How Mowing the Lawn Taught Me to Be a Better Missionary
I woke up this morning in a bit of a funk. That's probably a mild way of putting it really. I woke up feeling unmotivated, and unprepared to face the day. Our water has been out now for over two days, so we have been carrying water up from below our house to use for cooking, cleaning and drinking (I gave up on getting laundry done this week).
Yesterday, I read a devotional that was so meaningful to how I was feeling today. So, I pulled strength from there. The devotional (below) was talking about depression/despair/lack of motivation (whatever you want to call it) and made the point that sometimes God is calling us to get up and do something, anything to get ourselves out of the pit.
With this in mind, I decided I would go outside (granted, I never changed out of my pajamas, but I did make it outside!) and use the rain water to wash and clean our veggies we got from the market yesterday. I had been waiting on the water to come back to clean them, but figured maybe the fresh air would get me motivated for other things today.
As I was cleaning the veggies I felt someone staring at me, and turned to see three little heads squeezing to peer through the hole in our gate. This is nothing new for us here in our new home (we get stared at everywhere we go!), but for a while the local kids had stopped coming to the gate to gawk at us.
My first inclination was "oh, no, please, not this morning, I am still in pajamas after all." But, these children don't care if I am in my pajamas, it's likely they are too! I took a deep (head clearing) breath, and decided to go over and say "Moning." I walked over, and they ran away quickly. But, when they saw I was smiling they came back just as quickly.
I gave one of the girls a flower, asked what few questions I know in Pisin, and then suggested the girls should get back home before their Mama and Papa worried (which I knew they wouldn't, but hoped they would). Then I turned to work on my veggies at the other end of the driveway. I thought maybe that would satisfy them and I could keep working. It didn't, and I should have known it wouldn't have by now!
As I headed back to the veggies I saw the lawnmower we borrowed this week, and remembered that Tony was still going to have to mow the lawn this weekend...during his days off at the mission. Then the thought occurred, I wasn't the kindest this morning, maybe I could mow the lawn and surprise him.
So, I pulled out the mower, still in my pajamas and managed to get it into the yard, and after a prayer or two, I even got it started! As I was mowing the grass (and sweating profusely) I realized I was still being watched. I turned and I was.
This is when it hit me. I had the choice, I could get agitated, and go over and ask them again to go home...or I could do what Jesus would do. Jesus would smile, wave, be kind.
I realize that I was raised in a culture which ingrained in me a belief that I have a "right" to privacy, and the "right" to say and do as I like. Living in America, it's certainly not uncommon to hear more than a few conversations centered on people's "rights." But, that's not God’s way.
Don't get me wrong I am more than grateful to have been raised in a country where I could worship as I chose, go to school, have freedoms of speech and other things. But, to be honest, it isn't our "right" (no matter where we live, and especially if we are a Christian) to have things just the way we want them, it just isn't...that's not reality. And that's what I was facing this morning, my selfish side wants to say I have a "right" to my privacy, to my space...but really I don't.
Just the other day Jackson reiterated this very same heart issue. We had been out shopping and several locals tried to rub his head...they often do this. I think mainly because they are trying to show him affection and since they can't speak our language, in their own way they are trying to communicate with him. They really do like children here...and are especially fascinated with white children!
Jackson tells me after leaving the store, and I can tell being visibly disturbed by all the touching..."Mom, it's just that I am seven years old and I have only lived in America, that's all I know, and now everything is different and sometimes I just don't know how to handle it." All I could do was empathize, I did understand his feelings. Then, reassure him that we will eventually become accustomed to the attention and it won't phase us as much, and once we learn the language...then, we can begin to understand the people here better.
All that to say, I too, am continually having to give over my feelings of having things not go the way I would like them to go. It is a true dying to self being here...daily. And in this case, today, I decided I could not force these children to stop peering at me through the hole in our gate; no more than I could force the people in town to stop staring, pointing, and giggling at us...I just cannot. It isn't my "right" to force my comfort level onto others. And, I cant change an entire culture, even if it were my right to do so! Instead, I am learning, we are learning, to accept being uncomfortable ourselves (at times) instead.
Jesus was uncomfortable (I am sure) during much of His time on earth. His dirty, less than glorious new home was certainly not what he was accustomed to either. But, He bore it here, and not just did He bear with us, He lived like us, among us, with us...as us. Wow! That's powerful.
After my grand realization and determination to handle my uncomfortable feelings the way Jesus would instead of the way Darah would...I perked up. I mowed the lawn, I sweated, I wore my pajamas proudly in my own yard, I also smiled...waved when I would turn in their direction and tried to show them that though I look different, we are not so different after all!
I am learning that being a "missionary" isn't about moving somewhere to be comfortable. My understanding from Jesus' own words is that it centers around us "picking up our own cross and following Him." And, that certainly isn't always easy! It's also not as glamorous as mission stories make it out to be, sometimes it's as mundane and simple as mowing the lawn while smiling, even if you don't feel like it. But, I believe the rewards are still tremendous, both for us and for those who we are coming to serve!