This week I began to experience a small beginning of what is called "culture shock." Thankfully, it's not a taser-like sensation. [There are vendors selling tasers on the street here. They walk up and down the street triggering the little device...all the while I can't help giggling and thinking "Don't Taze Me, Bro!"] But nonetheless, culture shock is...well, shocking.
My pastor here was recently talking about why adolescents struggle--they are in the middle of massive changes: relational, emotional, physical, spiritual, and spreading their wings to leave the house--and I realized THAT is why missionaries struggle when they get to the field! We're basically teenagers again, in all the awkward ways. Our friendships and family members are in another country, and we ache for time with them, at the same time God is placing in our lives new friendships and like-family. We physically are in a new climate; a new house; a new pattern of living; new items in the grocery store (or old items more than twice the cost in the U.S.); and, for some, a new style of dress. We are recognizing more than ever before the spiritual battle with the enemy that goes on for a soul--for the unsaved to never become followers of Christ, and for the saved to be distracted beyond usefulness. And sometimes a spiritual battle within ourselves, as we meet all these changes, and wonder "Did God really send me here? Did I hear Him wrong?" A dear friend of my grandparents, and now of mine, told me a few years ago,
"Never doubt in the dark what God has shown you in the light."
--Dun GordyOh, how comforting to remember those words of wisdom as the "dark" seems to settle in. [Disclaimer: So you can focus on the heart of this post, I am not doubting my presence in Paraguay--but at times, missionaries do wonder if God really wanted them to leave the comforts they knew for everything they don't know.]
So this week, and really, I guess going back as far as two weeks, I've begun the culture shock process--and so far, the best way for me to continue through it is to remember that what bothers me is evidence of Christ-less lives. And that gives me a more motivation. Motivation to study Spanish more thoroughly, to be able to use it more appropriately.
On the practical, icky side of culture shock there is evidence ::ahem:: of at least one mouse in my kitchen.
Where I eat.
Where I store my food.
So today, when I got up a little later than normal, I found, waiting to greet me in the kitchen, a little gray mouse. I gave the neighbors great breakfast entertainment--should've charged tickets!--as I tried to keep the mouse in one room of the house...without going anywhere near it. I quickly made plans to go get traps and peanut butter. (I wonder if Eve begged Adam to set the traps for her in their first home? When was "the best mouse trap" made? When will the "better mouse trap" be made?!)
But I had a God-given friend coming to make cookies. I started praying a while ago that God would give me a really good friend in Paraguay. What I meant (or what I thought I meant) was a Paraguayan friend. I guess what I kept asking for was a good friend in Paraguay. And God answered, with my new friend whom we shall call G, a fellow American. G came to PY for two months, and leaves on Monday. So today was kind of our personal "goodbye" time to visit together, and she wanted to make cookies for her host family. She got here, and started preparing to make cookies--but I warned her about the mouse, which was last seen near the stove (but I had to go answer the door, so who really knows now???) Out of her backpack came a bag, with a brown mouth sticking out of it. I had told her a few weeks ago that 3 years ago in Monterrey, Mexico I wanted to buy myself a souvenir, but was advised not to because there was no room in my suitcase. Really, it was wise advice, but in three years, I always have regretted not buying it.
SHE FOUND ONE IN PARAGUAY AND BOUGHT IT FOR ME.
Friendship is manifested in different ways--
That's right, folks, G bought me a cow head.
And it pretty much made my day.
Considering I had been out of bed for about 30 minutes and 29 of that had been watching a mouse take a self-tour through my kitchen, I realize that's not saying a whole lot.
THEN G superceded my expectations. She started moving things. She started looking for the mouse! If there was any doubt (which I think we would both agree that God totally put our friendship together), this was evidence to me that He loves me: enough to give me mouse-hunting, cow-head-giving friends! We encountered the mouse, but I'm pretty sure we lost him between the wood paneling and concrete wall in my office. I like to think that he took a stroll on the wild side and went out the open door while we weren't looking. But, I'm on the offense now--and I've got traps set in two rooms.
So, that's a brief snapshot of how I'm doing these days. Please do pray for me as I enter this initial time of culture shock. Pray that I'll keep my focus on Christ, and not on myself, or my surroundings. Pray for G as she returns to the US & prays about returning to PY in the upcoming year.