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.
- 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.