I just really haven't wanted to write about what is going on here. I dont know about other missionaries, but I feel the pressure of always having to write about all the "good things" that I am doing here. But honesty, being a missionary in a different country is not always rainbows and butterflies. Dont get me wrong, there are plenty of good thing that are going on here in CR. But with the good comes the bad/hard stuff too.
For the majority of you reading this, you will never experience some of these challenges. But some of you will completely understand what I am talking about.
You see living cross-culturally is a daily thing for me. I am learning new things everyday about Costa Rica. Even though I have been living here for almost 2 years, that doesnt mean that I am an expert on everything Costa Rica. Everyday I am learning how to adapt my North American/Mexican ways to be a better student, a better learner of Costa Rica. Honestly, I think I do a pretty good job at not comparing US to CR, but were I find most of my conflicts is when my Mexican culture clashes with the CR culture. You would think that it would be opposite, that my Mexican culture would help me to adapt better to the CR culture, and for the most part it has, but there are still come cultural things that I struggle with. (like food, some spanish words, and some customs)
Then there are the everyday basic struggle that I never thought about till I moved here. For example, food. I am so used to having Mexican food as a staple for my meals. Meaning pinto beans and spanish rice. But what happens when the grocery store doesnt sale pinto beans? Or they run out of tomato sauce so you have to use tomato paste instead, or the chicken cost $10 for 2 chicken breast. Then there is the mail. I am lucky if I get the cards or the packages that people have sent. I would love to tell you that I have received everything that has been sent to me, but that is not true. Last year, my parents sent me a small package of birthday cards from the family, that I am still waiting to receive them. Driving here is like playing a video game. The goal is to get from point A to point B without hitting someone or you getting hit. Then you add in language. I am lucky that I came here knowing some spanish. I remember going to the language school and the director saying that I was and interesting case, since I could talk and understand spanish but could not read or write it. But that is more common for a 1st generation language learners. But CR Spanish is still different then Mexico Spanish and since it was not my first language, I still struggle with it everyday. It is worse when teams are here, because I am going back and forth from English to Spanish all day. I often will talk to a Tico (Costa Rican) in English and a North American in Spanish during our team season.
Some of the bigger things are more of the relational aspects of living in a different country. I always thought I was more of a direct person then some of my friends in the U.S. But moving here, I have realized that the majority of all North Americans are direct. If we have a problem with someone, usually we go to them to clear it up. Or if we make a coffee date or a lunch date, we dont miss it unless an emergency comes up. We wouldn't even think about being late to work, or yet leaving early from it. CR is known for being a country of peace. Conflict is not direct here but instead brought to your attention through another people(s). Coffee dates/Lunch dates are not really happening until you confirm with that person the day before or day of and if you are late to it, that is ok. ( I mean you can be up to an hour late and still be ok). Everyday, I am learning to let go more and more of my North American ways to be more and more sensitive to the CR culture, because the last thing I want to do is offend someone and be a hindrance to what God is doing here. (but it is hard at times)
Poverty is another issue that I see on a regular basis. The minimum wage for CR is 9,504.34 colones a day. Today (5/5/15) exchange rate is 527 = $1. That means that a person making minimum wage here makes $18.03 a day (9,504.34 / 527 = $18.034...) That means that they are making $1.80 an hour for a 10hr work day, $360 a month IF they work 5 days a week. Of course that is only the gross pay and not net, so they are bringing less home. Then you add up the rent, utilities and food, and you start to understand why families dont have a car, cell phone or take showers with hot water because it is all extra expenses that they dont have.
But the hardest thing for me, has been the loneliness that I feel sometimes. Being a single female living cross-culturally can be hard. Really hard. You dont have family nearby to hangout with on the weekends, birthdays or holidays. You miss your friends and church family. Skype and Facetime are amazing but you start to realize that they can only go so far. You "like" pictures on instagram or facebook because you want to be still apart of your friends world. And the reality is that I am still apart of their lives, but it is different now. I have ate more dinners alone in the last 2 years, then in my entire life. And marriage seems like a distance hope, because the idea of dating cross-culturally seems like so much work when you are just trying to live cross-culturally.
So why did I just word vomit all this????
Trust me it is not to complain, even though some of you are thinking that is all I am doing. But I wanted to educate you.
Living cross-culturally is hard! It takes work, LOTS of prayer and LOTS of laying yourself down for the greater good!
On a bad day, all of these things can make a person quit the ministry, pack up and leave the country. All of this adds so much stress to marriages and relationships. All of this can make a person so overwhelmed to the point of a mental, physical and spiritual break down.
BUT on a good day (which are most), none of these things, none of these factor matter. On a good day, God reminds you why you are here. He gives you glimpses of the kingdom of heaven. He reminds that you are not forgotten. You see lives being changed in the communities you work in. You see children working on their homework and dreaming for the first time of what they want to be when they grow up. You see those around you, through God's eyes and not your own. And those are the best days!
So now what?
- Pray! Pray for those preaching the gospel. Pray for those who are living in a different country. Pray for us here in CR, pray for me!
- Then after you pray, write them an encouraging email, a card or send a package. Let them know that they are not forgotten but are missed.
- Send a team to work along side them for a week or two. I LOVE the fact that my sending churches sends teams to come and work alone side me every year. It is like having a little piece of home with me.
- If you are friends or families of those doing mission work in another country, GO VISIT THEM! We (missionaries) need a vacation too and the best vacations with friends who have come to visit me. Being able to have good conversations, laugh and see a different part of the country is so refreshing.
- And when we (missionaries) come home to visit family and friends, DO NOT be upset that you only got to spend a short time with them or didnt get to see them at all. Trust me there are so many people that we (missionaries) want to see, but family is priority.
- Financially support them. We (missionaries) live off support and we are so blessed by those who give monthly or even yearly. And honesty we cant do what God is calling us to do without your support. It doesnt have to be much, but every little bit helps and it also encourages us as well.
I promise the next post will be uplifting, I just wanted to share what was/has been on my heart.
If you are living overseas or cross-culturally or thinking about it, here are some of the blogs and books that I recommend.
Beth Moore: Believing God: Day by Day
Max Lucado: On Calvary's Hill
Jennie Allen: Anything
Francis Chan: Crazy Love
James Bryan Smith: The Good and Beautiful God
David G. Benner: The Gift of Being Yourself
David A. Livermore: Serving with Eyes Wide Open
Brad Bell: Walking With A Limp
Dr. Rick Taylor: The Anatomy of a Disciple
Matt Chandler: To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain
Blogs I Follow:
Melissa Danisi: http://melissadanisi.com/
Velvet Ashes: http://velvetashes.com/
A Life Overseas: /http://www.alifeoverseas.com/
Rocky Re-Entry: http://www.rockyreentry.com/
Self Talk the Gospel: http://selftalkthegospel.com/
Reaching for the Robe: http://www.reachingfortherobe.com/
The Steidingers: http://thesteidingers.com/
Myers Mission: http://myersfamilymissions.blogspot.com/