"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future."
The 17th of August marked one year since I had left for Ireland and one month since I have been home. It is so strange to think about. In some ways, Relay seems like a distant dream. But there are other days when I wake up thinking I'm in my bedroom in Cork and that I'm going to hang out with my Irish friends that day. It's a strange feeling, to say the least.
In one month, my Irish-ish accent has faded quite a bit, but certain phrases still slip out. I still get surprised at how hot it is and I get quickly annoyed by American accents/loudness when I'm in busy places. And, surprisingly enough, I STILL have to question whether I'm driving on the correct side of the road when I'm driving at night. Reverse culture shock has not exactly been a picnic.
To be perfectly honest, coming home has been really sucky in a lot of ways besides the little cultural things. A lot of the social dynamics of my friend groups have changed. I have found that hanging out with some of my friends has been downright awkward or uncomfortable because our lives have changed so much. Some old friends have left and there are a plethora of new people to meet. For weeks I was anxious going to church because there were so many new people to meet and I was afraid of the awkwardness of seeing people I hadn't heard from in a year. No one truly knows what I'm going through and no one really seems to care all that much. Driving home from church in tears has become a regular Sunday event. For a while I was questioning why I decided to come back home at all and was thinking about all the "what-ifs" of if I had stayed in Ireland. It's been pretty miserable.
I'm usually not this candid or "angsty" in my blog posts, so forgive me. But I think it is important that people get some sort of idea of what missionaries go through when they come home. When you've been working in full time ministry, made new friends, acclimated to a different culture, and made that place your home, coming "home" feels more like opening a book at chapter 9 without reading chapters 4 through 8. You're not coming back to the same place and people. You're starting all over again.
But, alas, not all hope is lost! While this has been a very trying time, God is oh so good! I have been blessed with some very special friends whom you could not speak to for ages and yet hanging out with them is like nothing has changed. He has put me in a church that preaches the truth and nearly every sermon I've heard since I've been home has spoken comfort, reassurance, and confirmation straight to my heart.
God knew that this season was going to be hard on me, so He's provided me with the truth that wherever I am, He has me there for a reason and is going to use me. He has me here for a purpose. Two days after I got home, I was offered an internship to work part time with one of the campus ministries run by my church. The internship also requires me to be a student. So, when I'm asked the question, "So...now what?", I say that I am doing college ministry at Temple University Ambler (a mere 2 minute drive from my house), I'm taking a class at Palmer Theological Seminary, and I'm substitute teaching part time. Wow! God is so good! He totally dropped this opportunity in my lap. I knew that I wanted to do all three of these things but didn't know how to make it all work... but God always works it out! He takes care of His children!
So I urge you, whether you are a missionary who has returned home, a student headed off to college for the first time, or are just going through a rough transitional period, remember God's promises. If you are willing, He will use you for His purposes wherever you are! He will not leave you hanging and He won't resign you to live in sorrow. He provides a way and loves to lift His children up! Rest in Him!
Did I want to come home? No. Do I wish I was back in Ireland? Yes. But God has me here for a reason: for my own good and His glory. So I will do the work that has been placed in front of me with joy and humility, fixing my eyes on Jesus... and I'll try not to complain in the meantime...
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose."