Sunday, April 14, 2013

What's in a name?

Why is the subtitle to this blog “My Life as an Accidental Missionary”? 

As a missionary, I talk to a lot of people about how I got where I am. I tell them about my call into teaching and about hearing all the missionaries speak at Asbury College when I was a student and the impact that had on me. But when it comes to exactly how I ended up here? I don’t know. This was not the life I had planned for myself. I never started out with the intention of being a missionary. 

The inspiration for the other part of the blog name.
That's the Great Rift Valley in the background.
My plan was to be a writer like my dad. I am an introvert at heart and after four years of shoving my way through the overcrowded hallways of high school, I liked the idea of working in solitude much of the time. It sounded so peaceful. However, when I was a senior in high school, God called me into teaching pretty clearly. It wasn’t quite what I had picked out for myself, but I rolled with it. I figured that, as a teacher, I could get a job pretty much anywhere. I envisioned myself teaching a year out in Colorado, Denver maybe, then a year in Chicago. I could move around for five or six years, get a taste of life across the U.S. Then I would settle down and have great stories to tell my future children about all the cool places I’d lived and the people I’d known.

So when my college roommate asked me to move to Virginia Beach with her after graduation, everything was falling into place. First cool city, coming right up. Then I hit a bump in the road. I found I out hated teaching. Oops. 

In reality, I was just a first year teacher who had no idea what she was doing with colleagues and a principal who were spectacularly unhelpful and a class full of children who, more than anything else in the world, needed something I could not give them: stable homes. I realized that a fourth grader really does not care about multiplication tables or the parts of a plant the day after he has watched his older brother get hauled off for dealing (again). And I realized I couldn’t really blame him. I had no idea what to do with that. 

So I left. To be perfectly honest, I was long gone before the school year was over. I planned to spend the next year working in a children’s home somewhere overseas and, soon, that first year of teaching would just be a distant nightmare. I would be there for a year or so and come back and find different work. Maybe I’d go back to school for a different degree. I certainly wouldn’t teach again, that was certain. I made it through to the end of that first school year--barely--and I didn’t look back. But, again, my plan was not working out. I had been accepted to World Gospel Mission, but none of the children’s home they worked with had a place for me. You know where they did have a place? A little school for missionary kids in Kenya. I took a deep breath and said yes. 

I thought I would be there for that school year, then come back and find other work in the U.S. It would be a good experience, nothing more. But then I hit another bump in the road. I loved that little school in Kenya. I felt like…I belonged there. I loved teaching those kids, talking to those parents. I didn’t want to come back to the US and I didn’t want to stop teaching. But after two years, I did move back and found that I could love teaching here in the US, too.

Fast forward five years (holy cow! Surely not that long?) and I have left a job I adored here in Kentucky and am headed back to Kenya for good. Because the Kingdom of God is more important than my comfortable life.

So right now, after a long series of decisions and baby steps I still don’t quite understand or believe, this introvert is traveling and speaking in churches, to camps, any group that will listen. When I am not speaking, I am calling people (most of whom I don’t know) to ask if I can speak. (Why is that so hard?! I sincerely dislike calling people I don’t know. There is something unsettling about not having any visual cues for their reactions.) Or I am talking to people I do know about money (a subject I have a pathological aversion to discussing).

When I get up in front of a group, I say many different things about the Tenwek MK School and the work of Tenwek Hospital, but sometimes, as I am talking, I am really thinking “Wait a minute! What’s happening? How did I get here?!”

By the Grace of God, really. This was not my plan. This is not the life I picked out for myself. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.