I’ve had to carefully consider my words in this post. I don’t want to offend anyone (especially my family) and I don’t want to come off as whiny, complaining or ungrateful. So this is my “this is how it is” post....here goes;
This is how it is to be a missionary. You leave your family. Your home. You move somewhere far away and are surrounded by unfamiliar things. You (probably) can’t communicate too well with the locals because they speak a different language. You are constantly in uncharted territory. Everything is new and exciting and maybe even a little bit intimidating. At first, you probably call or email a lot. Maybe even every week. Slowly you begin to mentally “unpack.” As you get acclimated to your new surroundings you start to form a new family and a new home. Your circle grows as you make more friends and learn your way around. The frequent communications from you probably start to decrease. This is how it is (for me at least.)
I never was good at keeping in touch with people. When I was in college my mom called me at least once a week. My brothers would occasionally call me just to talk about nothing important and see how I’m doing. I knew that my mom would call.....every week almost without fail. That was how it was.
When I decided to go to Ghana, after much thought and prayer, I was worried that my mom wouldn’t be able to take it very well. I decided to go anyway....she would have to just accept it. The first year I was in Ghana my mom actually ended up meeting someone and they got married when I visited “home” the first summer. This was a blessing for me because now I didn’t worry about mom being alone. It’s been a while...but I think she only called me once or twice that first 9 months. She didn’t have a way to call internationally....3 years later she still doesn’t have a way to call me. I guess calling me isn’t really high on the priority list.
I have been in Ghana nearly 4 years now. I LOVE being in Ghana. I love my friends. I love my students. I feel like the work we’re doing here at the school is of utmost importance. I’m confident that God placed me here. But, sadly, I have to say that I have been disappointed in the efforts made to keep in touch by some of those closest to me. I already admitted that I wasn’t the best at keeping in touch even in the U.S. where communication is ridiculously easy. Here, communication is just more difficult. My internet connection is unreliable. Posted mail takes weeks to get to and from anywhere. My phone is decent now, but it’s only recently that I’ve gotten a phone that is somewhat reliable. But still I feel as if all the responsibility to keep in touch has been put on my shoulders. I try to just say “hey” and find out how people are doing on Facebook. I try to call, especially on holidays and birthdays. I think I’ve called all my family on all their birthdays, or within a day or two, since I’ve been here. I try to just send messages on Facebook or email just to encourage them sometimes. But, why is it all my responsibility? I think I could probably count the number of phone calls I’ve gotten from family since I’ve been here. They are all there, in familiar, comfortable territory. They have each other. Can’t any of them make it their goal to keep in touch with me and encourage me? Everyone says how proud they are of me for coming here. They miss me but they know that the work here is important and not everyone would be willing to leave the comforts of the U.S. to live in Africa. I don’t know....I guess it makes me a little bit sad. People can post all kinds of mindless, pointless things on Facebook or other websites, but they can’t find the time to just send an encouraging note? I feel forgotten. Then, when I say something like this people all start telling me how much they love me and they’ve not forgotten me etc. It’s kind of like when a kid gets in trouble and they’re told to apologize. Yeah, they apologize....but the weren’t going to. It’s like no one encourages me until I make the effort to say that I need encouragement.
If you’re praying for someone that’s far away; If you’re thinking of them....tell them. I know from personal experience that it will be encouraging to them. If you are in their family and they ask you for something small like pictures...can’t you get some prints made and mail them? Can’t you send them a letter or a Christmas card? Ok, I know packages are really expensive to send to Africa.....but honestly, if they were in the States they would be getting Christmas and birthday presents....can’t you use that money to send something small....just to encourage them? This is how it is.
So, I feel invisible sometimes. And yes, it hurts a little sometimes. I used to be really tough....since I’ve been here I’ve softened up a little because I’ve grown and realized that God did not design me to be so tough that nothing affects me. I need encouragement. It would be nice if I felt like I could depend on my family for it. But I don’t know if I can......I feel like they’re all too busy with their own lives to ask me about mine. I’m sure they think about me....but it seems like it’s just a passing thought. Not enough of a thought to get in touch with me.
This is how it is......whether it should be or not.