Frumpy, Grumpy, and Useless
Have you ever compared yourself to someone else? Has someone else’s job seemed more glamorous or meaningful than yours? Many times I have fallen into this trap of comparing myself to others, especially other missionaries.
When my husband and I became missionaries and came to Kenya for our first term, I had no idea the Lord would have so many things to teach me. The station where we still live is in a very remote area of Kenya. We are surrounded by the land and homes of the Maasai people. There are no other foreign missionaries on the station. The Lord taught me time after time to trust Him for companionship.
The hardest times for me were not the times I spent there in the bush. The times that I struggled the most were those times when I visited mission stations where there were other foreign missionaries. These times should have been refreshing for me, and they were in many ways, but often I would fall into the trap of comparing. The other missionary moms, nurses and even grandmothers had so many things to do that they could never be still. They seemed always productive, always energetic and never complaining. True missionaries in every sense of the word, or so I thought. I would return home from those busy stations and wonder about my easy no stress job as wife, mother and school teacher.
But, one day, the Lord taught me a valuable lesson in contentment. It all began the day our dog, Narok, rolled around in the remains of a not-too-long-dead bat-eared fox. It was one of those drizzly wet days when the clouds seemed to cling to you when you walked outside; when odors seemed to hang in the air. There was our dog, wagging her tail at the back door, smelling like, well, you know, and expecting to be let in. There was nothing for me to do but to drag out the garden hose and to give her a bath. Soon after I had begun the chore, I heard the unfamiliar sound of a plane engine. It seemed to be flying very low. Out where we live, there is an airstrip, but no one (except the goats) has used it for many years. My husband, Jon, stepped out the door and commented that maybe it was just flying below the clouds. Soon it became obvious that the plane was going to land on the airstrip. Of course we couldn’t be unfriendly, so Jon put our then, three-week-old daughter Bethany, in a blanket and buttoned her inside his jacket and started off for the airstrip. Then I took inventory of what I must look like: wet socks sagging into my old shoes, soaked dress three years out of style, and a crooked part in my messy hair. I went anyway. Curiosity compelled me. I wish I wouldn’t have gone. We all know what curiosity did to the cat…
The airplane was a small private plane. The occupants had gotten lost in the weather and were running low on fuel. They had seen our airstrip and had decided to land and refuel. When I reached the strip, there must have been over a hundred Maasai around that plane. I had no idea there were that many Maasai living around us! I was soon glad to be keeping a low profile in the crowd. One of the plane’s occupants was standing talking to Jon. She was young, beautiful, well-dressed and very confident. She looked like the perfect picture of a carefree and adventurous person.
I immediately tried to get lost in the crowd. That was difficult to do; in the sea of brown faces, mine stuck out fairly well. Besides, Jon was calling me over to meet the others in the plane. Soon they were on their way with an “ohh” and an “ahh” from our Maasai friends.
All the way home I felt frumpy, grumpy and terribly useless. For a moment I pictured myself in that plane winging its way over the plains of East Africa. I was well on my way into a familiar trap of self-pity. But, after we got home, things soon began to fall into proper perspective. Bethany needed to be fed her dinner, bathed and tucked into bed. Supper for us needed to be cooked and the next day’s lessons need to be looked over. Suddenly, I felt needed. The Lord was teaching me a very valuable lesson in His own gentle way. I realized I was very happy doing what I did every day. The Lord had called me to be a servant on the mission field; I was a servant in a different, yet necessary way. God does not make mistakes when He calls us to do His work. If it is a task like putting bandages on scratched knees, cooking dinner for hungry guests, building churches, teaching school or doing surgeries, God calls us all. We are all needed. I was needed. And, I had a clean dog and a happy family to prove it!
This article is a classic originally published in our early print magazines.