While I fluctate between hyper-ventilating over all the packing and bureaucratic paperwork and being utterly bored out of my mind because there is nothing to do but pack, my mind has been racing with a myriad of things I wish my adult ADD would allow me to write down. So since I can’t get it together, here are about four or five posts all blobbed into one.
We are leaving Argentina in four days! It feels good. The kids are happy and so am I. We miss our old life back in the States, and we can’t wait to be home.
We are leaving the mission field for the homeland. “Repatriating” someone recently said. I didn’t even know there was a word for it. We were here a year an a half [You can read from the beginning here.]. I consider this quite an accomplishment, not a failure, and I’m overall glad we have done all we’ve done. But the scales have tipped for us into the negative outweighing any good we are doing, so we have decided, for the health of our family, that we are leaving.
I will be leaving South America after a total of almost five years living here: a year in Ecuador, a year in Brazil, and three total here in Argentina. I’m not an expert, I only know my own experience. So this is is my op-ed post on leaving the field.
[Translation: this is solely my experience, it is strictly my own opinion, and it is not open for editing. I am aware that many have had overall better experiences on the mission field, as well as better expatriate experiences here in Argentina. Mine has been a mixed bag. You could say South America and I have a love-hate relationship.]
I will not miss Argentina.
I will not miss the mission field.
Why? Missions has been crazy hard. My kids don’t like it here and never really adapted. We have never been sicker in our entire lives. I can’t imagine living here for the rest of my life. I just can’t. Black widows, flies that lay eggs on you, volcanic ash… not for the faint of heart. I can’t imagine doing this for even a few more years.
Other things have happened. We have seen a lot of ugly along this missions journey that has affected us deeply. Ugly poverty, ugly suffering, ugly in other people, ugly in us, ugly in other Christians, ugly even in the church. It’s been intense, and honestly, it makes me want to aspire only to a 1 Thessalonians 4:11 life,
“that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands”
And, by golly, that’s what I plan to do.
A strange thing also happened to me during this mission stint: I hit middle age. It’s hard to believe, but I’m on the other side of 40 and I swear I am going through some mid-life thing. Few seem to believe me, some even scoff, but I know I am. My mom started to experience peri-menopausal symptoms at 40, so it’s possible. Something strange is happening to me, one of which is this mysterious weight gain. I joke to Tony that I am now one of those fuller-figured middle age women (ha, for me, anyway) who now just wants to sit around and knit with her cat on her lap. This is weird – former world-traveler and adventurer that I used to be – but this is who I am now. Who went and changed me? I’m not sure. It’s very odd, but I am honestly looking forward to settling down (finally, Mom, I really mean it! God finally answered your prayers! lol), planting a garden, a small orchard, raising some chickens, and learning to knit.
Our plans for the future are to find a house, settle down, and do some homesteading therapy (okay, that last part is mine). So don’t come knocking for about a year, I’ll be canning or feeding my chickens. Processing, getting settled in, finding furniture, acquiring wheels, a job, recovering, tending to my family, pursuing quiet. We’ll be busy. Good, quiet life busy.
This may be my last post here on inpatagoniaargentina. I deleted Facebook six months ago (never regretted it) and will soon be a non-blogger. I am very much looking forward to going off-grid. Blogging takes an immense amount of time, and my kids are growing up. I have a teenager now. In five short years he may want to move out. It really does pass like the blink of an eye. I never would have believed it when they were in diapers and I was baggy-eyed and sleep deprived, but they do grow up fast. We need to take advantage of this time.
So what’s next now that we will be retiring from full-time overseas missions? (and yes I said ‘retiring’). What God has for us once we’re settled back in I do not know, but I have no doubt that whatever the future holds, it is good.
And I know many are wondering, and some have asked but, no, we will not be returning to the church we went to for ten years before moving here. I think we will be taking a break from organized church for a while – maybe visiting churches, maybe not. As Ann Voskamp says, “All’s grace.” I think I’ll be doing her 1000 Blessings thing… I need to regain an attitude of joy and thankfulness I used to have that all of our trials have made a dent in. Also, I’m pretty socialed out, and so are my kids; so socializing is something we will only be doing if we want to, not because we “have” to. Pursuing quiet is pretty high on my list. Having fun and hanging out with their friends is pretty high on my kids’ list. They need that. They are missioned-out. It’s been a lonely year and a half for them – pretty much an eternity in kid time.
We have received a lot of encouragement lately from people. Thank you. Some missionaries in Brazil recently wrote us a very encouraging email reminding us that we are not “leaving the mission field”. We are missionaries wherever we are. This is true. We are testimonies no matter what corner of the world we live in.
But our overseas missionary activity, at least in this capacity, is coming to a close. Perhaps in the future we will participate in overseas missions in some way. Perhaps not. I don’t know, and I don’t feel the need to know either. We have ideas for the future – short term stuff – but that, if it ever happens, is far in the future. I can not see past the right now, and right now my conviction is that I need to focus inward, spend more time, if not all of it, on the testimony I am being to my own family. We are dealing with a lot of stuff, and we need to stop and regain our focus. I do believe that would please God.
Now that we have done this missions thing, I have to say I have the utmost respect for the long-termers. I don’t know how they do it. I just don’t. I couldn’t do this long-term. It must be a special call, a special grace, or maybe they are special personalities? I don’t know.
Someone recently shared a helpful analogy with us: The Church, like any Army, sends some to the frontlines. But those on the frontlines don’t stay on the frontlines forever. At some point they retreat because they are wounded, tired, spent (some dead), or they are called home. Others move forward to take their place. In war, roles and responsibilities shift. There is a time for fighting and a time for rest. You’re moved up, you’re moved down, your commanding officer moves you around. Those on the front lines move to the back, then perhaps later send supplies and support up front to those receiving the first darts in battle.
There is a lot more I’d like to say, but we are losing internet here soon. I will say I think I lost several more years off my life this week in bureaucratic nightmare paperwork. We also dealt with a root canal, excrutiating toothaches, a migraine, AND as the movers were coming to collect our boxes we also had to paint the entire house. We had one friend come help us, but other than that we were on our own, so had to hire someone to help us. It was super stressful, but now the house is empty (and beautifully painted) except for our suitcases. God, as always, is, was, and will be our strength and help. He gets us through.
It’s Saturday morning and the movers just drove off with what’s left of all our wordly possessions. I sit here on a small Coleman lunch cooler as my chair remembering what a young man who offered to help us paint the house this week said to us, “Please, I can’t accept money from you. If I do I will have received my reward here on earth from men. I prefer to have my reward in heaven – it is much greater!”