Be all there
“Wherever you are, be all there.” - Jim Elliot, a missionary killed in Ecuador.
After the glamour and glitz of moving wears off and the hype and excitement of living in a new country dies down, the realization of the magnitude of what just happened hits like a ton of bricks:
I'm living over 15,000 kilometres from where I grew up. I don't speak a language aside from English. I don't know what I’m doing. I don't know this culture.
It's a good realisation. In order to move forward, you have to acknowledge things are different than they once were. It's a difficult realization. Sometimes even painful. Life is different now, and you have to adjust accordingly.
But that's hard.
It's easier to sit outside with Western friends on a warm evening, swapping stories and reminiscing about the foods and places you miss.
It's easier to wander down the aisles of the town's one grocery store and long for a wider selection, or at the very least, another store to go to.
It's easier to think wistfully back on those days when you had a car, after walking five kilometres in the hot African sun.
It's easier to spend hours on Amazon, carefully calculating the weight and size of each item to see if it will all fit into one flat-rate shipping box.
It's easier for your body to be in one country, while your head is in another.
“Wherever you are, be all there.”
It's easy to get wrapped up in remembering, talking about, or dreaming of the place you came from. Your life before missions.
Where you were born. Where you grew up. You're bound to have some great memories and stories.
While remembering is good and communicating with friends and family is great, there needs to be boundaries.
“Be all there.”
I'm here, so I want to be here. In body, mind, and soul.
Some days, that means I make myself go to the market and interact with people instead of going to the much quicker and easier grocery store.
Some days, that means I wrap a chitenge skirt around myself, even though I would much rather be wearing jeans.
Some days, that means I eat nshima with my hands instead of the granola bar in my bag.
Some days, that means I go to the three-hour church service where the pastor tells all the jokes and the main sermon points in a language foreign to me, instead of listening to a Podcast.
“Be all there.”
I miss Sunday night dinners with my family. I miss reading for hours in coffee shops. I miss Reece's Peanut Butter Cups. I miss being able to go out after dark. I miss walking down the street unnoticed. I miss playing ice hockey. I miss breakfast at my grandparent's house.
It's okay to miss things. To miss the place you came from and the people that have played a role in your life. It's okay to miss your culture. It's okay.
But it is not okay to allow what you miss make you miss out on what is around you.
The most amazing starry skies. Elephants walking on silent feet through the underbrush. Attempted conversations with the lady I buy fruit from, which always end in laughter. Haggling for the local price instead of the mozungu (foreigner) price. Learning a few sayings in the local language, though the words feel funny and unfamiliar on my tongue. Swimming in crystal clear water (where I am 90% sure there were no crocodiles). Children yelling your name as soon as they see you.
I want to embrace these experiences with open arms.
“Be all there.”
So I'll eat the roasted flying ants when they're passed to me. I'll get up early to fetch water from the lake and carry it back to the house balanced on my head. I'll cram myself into the public mini bus with 15+ other people plus any number of farm animals. I'll have cold bucket showers. I'll leave my phone behind and go talk with neighbours.
I'm here, so I'm going to be here. Body, mind and soul.