Life is Hard

helen keller quote

We tried really hard to be good missionaries in Bolivia. For thirteen years we tried so very hard. It started even before that when in my youth the passion for mission life burned in my heart. DaRonn and I met as teenagers and found commonality of desire for ministry, for setting out to change the world, for making our lives count for something. We rushed our young family off to a foreign land with such a sense of urgency.

Missionary life has many hardships. It’s hard to wrangle the tongue and make it make new sounds. It’s hard to ask people for money all the time. It’s hard to live amongst socioeconomic extremes whilst examining our own lifestyle choices. It’s hard being away from the comfort and acceptance of family. It’s hard reminding ourselves of why we are struggling with sickness in our bodies and maladies of the soul. It’s hard being misunderstood, judged, and criticized by those we are serving as well as those who are supposed to be on our team. It’s hard weighing the sacrifices we require of ourselves, our kids, and our family back home for perfect strangers. It’s hard when perfect strangers become dear friends and true family then we have to say goodbye.

We gladly assumed those hardships for the sake of the mission. We viewed the discomforts as necessary in order to win the lost. We pushed and pulled, we strove and struggled, we gave everything we had and took only loads of responsibility. We overextended ourselves. And then we broke.

Now we are leaving Bolivia worn down physically, mentally, and emotionally. Our finances are suffering. Our family is in need of restoration. Life got way too hard.

If things are hard it is because we care about something. The hardship is indication of a set of values. The definition of our standards determine how hard (or not hard) something is going to be. Indifference about the outcome makes it not so hard because we would not give it any effort.

Sometimes hardship or hard times are imposed upon us. The desired outcome differs from the present reality. If the hardship came, and we didn’t care about what happened as a result, then that thing would not be hard because we would not be putting forth any effort towards changing that reality.

When things just kept getting harder and harder I began to ask some hard questions:

Is this hardship a necessary part of reaching what is hoped for? Do we know for certain what we hope for? Do we know for certain that the hard parts in our life correlate with that hope? What do I need to do differently?

Those kind of questions led to an overhaul of our lives. Granted, not all missionary careers follow the pattern ours took. Our unique path led us face to face with some realities we know need to change.

The ability to voice our values is helpful because then we can determine if the effort is worth it. We can look at what we seem to care about so deeply that is requiring this great force of effort from us and we can decide if this is actually where we want to put our energies. We assign worth to the outcome thus justifying the effort required of us to reach that place.

If we don’t think it is worth it, we’re not going to work for it.

If we do think it is worth it, we will work for it, we’ll assign creative energy towards it, and we will suffer hardship for it.

We determined that a clearer definition of our hopes is needed. Our efforts need to align more closely with our hopes. We need to set aside one set of hardships (the ones that don’t match our hopes) and take up a different set of hardships (ones that will carry us to our hopes).

We began in Bolivia with the greatest intentions. Over the years we have done amazing, wonderful, and fabulous things that have altered eternity, I am sure of it. The adventure of it all has been spectacular. Somewhere along the way, though, we chipped away too much, compromised, and became crippled.

Life is hard. We’ve heard that saying so many times. But why is it hard? Because we care. And because we care we will put forth hard efforts.

It’s hard to break destructive habits like overeating, smoking, laziness, etc. But the hardship is worth the efforts expended to attain a healthier lifestyle. It’s hard to acquire the relationship skills to overcome harmful patterns such as anger, blame, victim mentality, etc. But the end goal of a more peaceful existence with society gives us the motivation to do the hard work to learn a new way of relating to people. It’s hard to admit when things are not working and then start the even harder process of finding out why, what to do about it, and where to find help.

This decision to move our family to Omaha, Nebraska in the United States was reached after more than a year of deliberation. It is a hard, hard, hard choice. The implementation of this change is proving to be one of the hardest things we have ever done in our lives.

My Hopes:

  • I hope this move will remove some of the pressing obligations so that we can find a more livable rhythm
  • I hope this move will allow us to see more clearly where we want to invest ourselves
  • I hope we can find some healing of body and soul since there are more resources readily available in the States
  • I hope to be able to give our kids some really great opportunities, and that they will be able to connect with their heritage
  • I hope that we are not so far gone that this is “too little, too late”, that things can be better

One thing has been made clear through this all: we cannot do this alone!

Please join the facebook group a dear friend set up for us: Welcome Back Washingtons

There will be updates of practical needs you can help us with. I am so grateful that already a group of people has gathered around us to help us with this transition.

Please keep praying for us and for Bolivia.

Peace.

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44 thoughts on “Life is Hard

  1. We made the same decision just under a year ago and moved back in June to SW Minnesota. Hardest decision we ever had to make but so worth it. So many changes after 12 years on the field for us. One of the best things we did upon our return is to do debriefing at MTI in Colorado. Expensive, but worth every penny!!! God has carried us through the huge transition. Praying God’s strength for you and your family.

    1. So many people are telling me about MTI for debriefing. I am glad to hear that you found it was valuable, Danielle. I really appreciate the prayers.

    1. Oh, it is so comforting to hear from people who have been through this kind of thing, Kimberly. Yes, gentle whispers of Love…

  2. Sitting here reading this and crying. Note to self: should not have read while at work. I love you. I love your heart. Thank you for your words, your honesty, your admission.

  3. Angie,
    I don’t know you, and I cried reading this post. My husband and I are missionaries. I resonate with so, so much of what you wrote. Please know, dear sister, you are in the palm of God’s hands, and He is very pleased with your hearts, your honesty, and your surrender. It’s right to take care of yourselves and of your family. I am so grateful you are making this decision. Oh, the stories I could share about my failure to set up boundaries and take care of myself.
    I recently wrote a book review of a book by Kay Bruner, called “As soon as I fell”: http://frontporchinspired.com/2014/12/02/as-soon-as-i-fell-by-kay-bruner-a-book-review/ You may want to read this book. I found it very helpful and healing for me.
    Much love to you. I pray you will be secured in His peace.
    Anne

  4. there are some things that only fellow missionaries can understand…. My heart goes out to you and your family, and I’m praying for you all tonight here in Europe…

  5. Agreeing with all the other comments, this is a very touching post. My story is very different from yours, but we, too, find ourselves living in the U.S. after 28 years of being on the field. It’s been very, very hard so far. I think that is so great that you have a team of people setting things up to help you get settled. That would have made a huge difference for us. I am praying that you find all the resources you need during this transition. Your blog has ministered to me through the years.

    just to encourage you, it’s NOT too little, too late. Even with all the “mistakes” I made with my seven children, and all the sacrifices required of them, they are turning out fine. More than fine. They are great. May God sustain, heal, restore, and prosper you in all your ways. I just prayed for you, your marriage, your family, and your future ministry.

    My blog is currently full of re-entry musings if you are interested. http://mnmsfrommexico.blogspot.com

    1. Jamie Jo, you are very kind. Thank you for sharing a little bit of your journey with me. Thank you for understanding. I feel encouraged and loved. I really appreciate you taking the time to pray for us. Peace.

  6. There is no shame in obeying God’s will for your life. I hope you don’t feel any. We’ll be praying for you and your family. This is another beginning, not only an ending. Love and hugs.

    1. Kristin, thank you for the prayers. It is a battle to beat back the shame when it rears it’s ugly head. Thanks for reminding me about the new beginning. I need that.

  7. I am hoping with you for all the things you hope for. It’s not easy. It’s not popular. It’s not the end. You are still in the midst of God’s plan for your lives. Find counsellors that will walk with you, whether paid or not, that are trustworthy and don’t always agree with you. I’m praying you’ll find your next stop very restful and healing.

    1. Shelly, I agree that it is important to have counselors that don’t always agree with us. Thank you for your frank encouragement. I appreciate that.

  8. (Jamie Jo – nice blog – loved the A-Z!)
    Angie – WOW – written from the heart (as always). I’m really looking forward to your musings on your return to the USA. (What does the “C” on the tap stand for? :) )
    I’d be proud of doing even ONE of the things you’ve done in the last 13 years…. church, school, HoD…. not to mention bringing up your kids. Your and DaRonn’s mission and works will have impact into eternity.

    Tim.

    1. Cold cold cold … the c stands for cold. Whew. Glad you reminded me of that Tim. Cold, like it will be when we arrive on the Northern hemisphere. I love the snow, though. I truly do.

      You have every reason to be proud of what has taken place here because you have helped out so tremendously. Thanks for the encouragement.

  9. Angie – my eyes are brimmed with tears and my heart with compassion. Yes, we left the “foreign” mission field nine years ago, but what is still fresh in my heart/life/mind is the closing of our US church plant last August (2013). I so resonate with “we tried to be good missionaries in Bolivia” and “if things are hard it is because we cared”. Ah yes, we pour ourselves out in ministry, and it is hard. The Bible says it is going to be hard. But there comes a time when you have to differentiate hard and HARD, and “have to ask some questions.” We struggled physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally the last two years our church was open. In August of 2013 we were done. DONE! Kevin wanted to find a non-ministry “job.” We needed to rebuild financially, heal emotionally, restore relationally and fan what remaining spark of love for Jesus we still had to serve him whether vocationally or not. Just this past week, about 16 months after we closed LifePoint, I said, “I actually feel somewhat good. Somewhat healthy. I actually feel some joy.” Wow. Yes, we are still rebuilding, healing, restoring and fanning, but God is faithful, and He is doing all of that. 16 months later I can finally start to see it. I say all that to encourage you that He has not forgotten you and will complete the work He has started in you. I’m going to message you my phone number if you want to chat when you return to the States. Much love, friend. We are carrying you in prayer. <3

    1. So many people crying with me as they read this post… I am deeply moved. Thank you for sharing your story. The similarities are undeniable. So many times I want to rush all this, or skip over the process. But hearing from you and others like you reminds me to settle in, to keep moving, but to settle in for a long journey. Thank you so very much for the prayers, Kendra.

  10. Angie, THANK YOU for being transparent. You encouraged me with your life and attitude and words when I as in Bolivia and I’m encouraged when I read what you write online. The way you can define and articulate so precisely what you’re going thru and learning and just lessons for believers in general touches my heart. I’m praying for you all and will continue to!

    1. Brittany, it moves me when people who know me in real life take the time to let me know they are praying for us. I know it is making all the difference. I appreciate the encouragement and kindness you extended here in this comment and during your time in Bolivia. God bless you!

  11. “It might be that to surrender to happiness was to accept defeat, but it was a defeat better than many victories.”
    —W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage

    1. I have come back to this quote a few times since you put it here, friend. How adept of you to share such a timely thought. “… to surrender to happiness was to accept defeat…” beautiful.

  12. Dearest Ang & DaRonn,

    Your work in Bolivia will live on WAY beyond your years there. You planted good seed and watered it. It will continue to grow as we all blanket you and the ministries you’ve created from a distance!! Please know we love you…we know you’ve given all and are so very proud of your efforts. Please do not think for a moment that this is a measure of failure…it’s just another curve in the road of the journey of life God has planned for us. I can’t imagine making this transition…thus I’ve kept you in my mind, heart and prayers since I’ve heard the news. Thank you for being vulnerable…for having the courage to leave your family and country you love to minister in a foreign land…thank you for sacrificing all you and your family had to take care of some precious orphans who will live MEASUREABLY better lives because you cared…and thus, made us too care. Sometimes even our passion depletes all our energy, emotions and resources. God will bring rest, restoration and balance back to your lives. Thank you for being REAL!

    Love ya to pieces!! Big BIG hugs!!
    Livvy Lu

    1. Livvy Lu, I love you! I love how you unceasingly encourage and build us up. I am forever grateful for you and your life. A curve in the road… hm, I like that.

  13. I saw this on Facebook because another friend liked the link, and although I don’t know you at all or your story I know a little of what you may be feeling. My family spent years trying to make a life-long dream a reality. We sold everything and left everything behind to live with an unreached people group in Tanzania. We thought we would be there at least three years and literally after 12 weeks we were on an airplane home completely broken, devastated, and in need of much healing. In just 12 weeks we dealt with malaria, typhoid, skin infections, scorpion stings and “snake zapper” and literally starving. We were dropped off in the jungle with no language training (it was a tribal language so it was a learn as you go thing) and no knowledge of how to live in the jungle. We were a part of a team that had assured us our family of 6 could indeed do this difficult task but then we faced so many issues right off the bat and had very little support from the very people who were supposed to be training us in how to live. Some people may say “only 12 weeks”? But we didn’t go with a short term mentality. We sold everything and jumped in with both feet. But for the health (physically, emotionally and spiritually) we had to make the toughest decision of all–to come home. We went through two counseling programs after our return and it made a tremendous difference! MTI in CO is near where we live now and I’ve only heard rave reviews about it. We have friends that work there and they are top-notch. Alongside in MI also has a 3 week program that is for your whole family and it is amazing! Again, neither are cheap but something like that would be valuable for you all I think. I pray that this transition will bring some healing, balance and new rhythms. Coming home can feel like you have given up and make you feel defeated but don’t let the Enemy have this victory! May the Lord bless each one of you with the community of friends and support that you need through this transition! Give yourselves time and grace!

    1. Hi Jodie! I am so glad you clicked the link, took the time to read, and then added your comment. Wow! All that sickness and attacks in 12 weeks is more than we have had combined in 13 years! I cannot even imagine the shock! How important to get the healing and restoration you needed. I appreciate you sharing a little of your journey with me. Thank you for the prayers! I like this what you said: I pray that this transition will bring some healing, balance and new rhythms. Beautiful. Amen.

  14. Wow, Angie, your words here packed a PUNCH. Reading them literally felt like I’d been punched in the gut. Or bowled over by a truck. When you said earlier that it was hard to find the words to describe it all . . . well, I think you found the words.

    You say, “we tried so very hard” and “then we broke.” The trying, and then the breaking, it’s oh so painful. We are standing here, right beside you (if in spirit only) supporting you all the way. This isn’t the wrong decision, and it ISN’T a failure. It is the next right thing.

    I know there is hope for you for the future, even if it doesn’t feel that way now. Dear, dear Angie, the one who encourages so many of us and speaks peace into our lives, may the peace you bless us with, return now to you. May the Peace of Christ cushion you as you trek back to the States and begin the long journey of re-entry.

    Sending you so much love today, and in the days to come. Love for you, and for your husband, and for you two together. Love for your children. You.are.loved. May you feel it always. Even in this pain.

    1. Dear sweet woman, I think we would be very tight real-life friends. I feel connected to you. Your kindness, grace, and love are what have bowled me over. Thank you for entering into this with me. I am so moved. Yes, re-entry is a long journey, that cushion is gonna be nice for the ride. To feel His Love, even in this pain – yes. amen.

  15. Angie, there is a very helpful resource in Omaha led by Dale and Marlene Frimodt. These precious people are also connected with multiple ministries that focus on support, counseling, resourcing ministers & missionaries. May FATHER give you and your family rest, strength and favor in this new chapter.
    Barnabas Ministries is an interdenominational ministry…..
    http://www.thebarnabasministries.org/
    12812 Drexel St, Omaha, NE 68137
    (402) 895-5107
    Barnabas Ministries: Providing Care for Christian Leaders … Since the ministry’s beginning in 1977 in Omaha, Nebraska, the staff of Barnabas …

  16. Pingback: Transition Tools
  17. Angie, your words resonated in my heart so many ways.
    Being a missionary I hear, understand, and experience much of what you shared. Only a heart that cares so much can also hurt so deeply. I want to encourage you in your work in Bolivia- it was His from the start and regardless of how you feel right now, the truth is- you made a difference. You impacted lives for His eternity. You sowed, watered, and even tended the field and God is bringing the increase. Whether or not you are there in the flesh to see it… your (the whole family’s) rewards will be waiting for you.

    Praying for your hearts here in South Africa and remember…
    Restoration is on it’s way and the end of a thing is better than the beginning.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to encourage me, June. It is helpful to know that others can relate to what we are going through. I am really appreciative of the prayers because I know that you can speak to the heart of the matter. Bless you. Peace.

  18. You walked the walk. You know how those early church leaders felt. You know so well how hard it was for them. Because it was worth it. They sacrificed so we would know about Christ. You have done the same. Too many of us are soft and experience as little hardship as possible. That will be hard for your new life. It’s just so easy to be a Christian here. Please continue to work hard for where ever God leads you. Praying you’ll keep your spiritual fervor and the renewing of your spirits. I love all of the stories here of the other missionaries who have returned home. Very encouraging. Thank you all for sharing.

  19. Dear Angie –
    I know this is beyond painful and the decisions are incredibly taxing in and of themselves. I just want you to know that your willingness to share this much is quite admirable. I read post after post about God calling people home to the USA and we all know that is a nice Jesus-way to package it up … this is what people need to understand, the reality of the weight and the pain and the joy of the experiences abroad. I am praying healing for you and your family. Maybe this means Midwifery can be persued sooner for you? Or maybe it means you really need some time to heal and be. Either way, you have my concern and prayers.
    Tara

    1. Hm, I appreciate your affirmation and recognition of the reality of all this, Tara. You are amazing! I have not given up on the Midwife training. I am unsure yet how it will unfurl. Thank you for the prayers, that really means alot to me.

  20. I don’t have any great words, just my own tears for you and those you love even as I still cry so many for me and this gang of mine now starting to see at least the mirage of a finish line with our time of transition. You said it so well in your post on firsts: “It’s not like Bolivia is a blanket that we were using and now we are throwing it to one side. Bolivia is woven into me and it’s threads are a part of who we are forever.”

    May you feel God’s hands holding you, through the hands of His people He’s directing to hold you – many people who pray for, support and partner with your family.

    1. “… the mirage of a finish line…” bless you, Richelle. I know you get it. Yes, I have been sensing His hands holding us, thank you.

  21. Its the start of a new season in your lives. The season changes but life goes forward, It seems that each season has a purpose. And, just as the natural seasons require us to change our routines and how we dress I have learned that each season is an opportunity to grow in the Lord, either closer or more distant. So, I am praying for you and your family as you make the transition to the States.

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