(Photo credit: Stacey Babich)
Here I sit, outstretched on a comfy red couch, in a quiet dorm. This room is typically filled with beats coming from the dance party in the kitchen, Korean giggles from the girls crowding around the Asian drama being shown on a laptop, the screech and thump of the laundry room door which might as well remain open 24 hours a day, and the loud creeks of the stairs from down the hall. Now there is silence. The silence amplifies the ringing of the church bells next door, which is battling the rhythm of the ticking dorm clocks.
I’m ok with the silence. I know that my job is important this morning. One sick child remains in bed upstairs. I remain downstairs, alone with my thoughts. While I enjoy the sun streaming through the windows and the view of the vineyards, the rest of the dorm will bask in the sunlight and arrive at church in time to congratulate all of their friends for winning the basketball championship. We are all where we want to be this morning. Yes, even the sick child is where she wants to be. I know that it’s shocking to think that a teenager might choose to stay in bed with a “fever” rather than go to church.
In this quiet moment, two questions come to mind: “How did I become so lucky?” and “Is my life too good?”
I have spent winter scrolling through endless pictures of snow and posts from news stations about the record setting weather conditions that most of the United States is suffering through. Meanwhile, our adorable German town is slipping right past winter and heading into spring, without a single snow day. My current anecdote is that God is paying us back for the winter we suffered through last year (http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/germany-weathers-darkest-winter-in-43-years-a-885608.html). Unfortunately, some people weren’t around last year and they may believe this weather is “normal.” They will be in for a big surprise next year.
How did I become this lucky? How did I come to live in such a beautiful place with a community that out shines the glorious creation that surrounds it? I have spent this weekend in awe of this place. Every conversation that I have had with a student in the dorm has been filled with culture. I’ve heard stories of Moldova, Canada, Thailand, Korea, and Russia. Students have shared facts about the Olympic competitors from their country, lamented the food that they miss from their home countries, and have told me numerous family stories. It’s been a full weekend of happiness and pain. Together, we cheered for our girls basketball team while we crowded around a laptop. School pride was in the air. Yet, sickness was also about. Pain from surgery, tempers flaring, toes being taped up, bandaids, bruises, etc.
I feel lucky because I think the students that I teach are incredible. There is no way to completely describe what I experience on a daily basis. Sometimes I feel like I live in a National Geographic magazine. In other ways, I feel like I’m working at Hogwarts. Challenges certainly arise from the lack of boundaries in our lives here. For the most part, I am more than content with the experience though.
I wonder,”Is my life too good?” I live in Europe after all. Many of the things that seem like a hardship are not that hard. I have a joke with the other teachers about a hashtag. We call it #FirstWorldMissionaryProblems. This joke comes when the internet isn’t working, when we can’t find an American ingredient that we want at the store, or even when we need to enter our grades into an internet system for parents who live abroad. There are many things, great and small, that seem like a hardship in our American/Canadian perspective. We are intelligent enough to figure out that our problems aren’t a big deal though.
I have been thinking about these things a lot lately, in consideration of what I will do in my next phase of life. Sometimes I get the feeling that these past 3 years have been a time of favor that I have needed before a great storm. I don’t know when the storm is coming, but I feel it. However, I think I may be setting myself up for a self fulfilling prophecy. I wonder, “Will I enter a time of great sacrifice because I need to or because I feel that I must?”
All of the teenagers that I have known have had the opportunity to know Jesus. They have all heard the gospel. Most of them know what is needed for salvation. My work has been about helping teenagers to live a life more abundantly in Christ and giving them the tools to make wise decisions. It’s important. What I do is important. I just don’t know if it is enough. These students need me. God uses me wherever I go. I’m not wasting my life. I know this. I just worry, so often, that I am not doing enough. I think about the teenagers who DON’T know the gospel. I wonder how they will hear it if I don’t go.
Should I leave a job that is important when I am good at it? Is one mission more noble than the next? How do you know when it’s time to go? I don’t know the answer to these questions. I really don’t. They haunt me.
Teaching and mentoring students at The Black Forest Academy is the third serious job that I have had. I could have kept the other 2 occupations for the rest of my life. I have moved past the first 2 occupations for the purpose of being here at The Black Forest Academy. Remaining on staff at EastLake, as a youth pastor, wasn’t an option. I didn’t commit to another youth ministry though, because I knew that I was going to work at Black Forest Academy. When I was working for All American Imaging, I survived a lot of employee cutbacks. I could have stayed. Yet, I left to come to BFA. So now, after 3 years, I will be leaving. Do I want to? Not really, but maybe. Should I? I don’t know, but I think so.
All I have are the facts. The first is that I felt a specific call to missions when I was a teenager. The second is that I was made for youth ministry. The third is that I was supposed to come to BFA. The fourth- that I must return for a year of support raising. The fifth is that there are people in the world who are suffering because they don’t know the truth.
A good friend of mine challenged me. He asked me if I was looking into other missions opportunities for the purpose of doing something that made fundraising easier. To speak plainly, he wondered if I wanted to commit to another missions opportunity because people were more likely to donate money toward a different cause. That idea had never crossed my mind. This did make me think about other ill motives I may have though.
I am wrestling with the fact that my humanity craves recognition. Many (maybe most) people don’t think of me as a missionary because of this first world surrounding that I live in. I get it. My life is not as easy as it was in the States, but I don’t suffer much. People ask me why I don’t get paid for my job all of the time. I do a “regular” job after all. I understand. I probably would have wondered the same things in somebody elses case. These questions make me scream on the inside though. I want to say, “What I do is important!” and “You have no idea what it is like to live in a culture not your own.”
Whether or not I find the missionary job title appealing, I have to go back to the facts. I’m called, I have God-given talent, trusting God has led me to incredible places, and there is a greater need in the world. That is the truth that I have in my heart while I pray about the place and the people I should commit to full time. It is my hope that God will make things clear to me soon. For now, I am trusting in His perfect timing.