Tuesday, July 23, 2013

On The Other Side

Eleven years ago, I met an amazing single woman who was wholeheartedly seeking Jesus. We spent a year interning at our church, wrestling with our faith, sharing lots of smoothies, and getting into each other's messes; we remained friends long enough to start a church together, for my husband to marry her to an equally godly man, and for us to joyfully send them on mission with God in Latin America. Here, she shares some reflections on how God was working to prepare her for this season of ministry, which encourages me greatly as I am in my own season of preparation. 

Dave and Angie in a sweet moment of rest
Almost a year and a half ago, my husband and I moved to San Jose, Costa Rica to be involved in full-time ministry among the people here. There are a lot of practical things we did to prepare for this move, like selling most of our belongings, doing our best to prepare ourselves with solid Biblical teaching and understanding different worldviews, as well as having five part-time jobs to avoid going into debt. There is also an enormous focus on the spiritual side of getting us here which included immense amounts of time spent in prayer, asking other people to commit to praying for us as well, trusting God’s call and His timing as well as raising all of our necessary financial support so we can live overseas and minister fulltime. These things were all incredibly difficult, exhausting, joy-filled and obviously ordained by God for us.

I believe that God controls everything and that He uses everything for His good, that there is no separation between the “practical” and “spiritual” sides of things that I listed above. God was equally interested and involved in both. So, now that I am on this side of the years of preparation, I can say there are six things that God did or used in my life that helped better prepare me for life in a different culture.
  1. I have almost no sense of personal space. Seriously. I love being close to people. Probably uncomfortably close for most people from the States. But it certainly helps when I am jammed on the bus, waiting in line somewhere or making my weekly purchases at the local market. I am very rarely offended by the people constantly touching me and entering my personal bubble because it seems like God didn’t create me with one.
  2. Thirteen years ago I spent many months praying for patience. And instead of being supernaturally given this gift, God decided to teach me patience by putting me in countless situations beyond my control that required me to simply trust He knows how I should use my time. This virtue goes a LONG way in a context where almost nothing starts on time, there is no such thing as a bus schedule (to date the longest I have had to wait is an hour and twelve minutes), I lose water weekly and electricity on a monthly basis. I still get frustrated for sure, but have come a long way and find myself handling these situations with a much better attitude. 
  3. In 2006 I started forcing myself to cook things on a weekly basis that I had never tried to make before. I learned how to make a lot of things from scratch like salad dressing, seasonings, ice cream, bread, etc. This went a LONG way in preparing me for the amount of time I now spend in my kitchen and for the number of items that aren’t available here that I know how to make. 
  4. I am learning to be much more grateful. Instead of being frustrated when I see a cockroach in my cupboard or when my pipes break (for the fifth time in four months) I find myself being grateful for fumigation that has killed most of the bugs in our house and the opportunity to rent. Sure, there are days when I would love my own house and to live in a world where armies of ants were not constantly trying to invade our living space, but most days I find God has filled me with a spirit of gratitude that is clearly only from Him. I truly love my life and believe that I am most richly blessed. 
  5. I grew up on a farm with my nearest neighbors living a whole mile away. I love silence, tranquility and the calm that comes with the farm. But God has given me a love for the city and the people in it. I am used to the noise, handle sharing both side walls of my house with neighbors better than I ever expected, and appreciate public transportation. 
  6. When I started college at the UMN, my psychology class had more people in it (800) than my entire school (K-12) where I grew up. I felt completely suffocated. My very wise advisor told me to take a language course because they cannot have more than 30 students in them. Although I had taken Spanish in high school in order to avoid having to take it in college, I followed her advice. And five years later, by the sheer grace of God, I graduated with a degree in Business AND Spanish. At the time I had no idea what I would do with it. And now, ten years after graduation, I couldn’t be more grateful that I spent that time investing in learning the language of the people I currently serve among. Oh, I still make lots of mistakes, (just last week I gladly shouted, “We are the champions!” But instead actually said, “We are the mushrooms!”) but I LOVE being able to understand and communicate on a deep level here.
Now that we are here, we are overwhelmed by the way God continues to bless us and continually reminds us that we are exactly where He wants us to be.  It is so encouraging to think that when God created me He knew I would be serving in Latin America now and used so many circumstances to prepare me for this life. I am sure while going through some of the learning I was not as joyful as I am on this side of the experience. But hopefully I am learning so that as God continues to grow me I enjoy the process and rejoice in what He is doing, knowing that on the other side I will be more equipped for whatever He has prepared for me. I am learning that not only has he prepared good works for us to walk in (Eph 2:10) but He also prepares us for those good works.

Want to know more about the Ziels and what God is doing in Latin America? Follow their blog, on Twitter, or just enjoy some pictures!

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