It’s starting. That queasy, “I’m at the top of the roller coaster about to drop at incredible speeds while my stomach stays suspended in the air” feeling. It’s exhilarating. It’s terrifying. And it never seems to get easier. Last night I stumbled upon the blog one of the missionary families in Shell has been keeping. I have not yet met them, but I can already tell they are amazing people. As I read through posts about eating cooked maggots, finding tarantulas in the house, and multiple illnesses the reality of having no idea what I’m getting myself into set in.
Tomorrow I will be setting foot in the Andes mountains. A gringa living in a completely unknown place. So often it’s easier to talk about the shocking differences between here and there. To paint a place and people as exotic and foreign. To forget about the ways that we are the same. To ignore the human story while describing all of the other worldly bugs, the diseases, the poverty. It’s important to discuss the ways in which we are different, to acknowledge cultural and societal anomalies so that we might better understand each other. However, how many times do we focus so much on the extremes while failing to recognize how we are alike? A smile. A tear. Laughter. The loss of a loved one. The love between a mother and her children. Grief. Sorrow. Joy. I pray for God to keep my eyes and heart open to seeing His image in everyone I meet. To look past the circumstantial disparities and open my arms to love.
For me, the hardest part about beginning an adventure is the knowledge that I will ultimately be opening myself to loss. When you expose your heart to a place, your family increases and the people you consider home lie scattered all over the map. I still think about the orphaned children I met in Zambia and the pastor who told me I’d come back someday. With each new set of hellos and goodbyes it seems my heart will almost burst. Wherever I am in the world, a feeling of longing and homesickness persists. Still, it is worth the heartache. It is worth the butterflies, the unknown. Each time I think my heart will break with another goodbye it finds a way to stretch and grow and make room for all of the people and places I’ve met. I carry them with me wherever I go.
“Across the ocean, across the sea, over the mountains, across the sky through the storm and through the clouds, bumps in the road and upside downs, don’t you worry ‘cuz everything’s gonna be alright.”