It was good to be home. I had just returned to Papua New Guinea (PNG) after a two-month trip to the States. Due to an unexpected flight change and some work my boss had asked me to do in the capital city, my travel schedule had changed three times. Now I was finally settling back into my apartment, thankful for a few days before my roommate would return. Fresh flowers from a friend graced the table as I began to unpack.
My time in the States had been crazy, as had the months before I left PNG. Through talking with more-experienced missionaries, I learned that I had basically fit a six-month furlough into two months. I had updated my professional qualifications (the main reason for my trip), attended a training course for my organization, visited four supporting churches, given two major presentations, visited with friends, caught up on a few doctor’s appointments, restocked for another two years on the field, and enjoyed the holidays with family. It was an ambitious schedule, but I could not imagine passing up the opportunities.
I also reflected on my first two years on the field. They had certainly not been easy. My overseas career had begun with an injury during orientation that had led to surgery. I left for my trip to the States in the midst of overwhelming responsibility and security concerns. The more I learned about myself and what I had to offer, the more I wondered why God would ask me to serve in the ways that He had. He knew me better than I knew myself, but still I had been the one picking up the pieces and carrying roles that did not fit me at all, in addition to the full-time role that I thought did fit.
Despite those challenges, I remained certain that the Lord had called me to serve Him in PNG. In fact, my time in the States left me anxious for the sense of belonging I felt in PNG. I looked forward to seeing friends and coworkers again, but I had to keep reminding myself that some of them were leaving while I was gone. I knew that my familiar life in PNG was changing by the day.
Those changes became clear when I ran into a coworker my first day back in PNG. She warned me about a new team member who had made some changes that unintentionally caused difficulties for others in the office. I quickly got the impression that both sides were essentially holding their breath until I got back and could help make sense of it. She also informed me that our most highly-trained Papua New Guinean colleague had decided to return to school and had given one week’s notice the day before. Since I was the one most familiar with his role, I could immediately see which pieces I would “inherit” until we could work out a more permanent solution. I braced myself for a hectic combination of learning and doing, all the while groaning to myself, Here we go again.
My “here we go again” was a natural response, not a faith-filled one. It failed to recognize God’s plan and the good He had worked out through my previous experiences. It refused to find hope in the days ahead that I expected would be busy and challenging.
Over the course of my first year back, the main issues that greeted me on my return have been resolved. I trained away the extra responsibilities and moved on to the next crisis. I am learning not to view each “crisis” as an unwelcome hardship; now when I say, “Here we go again,” I have a much different heart-attitude and trust in God. I look at it as another opportunity to walk by faith.
© 2012 Women of the Harvest.