Chikungunya. It sounds like a fake word. I remember, as kids, my older sister wanted to speak a 2nd language so badly that she would just ramble sounds together as fast as she could, with lots of flailing hand gestures. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Like, I couldn’t believe that she could just make up a language right there on the spot. Unfortunately, her rambled sounds were only cool to me and even more unfortunately is the fact that Chikungunya is not made up. Chikungunya is a mosquito born virus in which I have somehow contracted. It’s very painful and very tiring and there is no cure other than rest. My grandma (mamaw) always told me that if you allow yourself to lay down when you are sick you will only get more sick. Well, sweet ol’ Kentucky-born-and-raised Mamaw never got chikungunya.
Laying next to me in bed, alongside pain meds and the remote to my broken AC unit, are some old cringe-worthy journals from my pre-Africa days. I was probably one of the most prideful and idealistic pre-missionaries ever to step her foot into “missionary training school”. I never want anyone to read these journals, but I’m thankful to have them because it’s a humbling reminder of God’s goodness and patience and grace. I will probably look back at what I’m writing now in 10 years and be just as disgusted. That’s ok…I’ve never been one to shy away from self-deprecation and from laughing at my humiliation. This God-given light-heartedness has kept me from abandoning ship on many occasions.
When I look back at “our call” to missions, I remember feeling a mixture of excitement, fear, and a little bit lot of pride. I looked at all my other friends “living their best life” and judged them for how trivial and shallow their pursuits looked. I felt so proud that I could leave all of that to a world where I would spend my days doing the real kingdom work. I was am pretty appalling. I distinctly remember daydreaming about walking down dirt roads with my full-length skirt blowing in the wind. I would walk with trails of little brown children, who just wanted to be loved, grasping for my hands. With sun-kissed, glowing skin I had just enough love and food to go around. Everyone was happy and everyone’s problems could be fixed by Jesus and me as His faithful colleague. Probably the greatest sham inside my missionary fantasy was that my full-length skirt would ever blow in the wind. These missionary skirts never blow in the wind here. Never. They only stick to my sweaty (plump from rice) thighs while allowing the elastic waistband to be a safe harbor for the stomach sweat. The stomach sweat which has trickled down only after debuting itself in perfectly outlined forms in each of my stomach rolls.
Like my dirt road fantasy, just about everything that I thought I knew or believed about missions has been blown apart. So, here it goes…stories of expectations meeting reality and of meeting God at the end of myself. Stories which broke me, taught me, humble me, angered me, and are continuing to mold me and graciously move me to know Christ more.