If you didn't know by now, Becky and I are kind of independent people.
We dance to a different rhythm.
We value different things.
We have different ambitions.
And this has been going on for decades.
If you haven't caught on by now, we are followers of Jesus. Not Christians per se. Just people who try to live under the principles that Jesus taught.
We do not require everyone around us to be a Christian or a follower of Jesus, and we actually hold a different standard than most Christians. (for example going to church is not part of the teachings of Jesus, and taking one or two verses out of context to say it is ... well that's just wrong)
What we try to do is live a life of giving. To stumble and get back up, to love and share. To humbly admit that we don't know all the answers and we weren't created to know all the answers.
We also believe that no matter where we live, in the woods in Michigan or on the beach in Bali, or the mountains in Mexico we're trying to live like Jesus and encourage others to do the same. To that end we're not missionaries like you normally think of the word. However we are missionaries in that we try to love people like Jesus taught us.
Part of that life of giving has led us down various paths.
The major one for this post is The Learning Journey. Some of you followed us along on our year overseas in 2004. Since then we've met many more people made more friends and had kids etc. So for those of you that don't know about The Learning Journey let me set the stage:
- Paul and Becky met and graduated from a Bible College in Michigan
- Becky felt called to visit missionaries around the world giving of her time and talents
- Paul and Becky fell in love, decided to get married and go on this trip together.
Because we left 3 months after getting married people thought The Learning Journey was a glorified honeymoon.
Let me tell you it was NOT. We had taken a honeymoon to Riveria Maya Mexico (we'll be near there in 4 or 5 months!) But this trip, this Journey was not about us.
It was about giving.
However, we were not part of a missionary organization. We were not part of a church group. We were not part of a short term mission project.
We were independent.
Visiting folks who were giving and seeing how we could come alongside and give with them, give to them or just help them give.
It brought us to South Africa and Kazakhstan, where we made life long friends.
But it also taught us that the system is not set up for independent folks. Independent missionaries. The two places we were involved in SA and KZ were great and we helped, and gave. But other places we had intended on going didn't know what to do with us so we returned to the states early because we didn't have a place to give.
Fast Forward to Today
We're struggling with some similar problems.
We're at an orphanage.
We want to give.
But we know we're only here for a relatively short time (10 days) . We know that this orphanage is a system, it's running and it doesn't need us. But we assume that there are things we can do to be of help.
However those are hard to find.
You see, the kids here (there aren't any babies) are used to volunteer groups coming and going often. They're not even interested in playing with our kids because they know we'll leave and we're not part of the family here.
We love this orphanage and think they are doing an amazing job at everything. This is not saying they are doing anything wrong.
Instead being a short term volunteer without our own supplies and without a work force of people to build things etc. There doesn't seem to be an easy place for us to fit in, to give, to help.
This is so very true of so many places. If you're not there long term or with a crew there's very little you can do to help.
Giving Without Giving
And in reflection I realized we feel bad, like we're not being helpful. We are almost in need of the endorphins that are released when you know you've been helpful. But the thing is, if you give to feel better then how is that Jesus-like giving?
If we're to truly give, to be a blessing to someone, should we constantly pull them off of their job to tell us what to do, knowing that we may do it wrong and they'd need to come behind and fix whatever we did? What if we're here for a different reason, one we don't know about yet.
What if we're here to spread the word about this incredible orphanage (I've never seen an orphanage like this before!) to you, so that you can give in a more long term/sustainable way?
Often times we don't know our purpose for what we're doing, even when it's all done.
I just wanted to share some of the mental struggles one goes through while trying to live like Jesus, trying to give. It isn't what you think of, like build a new room and go home satisfied that more kids can sleep at the orphanage in spacious bedrooms. Nope. It's not always like that.
Sometimes being Independent sucks.
We feel like we cannot help, cannot give, cannot invest.
But should we trust our feelings? Should we change things dramatically (like leave and find a different orphanage who needs us more)? Or should we rest, take off our American "must always be doing something" mindset and trust that our being here, our doing small things will help. Should we trust that the feeling of being helpful is not to be sought after. Should we rest that this is the negative side of being independent?