Photo by Loïs
This time of the year I enjoy colourful paintings in the sky every evening. Every sunset is different. I have plenty of pictures, but I can’t stop taking new ones. As I look at the paintings, I also see the many houses. So many houses, so many people, so many lost and far away from the Truth.
A new year. A time to look back and a time to look ahead. Of course there are lots of memories from this past year. And when I sit down and think, even more come. Memories that make me smile and memories that hurt and make me sad. As I go over this year, I feel it has been hard in different ways. I can honestly say that it has been one of the hardest years of being on the field.
My family had to say goodbye to a family that was close to all five of us. We grieved and we had to move on.
As parents of three boys my husband and I experience daily the difference between being a family with young children and a family with boys getting into their teenage years. It makes life on the field even more different from being in your own country. Of course, every age has its own challenges, but I can say teenagers on the field give their own special challenges. And being a teenager on the field is a challenge in itself.
Every now and then (more now than then) questions come. Do we have to stay? Can we continue as we are? What is on God's heart? Is the schooling good enough here?
All three of the boys had to change school at some point this year. Not at all easy decisions.
The unrest in the world makes our future uncertain. It does not affect our daily lives too much, but it is there. We cannot ignore it and we don’t want to ignore it. It is real. And we have to look for the balance to speak reality to our children and keep them feeling secure. One day it’s easier to cope with this uncertainty than another day. But mostly we have to continue life.
Two of my highlights this year make me both joyful and sad.
First of all, we celebrated one-year of friendship with our refugee friend Rafiq,* single well-groomed man in his fifties. His story is heartbreaking and so is his situation. He has not many family members left and no contact with the ones that may still be alive. He lives in a small room with no space to wash or cook. He washes his clothes in his sink and takes them to a laundry service to iron them himself. His shoes are always polished as that is how he was brought up. He looks like a valued person but that is the opposite of how he is often treated. Humanly speaking there is no hope, not within this country and not to leave this country.
We met Rafiq in church. He came out of curiosity and to say it with his own words, ‘something made me come back.’ He is reading the Bible and comparing the two beliefs. He acknowledges that Jesus lives, but there is also a lot of fear. Although he has no family to reject him, there is a fear of losing some of his small securities which are in some way connected to the religion he grew up with. He needs a personal encounter with Jesus. It is a joy to show Rafiq that he is worthy in God’s eyes. It is a joy to see him enjoy being part of our family.
The other highlight is the friendship with my friend Rose.* She lives with her husband and three children in a shack, between rubbish. They live to survive. All the people in this small area next to luxury skyscrapers are related. Most of them can’t read nor write. From my point of view they have lots to complain about but Rose is thankful for the things she does have.
A year ago Rose saw Jesus in a dream. She is eager to learn about Him, but in all the hustle and bustle to survive it is hard to really sit down and listen. Together we watched the movie Magdalena, released from shame (the story of Jesus through the eyes of a woman) and I try to share stories with her. She believes that Jesus can do miracles and she gladly receives prayer. When her family cancelled plans to have Christmas dinner with us we brought the meal to their little shack. It is just little things that I can do, but I know that Jesus is coming with me every time I visit them. It is an honour to love Rose and her kids; to show them that they are worthy although they are often looked down on. I pray that Jesus’ love will change this family in a tremendous way.
I need lots of God’s grace and patience in these relationships, but they help me to look beyond my own worries and problems. Not to downplay our own challenges, but to help me see the bigger picture. When I focus on our struggles, it is easy to worry. But when I look at the bigger picture I can only be thankful.
When I see the many houses when the sun goes down, I have to look up as well. I choose to be thankful to the One who is bigger than my picture and my challenges. He who paints the sky every day takes care of Rafiq, Rose and myself.
He makes me thankful.