of the women’s homes while we drank coffee and laughed at all the new babies that had been born while I was gone. The ladies kept calling my fresh winter skin “sobra ka puti” (too much white) and reaching out to touch it then rubbing it back onto their own arms as a joke. We sang a Bisaya song loud and proud together before I left that afternoon. I hadn’t realized how much I missed worshiping around people who don’t mind what they sound like. In all these moments life felt full and vibrant again. It’s been so good to be back…
In the same first month back, there were also countless challenges that I can’t even begin to try and write about here. We got the phone call that one of the HOH aunties was poisoned the night before in the village. It was another brutal and senseless death, the type of thing that takes my breath away and leaves me at a loss for words with the girls when we sit together to talk and pray. A few days after that happened one of our outreach staff got in a serious motorcycle accident during work and we had to rush him to the hospital as fast as possible. He’s okay, but it was a scary day for the team. And on and on…
So I’m home, and back to this life, and for 100+ reasons it’s the best and I’m so grateful to finally be here. But you also have to get really good here at holding joy and sorrow together. Life will simply demand it from you over and over again.
…Honestly, doesn’t it feel as if the whole world is a little bit like that right now?
Parents are tucking their kids safely into bed at night while other families flee from war? Wealthier countries have moved on from the pandemic while under-resourced countries are still getting slammed and in lockdown. In the same neighborhood someone is celebrating a marriage while another person plans a funeral… We continue to do the simple things like wash our face at night and schedule next week’s meetings. We go on vacation and laugh at funny movies together. But there’s still disaster, inflation, racism, sickness, divorce, poverty, and violence happening all around us. It all feels difficult to reconcile at times.
It’s okay to feel grateful for what you have while grieving what’s hard in your life or in the lives around you, too.
There’s often pressure from the church to lean one way or the secular world to lean the other…to see the world either completely through a rose colored lens or the opposite where everything is doomsday and terrible. But as Christians I think we have the opportunity to hold both joy and lament together and to live authentically for the watching world. We must keep confessing Jesus as our only constant hope- no matter what’s going on around us. Not diminishing the highs or the lows one for the other but instead carrying them equally as God allows them to come in our lives, with hearts set firmly on the promise of a restored Eden one day.
A place where all earth’s greatest joys and moments won’t even compare.
Tears will be no more, and every wrong made right.
Only then will all of us truly and forever be HOME.