When I interviewed for my country placement in Chicago in April, I told the people I spoke to that my personality is highly defined by my need to be type A, that I have difficulty relinquishing control and that I have an almost neurotic need to be on time, if not 10 minutes early. They responded by smirking at each other as if to say "well, good luck then."
Over the last few weeks I've been extremely blessed to be supported by several churches in the Northwest Minnesota Synod through offering and prayers. I've been told endlessly what an incredible experience I'm about to have, that people are proud of me, that they're thinking of and praying for me, that I'm about to be a changed person. Yet, my emotions are hovering somewhere between absurdly excited, extremely overwhelmed and absolutely terrified. I've been told this mess is completely normal and that if I wasn't feeling this way that I wouldn't be approaching this experience correctly. Still, I can't help but feeling like this is straight up weird and that I should explicitly be living in a state of perpetual happiness. And guess what? It's all centered around this need for control and my fear of the unknown that I cling to fiercely.
Patience is something I've never excelled at. I hate surprises. I peek at my Christmas presents every year. I read the last chapter of nearly every book I pick up and look ahead to see how movies end on Wikipedia. So the idea of leaving Minnesota in a month and not knowing where I'll be or what I'll be doing in Madagascar is slowly getting to me. You see, in Madagascar there's this phrase which contributes greatly to Malagasy culture: mora mora. Loosely translated, it means "slowly, slowly." Literally translated it means I'll get my placement when I get my placement. And to be honest with you, that stresses me out A LOT. However, this morning this strange mix of emotions re-balanced itself, at least for today.
I had the pleasure of sitting down for coffee with Pastor Arlen Stensland and his wife Lois, Lutheran missionaries who served in Madagascar for 22 years. I anticipated the amount of people I'd come across who would have no clue where Madagascar was on a map or only knew of it because of the Dreamworks movies. What I didn't anticipate is the amount of people who would know where it was and would have connections to it. It's for this reason that I give thanks for the Stenslands who graciously took a couple hours out of their day to sit down and answer my questions. While our conversation was informative and pleasant, the best part was knowing that there were people out there that at one time or another knew exactly what is going through my head and still reassured me with the knowledge that they had of Mada that what I am choosing to do will be impactful in some way, shape or form, that it's okay to be scared and that in all my Western neuroses I can still be used as the hands and feet of Christ; a broken person that is simultaneously made whole through grace working for other broken people made whole through grace.
My second tattoo, a small cross on my left wrist, came with a reminder found in the 4th chapter of Ephesians:
"I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Ephesians 4:1-3
It is my hope that for the rest of my life, but especially while I am in Madagascar, that I can go forth with humility, gentleness, patience and love for my neighbors and live out the call to which I have been given the best way I possibly can, understanding that this will not be easy, but also understanding that easy things are rarely moments of learning or clarity.
Thank you once again to Arlen and Lois as well as Immanuel of Wadena, Zion of Browerville and Shepherd of the Valley in Clarissa, as well as individual donors for all of your prayerful and monetary support thus far.