Difficult

It has been a long time since I wrote a blog. Not because I have not had anything to say, but because nothing I wanted to say felt completely honest. There have been so many great things going on here in Kenya, but it has been hard trying to write anything while knowing that I am hiding the way I feel inside.

This year has been extremely difficult.

My sending pastor once paid me one of the highest compliments of my life. While introducing me to a crowd, he said I was the most natural missionary he had ever known. If you know me, then you probably know what he meant.

I can sleep anywhere, eat anything, and adapt to almost any environment. I tend to be a jack of all trades and learn new skills quickly. I love a challenge and an adventure. God called me to the missions field from a young age and has been preparing me ever since.

God made me and prepared me to be a missionary. In college everyone called me “the Africa guy.” I was fully ready to leave everything behind and go wherever God leads (Isaiah 6:8). It all seemed so simple and easy.

And for the first few years it was easy. I have seen God work in amazing ways. Even when life was hard, I could see God’s purpose and plan being played out, and I loved being a part of it.

Then lots of problems started happening in the ministry. I had to make hard decisions that I didn’t feel prepared for. People were depending on me unfairly, dumping their problems on me, and there was never enough time in the day. Cultural differences started eating away at my easy going personality, and at times I would snap.

I started to make adjustments. I started saying no more and making sure that I blocked out days to rest and spend time with my family. I started pushing back and leaning on others for help and support. I thought I was doing a good job.

Then in April, I was driving to the airport to pick up the Daniels who had just returned from an unplanned medical trip to the States. As I was driving, I started to have chest pain. It got to the point where I pulled over. I didn’t want to be driving with my family in the vehicle if the pain turned for the worse. After a few minutes, the pain went away and we continued on our journey.

I was scared. I started researching heart attacks and trying to find any other possible causes of the pain. By recommendation of a nurse friend, I started checking my blood pressure. It was high for someone my age, but it was still just below the edge of the dangerous zone. I saw the doctor and even had a full heart exam from a mobile clinic that just happened to be passing by.

In the end, everything checked out okay. The conclusion was that I was just too stressed. You can know every stress reducing trick in the book, but that doesn’t make stress easy to control. You can set good boundaries, but it doesn’t make the to-do list any shorter.

As I came to terms with my stress, I started to realize how bad it was. And as I sit here talking about my stress, I am feeling like the word is to impersonal and vague.

I was sick all the time. Little things like a cold or stomach issues. I had small aches and pains and I often felt fatigued. My productivity went way down as I just couldn’t focus and didn’t have energy. This only made the stress worse.

Worst of all I suffered spiritually. I only see it looking back, but my quiet time went down the drain. I would read the Bible, but it meant nothing. I would pray sometimes, but it felt empty. Then I started reading less and praying less, until it became almost non-existent. I still had devotions to teach and sermons to preach, so I was using my Bible. I was still sharing key verses with others about salvation and providing guidance during life problems, but my relationship with Jesus was stagnant and smelly.

I was “the Africa guy,” but I can’t tell you how many days this year I have woken up and just wanted to go back to the U.S. I can’t tell you how many times I told Abby I don’t want to be here anymore. There are all the days I never wanted to get out of bed, the tears I cried, mostly in private, and the feelings of hopelessness and despair.

And with the exception of a few missionary friends and Abby, I felt like I had to hold it all inside. It was not because I was afraid to tell others and wanted it to be a secret. It was because I didn’t want people to worry.

I also didn’t trust that people would understand, and sometimes I didn’t understand. Hindsight is 20/20. It is easy for me to see how bad things were looking back, but in the moment it just felt like another bad day.

The next thing I want to write is “please don’t worry about me.” And seriously please don’t. Don’t want me to come home. Kenya is home. Don’t give me medical advise. I have already seen a couple doctors. Don’t recommend a book on time management or dealing with stress. I have read enough.

But please do worry about me and all the other missionaries out there. Living in a new culture is hard. It is the little things that drive us crazy. It is not being able to find the item we need that would only take a quick trip to the Walmart in the States. It is the people who always try to overcharge us and take advantage of us. It is the mechanics who remove parts from our car instead of fixing them. It is the worry that we might get harassed by a corrupt cop every time we take a drive. It is having to be mindful of cultural differences every time we talk and how everything takes 3 times as long to do and how no one can relate to what your life use to be like in America.

….It has been awhile since my scare in April and even a couple months since I wrote the first words of this blog. I haven’t had any more chest pain and I am feeling much better. I have so much more I want to say, but I feel like this is everything I need to say. I needed to be honest before I could start writing about the ministry and other things that I love to share.

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