Monday, June 5, 2017

Little bits of joy


             Some of you have followed our journey through the past 5 years.  You've read about the craziness, frustrations, sadness, and dreams of our family.   Some know how i went through depression. After two years into our new life in Tonga I was empty of joy or purpose and almost walked out on my husband to return to the US.  Nothingness gnawed at me, occasionally expressing itself through deep sadness and anger.  I felt God had either abandoned me or been a figment of imagination.  People said we were missionaries to Tonga, i'm not sure if thats the right description.  We were just a family trying to do what God told us to do, to live in Tonga among the people and not ask anyone for anything.  We wanted our faith challenged, to know for sure we were on a solid foundation.  So how could i be sinking?  Through the haze i saw my husband struggling to pull me through without sinking himself, he was torn, trying to obey God while watching me fall deeper into depression because of it.  The strange thing is- it felt somewhat familiar.  This emptiness, i recognized it, growing up it was disguised and easily distracted but it still haunted me.  Although i loved my husband and kids, marriage and children seemed to amplify it, but i hid it well.  Occasionally, my husband would ask why i was never happy and often negative.

Normally passive and mild mannered i was shocked at what was pouring out from inside me while in Tonga.  I was used to feeling nothing and yet here was anger pouring out like vomit.  I didn't grow up swearing or hearing many swears so it wasn't natural for me, but i unleashed f-bombs in fits of anger.  "I f****ing hate this!!" I would scream while throwing things.  And to be honest we were under a lot of stress, food and money was inconsistent and we would go days with only eating a small bowl of rice or noodles every night.  We learned to live without western comforts like running water and indoor plumbing.  It was hot, dirty, buggy, and daily chores were time consuming and exhausting after biking the kids on our 3 wheel bicycles.  There was emotional stress too as the surrounding community would randomly erupt with violent outbursts, prisoners escape, houses frequently burglarized. We had to be always alert and slept with a machete.

But this stress was necessary, it was the catalyst to reveal things hidden deep inside of me.  I saw who i really was and it wasn't pretty.  My goodness only worked up to a certain point, my love was incomplete.  I needed something outside of myself, someone bigger than me. I needed Jesus!

And Jesus has changed me, not overnight, not with lightning and thunder, but slowly and at times painfully as I am slowly learning to put to death my way of thinking and subsequent actions. Little steps of obedience.  It is odd.  i lived each day before expecting the day to please me.  I wanted the humans and circumstances that surrounded me to make me happy.  I wasn't.  It's exhausting and always disappointing to burden others with this uninvited obligation.  Now, I try (more and more) to live each day with the goal of making God look great and I feel free!  Free to truly love without expectations. What a relief!  It's not about me! It's about God. He is the treasure. And i'm starting to feel little bits of joy.  I have felt God's presence and it frees me to go anywhere He leads, regardless of surroundings.

But there is a cost.  The ugly things revealed in my first 2 years of Tonga had to die.  Sometimes i hold on to them.  I want to feed them.  But they never brought happiness.  They can't. Not in the long run.  Somehow i still love everything i hate. and bit by bit they must removed.  Not my will God, but Yours.

Even Jesus had to submit to God's will.  He had to die for us and he didn't want to. He begged God for another way.  The thought of it caused him so much pain.  But He still obeyed, "We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Now he holds the honored position—the one next to God the Father on the heavenly throne." -Hebrews 12:2

I love so many people in Tonga.  I love, love, love the amazing, talented, and funny kids on our land.  I miss them.  And yet, in contrast from my husband and firstborn, i really struggle with going back. I get a pit in my stomach when i think about it.  I want to stay where family is.  I struggle with living on an island, i get island fever. claustrophobic. I have a hard time with the culture. I don't like beaches and instead crave evergreens and mountains. Seriously?  What's up with that!  I'm scared to go back and slip away from what I've learned.  

God defines good and is patient with me, i'm not all the way there.  But I am excited we have a new direction when we go back the end of September.  We have land!!! If you've followed us you know this has been our biggest prayer and desire!  Boom!  God answered!  Chris is working hard in the US now to save up money to build us a new house on our land.  Along with two other amazing couples, if God allows, we will be starting several projects for the youth.  Skateboarding will be there along with bmx and an obstacle course.  We want to build a restaurant,back packers lodging, outdoor movie theater, and water slides to provide income for ourselves, create fair pay jobs, and to fund youth projects.  We want to bring in volunteers to teach skills like creative building with local materials, Tongan dance, and handicraft and workshops that provide opportunities to learn photography, videography, business management, or anything!  Even build a traditional Tongan village from hundreds of years ago!  

This all is overwhelming to me.  We don't have the funding for all this but Chris is creative at using local materials to build beautiful things.  We will start with building our house and moving the skate park.   Probably back packers, restaurant, and obstacle course next.  I don't know how it will all play out.  But i do know something needs to be done for the youth in Tonga.  They are the next generation and make up about 50% (from the 2011 consensus ages 0-24) of the population.  In the 5 short/feels long years i have been in Tonga I have witnessed the Kingdom of Tonga changing.  Crimes are more frequent, alcohol induced fighting, Seminary and government schools brawling in the streets, drugs are hidden everywhere with connections to nobles.  More deportees are brought back with no rehabilitation to Tongan society or means of creating income without resorting to hustling.  Programs for the youth are usually focused on the privileged or fail because of poor management or authorities trying to squeeze out a profit.  Most youth attend church but when words and actions do not line up they are quickly becoming disenchanted. The need is great.

As our adventures continue this October we want to thank all of you who have given.  You have given above and beyond at times at just the right time and our family is extremely thankful.  We thank you for your prayers and encouraging words, we think of you, some we have met and some we haven't, and we have courage to persevere.

"Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?... No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[p] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." -Romans 8:37-39

New land
New Land  


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