Here we are once again, at the end of a long month that, surprisingly, went by rather quickly. July was a month full of volunteer teams, dramatic meltdowns and pretty hysterical culture moments. July was also, if I can be honest, full of incredibly hard hurdles to get over. Emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually, culturally, honestly, I feel like you get the picture, it was just really stinking hard. However it was a month of challenges we were expecting, so I guess that makes it better... I guess. Anywho, make yourself a nice cup of tea, settle in and let's catch up on what life has been like for me for the last month or so.
First, I want to tell you of a cultural moment I had this morning on my way into work, one I thought was so funny I could barely keep myself from tears, I was laughing so hard. Now before I share with you what was so funny, you need to remember where I am serving in El Salvador. MTES is located in the medical district of downtown San Salvador, and is a place that is constantly bustling with the loud noises of buses, horns and people shouting. The traffic here is the worst I have ever witnessed and honestly arriving at work each morning is a success all in it's own. So as you can imagine, I had just turned at one of the busiest intersections on my route and was brought to a stop as I waited for pedestrians to cross the road to the hospital across the way. As I sat in my car with one of the interns serving with us, I glanced over and thought to myself, huh, there is a man over there walking an awfully large dog, that's not a usual breed I see here.... It was definitely not a breed we see here, that's because it wasn't a dog at all. No no... this man was waltzing down a city street with a full grown, larger than usual GOAT, that's right, a goat. Now that alone was funny, however when I noticed what was in his other hand, that's what really got me going. He had a stack of cups, and would walk the street milking the goat for fresh milk to sell to people on their way by! At 8 am, this was one of the funniest things I have seen here, and was definitely a cultural moment for me, then again honestly, I think this was a little odd for everyone to see. So that pretty much made my day, because honestly this goat was gigantic. This isn't the only interesting animal encounter I have had this month, oh no, there's been lots more. Whether it be our house being plagued by the biggest ants I have ever seen, or the giant spider I had to kill with my shoe, to the iguanas that mock me from their branches in our garden and the baby possums that visit me on the patio while I nicely chat on the phone, and yes for those who remember last year, these are the second generation, grand baby possums.... because apparently God is extending my gift of hospitality to the creatures outside too. This alone has made for an interesting month.
July marked several challenges for me, one of the most important, being that this is the longest I have ever been away from friends and family back home in Canada. Usually my trips are about three months long, which makes missing home easier but isn't always beneficial as someone trying to get accustomed to a new place, culture and life. I decided that for this year, I would stay through from April until just before Christmas, giving myself time to really settle into life here. I knew this upon my arrival but I also knew this would be a huge hurdle . One of the biggest struggles I face here is being so far away from things that matter most to me, such as family. I am comfortable and at home here, not only at MTES but life in general here in El Salvador, which is a huge blessing, however that doesn't mean I am happy here every single day. This month tested my nerves, my patience, my friendships and most importantly my reliance on God. It's stressful enough to be here when things are going really well, imagine being here exhausted, worn out and down right "just done" with everything. I was tired of missing my family, my country and my culture back home and honestly just couldn't understand why on earth God needed me here, and if He did in fact insist on having me serve here, well could He not at least make things a little easier. Still He allows for things to go wrong, for people to not show up, for finances to not come in, for emotions to be strained and for patience to wear thin. He pushes, He challenges and He tests. He tests my faith, my reliance, my trust and my relationship with Him. This isn't just to make my life hard,it's God at work in my life, shaping me into the woman He not only desires and designed me to be but the woman He genuinely needs me to be, in order to use this work for His kingdoms glory. So many times this last month I have struggled to see the good God is doing here and yet, I know He is hard at work. There were weeks where, quite honestly, I just wanted to pack my bags, catch a flight and be done with this season of my life. There were days when I actually considered, what it would be like to genuinely consider just walking away. I have never experienced such a deep grief and frustration like I did this month. Never have I had to excuse myself so many times, to simply sit in a room all alone and let the tears just pour down my face, take a breath and then get back to work. Some days I knew what was upsetting me, I had seen something awful or couldn't fill a need that was so clear, sometimes I just missed the comforts I have been used to for my entire life, and then other times, honestly the tears just bubbled over for no reason at all. There were nights I lay awake blubbering to myself about missing out on being my sister, as she gives birth to her son, not being there for the folks back home who need me, and not knowing if the money I needed to live here would come through, but having to trust that God would provide the people to give, while I work week after week without a paycheck. There was one specific moment when I actually sat on my bed upset because how on earth am I going to be able to retire if I am not making any money! (I will admit, that evening was fairly dramatic, but they were real feelings none the less.) Each day I lay down exhausted wondering if this really is the best thing for my life right now, and each time morning comes, and with it a renewed sense of courage to make it through whatever the day brings. Each day a new opportunity to say yes. Yes, yesterday was awful and didn't go to plan, but today is a new day, yes I will rise up and face the day knowing God is with me through every step. We all have a desire for God to choose us to go and serve and change lives, when in reality my life is the life He is changing during my time here, and it may not always be pretty, but I trust that in the end these struggles will be worth it.
The month of July brought it's share of challenges sure, but it also brought it's share of triumphs as well. We had another one of our New Dawn boys graduate, which is always an incredible moment to be a part of. I am settling into my responsibilities of managing our Bakery Micro Enterprise and learning the ropes of how to use my knowledge in a foreign country with different tools and expectations, and finally, I am slowly but surely seeing the fruits of my labour in language learning. We celebrated the work God is doing here at MTES with all of the wonderful volunteers who came to work tirelessly in making MTES better equipped to serve our clients. We even celebrated Christ's birth with my annual Christmas in July party. This event was something I had been planning for months, and honestly it was something we were all looking forward to. It was an evening filled with mountains of food, beautiful music and games, and most importantly, my own crazy "family" made up of my closest Salvadoran and American friends. I was amazed that I was able to convince 16 people to get crazy right along with me, but I truly believe you can honour Christ's birth any day of the year, with good food and great company.
Now as we settle into the finishing of summer and the beginning of fall, I am so grateful for the things the Lord has taught me in these last weeks. I am also grateful to have life settle down a little bit, giving me time to get back into some kind of "routine". I look forward to the coming weeks of rest and renewal for my spirit with a peaceful heart and a quiet house.
I pray you're able to take heart and have courage to walk through this season of life God has you in as well. That you find rest in Him and know that He is using your constant love and support to build His kingdom way out here in El Salvador as well. If you would like to receive my other monthly newsletter, would like to catch up with me personally or would like more information on how to give financially, please email me personally at email@example.com.I always love to hear how God is working in your life as well.
Love and Prayers
"Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. We boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character and character, hope. Hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."
~ Romans 5:1-5