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I will be using this story for the first chapter in my possible book about my missions trip. I would like input about what could be expanded, what could be ommitted, and/or any other questions or comments that come to mind during or after reading is completed.
Flipping the brochure from my right hand to my left hand and then back again, I sat in my unusually quiet college apartment. It was towards the end of September in my third year at Indiana Wesleyan University and my roommates were both attending classes; I had just returned from picking up my mail from the campus post office. Mentally pacing, I was sitting on the living room floor as an idea took shape that had everything to do with the brochure in my hand. I alternated between anticipation and anxiety, knowing that whatever decision I arrived at would affect the rest of my life.
Turning the brochure so I could read the title for what seemed the thousandth time resulted in “TEAMserve: short term missions through TEAM [The Evangelical Alliance Mission]”. My parents were already long-term missionaries and were at that time serving with TEAM in northern Germany. Growing up as a missionary kid in various parts of Europe, I had received these brochures ever since I had graduated from high school four years earlier, but this time, I was intrigued. I was within a couple of years of graduating from Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana, and was trying to get a more solid idea about what direction my education would take me.
Over the past few years, I had been mulling over the possibilities of becoming an evangelical missionary. I had even had a long-term boyfriend with whom I had had heated discussions about our varying interests in mission work; he wanted to help by giving money and I wanted to assist by ministering overseas. Our differing opinions (among other things) had helped to crumble the romantic relationship. Due to this most recent break-up, I was not involved in a romantic relationship. Perhaps now would be the perfect time to be adventurous; to discover whether or not I would follow in my parents’ footsteps with no emotional strings attached.
Truthfully, I had been immersed in a missionary lifestyle my whole life, only coming back to the United States for a year at a time when my family would return to visit churches that supported us financially and with prayer. I’d returned to the same missionary apartments in the Chicago suburbs when I was four, nine, and fourteen, finishing my high school career after we’d bought a house in those suburbs.
During high school, I had distanced myself emotionally from the missionary lifestyle in my attempts to fit in with Americans with whom I went to school. Due to the fact that I had tried too hard to fit in with my American counterparts by partying and living a hidden lifestyle that went against just about every value my parents had instilled in me, my parents did not feel comfortable allowing me to stay in the United States with only my brother for support. Instead, because they were going to northern Germany for a new missionary assignment, they insisted I enroll in a Bible school.
Two months after I graduated from high school, I went to Bodenseehof, an English speaking Bible school in Friedrichshafen, Germany, about six hours away from my parents. At Bible school, there was a great emphasis on finding purpose within the church community, and being an example of Jesus Christ, whether one went overseas or stayed in one’s home community. For once, I remember thinking, I would actually be more emotionally prepared than my counterparts for the cultural and linguistic challenges of overseas mission work, because of my background.
So many times in my life, in the process of moving, I felt like I was always playing “catch-up” to try to fit in, and just as I was about to “catch-up” our family moved. Part of becoming a missionary, I felt, would give me the feeling of finally fitting in; similar to my feelings when attending boarding school in southern Germany in eighth grade and being surrounded by other missionary kids and kids of foreign business employees. The only difference would be that now I would be an adult among other adults. Oh, and I would be the one with the advantage of having past experience living in a foreign culture.
For the past couple of years, I felt like I’d been waffling around when it came to missions, thinking and talking about reasons I was made for missionary work; familiar with foreign cultures, very flexible in my attitude and could speak English and German fluently, as well as having had lessons in French and Turkish. Why shouldn’t someone like me become involved in missions? It would almost a waste of my past experience not to be able to apply my intercultural skills on a daily basis; or at least that was my thought process. It was time to put words of intention into actions with purpose.
I also felt like I needed to have one last traveling adventure before I “settled down”, with a responsible career and a less flexible schedule. I was majoring in elementary education in college, and had tried to fill my summers with jobs or activities that would support my major by working somehow with children. I had worked in an in-home daycare and in a church daycare the past two summers. Having an international experience, involving work with children, would definitely make me more marketable to school principals when it came to hiring time in a couple of years.
The soft afternoon sunlight filtered through the half opened, white plastic blinds in the duplex living room, reflecting off the glossy brochure and catching my eye, interrupting my reverie. I dazedly refocused to the present moment.
As I opened the brochure, the various sub-titles of options and the countries in which these opportunities were available came into focus. There were several possibilities in Europe, including France and Austria. I felt a strong pull toward Austria, but knew the attraction was purely nostalgic. I already spoke German fluently, having spent eight of my first nine years of life in Vienna.
France was tempting, since I’d taken five years of French in both middle school and high school, and would have loved the opportunity to polish up my pronunciation. But revisiting childhood haunts and perfecting my linguistic skills were not what I wanted and needed this trip to be about.
What I wanted was time to think about full-time mission work, in an overseas mission field. I wanted to have an experience completely foreign (no pun intended) from what I had experienced in “foreign” countries, that is, other than the United States. Europe would have been too comfortable for me. Being in Europe would have been a combination vacation and reunion, as I’m sure I would have come into contact with people from my childhood.
What I needed was an experience that would change my life by bringing more clarity to my goals for life after graduation from university. I chose to go to Pakistan.
My need to be changed was met, in many ways I didn’t predict and couldn’t have foreseen.
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