I died at age 23.
If living on the mission field has taught me one thing it's that it will surely strip everything from you until you've come to the conclusion of the one treasure that must remain.
The mission field has taught me how to die.
It's taught me how to put to death every selfish ambition, regard to self, and the desires of my flesh. There is so much that has been stripped from me that I wrestle with God over "...but Jesus, that's unfair! Why does THAT have to go? It's a simple thing! Why can't it remain? It's just unreasonable!"
But what's reasonable to us stands in the way of beholding that one treasure in our life. Any self regard or fleshly desire cannot co-exist with the godly desire and character that He's desperately trying to impart to us.
"I must decrease so He can increase."
I can't say I've ever been so stripped and tried as I have during these last 6 months. Many times I thought I had reached my end, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually... but it's always at those ends that something dies off, allowing another piece to come to life.
I've died to comfort. 6 months of cold showers, no oven, no refrigerator, washer or dryer, scarce power, many nights by candle light, a constant covering of dirt and dust. When traveling far from the comfort of my bed I've slept on floors, covered myself with the corners of sheets, battled with bugs galore, blood thirsty mosquitoes, cockroaches, latrines, no running water, exhaust...
I've died to feeling understood and understanding those around me. I'm the only American stuck somewhere between Ugandan and Filipino culture. Familiar faces, culture and a common place are far from me. We speak different languages (even our English is different), we worship and pray differently, our frame of understanding is different and sometimes misunderstandings come all too easy.
I've died to nearness. Family and friends are oceans away. The missings are sometimes overwhelming and loneliness is no surprise. I've given up the community that has nourished and grown me. I've said goodbye to grabbing coffee with a friend, spending hours on the docks sharing life with those so dear to me and watching my nephew grow up into his little quirks and forming personality.
I've died to my image and self-identity. The things that I considered parts that represented me, clothing, style, preference, they took a slow death march as I adhered to the expectations of this culture and my position...
I've died to individuality. In a place where you can't travel anywhere without being the center of attention, with kids shouting "MZUNGU! at the top of their lungs, parents laughing, constant staring and comments all over. You die to that piece that just wants to blend in and disappear. Going from living on your own to staying with four kids also teaches you to die to individuality. Your things are shared, including the singing, shouting in the early mornings and the responsibility of family.
I've died to preference and taste. No, I don't prefer eating rice for every meal, having salted and dried fish or limited access to the foods I enjoy. The little that I do prefer is often far from reach and at times bread is your only option, so you learn to die and develop a gratitude that comes from simple provision.
I've died to entertainment and an overabundance of things. Many nights come and go where your only entertainment is the company of the kids around you or a good book. You learn that you can live off of very little, much less than you would have ever imagined.
This place has taught me how to die. Slowly stripping every detail of what I once held as necessary.
We are all in the messy process of dying, and it is as difficult to experience as it is to observe. Although we may die, it's not an end of morbidity and loss but of the beginning of life in all its abundance.
That's the gift, the goal, the purpose.
"Most assuredly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into
the ground and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies it produces much
fruit." -Jn 12:24
As I'm in this messy process, God has been bringing to life the ability to appreciate and find thankfulness in every situation. And I mean every situation. The good, bad and absolutely hideous. That is something I don't believe I could have learned in such depth like I have during this time. He's bringing to life the simplicity of His gifts and truths. That He truly is enough... in abundance and in need. He's bringing to life the weight of His calling to go and bring the greatest news we can ever discover to the nations before us.
"Great victory has never been possible without great sacrifice." -Samuel Zwemer
And I know it'll be worth it.